OK, I know I know I have a photo of me on my blog, but sometimes I think putting a face to the author helps. For instance, if the author has a picture of him/her self on the book I’m reading I constantly look at it- in between chapters, in between certain scenes; it creates a sense of peace for me. So that’s why you see a picture of me holding up the book in case you may feel the same.
Americanah was something else. It was my first Nigerian novel and it will definitely not be my last. In many ways I related to Ifemlu, but I don’t think I’m as complex or believe that I long for something as much as she does. Here is my best attempt at reviewing this book.
I enjoyed it. Ifemlu and Obinze (whom she calls Ceiling) are high school and university sweethearts. Due to economic and government troubles in Nigeria Ifemlu arrives in America on a student visa while Obinze stays back home. The irony of it all is that Obinze has a romanticized view of America and it’s he, not she, that wishes to be a part of it all – all that is America. From the start of their relationship they have this unspoken peace and understanding and throughout the novel Ifemlu is ever searching for this peace and understanding with Curt (her White Hot Ex) and Blaine (Professor Hunk) her American black boyfriend.
After almost two decades she returns to Nigeria- Lagos to be exact. At first she feels estranged and I dare to say very superior, high and mighty. She’s fully aware of this, which I like and can relate to in some way. She avoids reaching out to Obinze, even thought they had recently began emailing one another shortly before she returned. During her time in America Ifem found it hard to understand the race issue with black, white and non american blacks- so she starts a blog. But before that she goes through many tribulations and I’m glad that she has he Aunty Uju and Dike to keep her grounded. The reason she stops talking to Obinze after she arrives in America? She found it hard to get a job and after one bad experience with a tennis coach, she feels dirty and guilty and this is why she stops all communication with Obinze (he’s broken because she just cut him off). She gets some jobs here and there and eventually her blog becomes her source of income, which one can only hope. I won’t ruin the ending, but man was my heart beating rapidly as the final pages were coming and I was fearing the worst. Obinze also goes through his stints of trying to be someone abroad. He finds it difficult and after being under false names and working odd jobs, he is deported. He eventually becomes a wealthy man.
Anyway, I did the inevitable and read reviews. Most of them were good and many loved the novel. But one stuck out the most and it was such a long, unnecessary review, but she wrote it and I read it. Based on what I remember the reviewer, who admittedly has a lot of “friends” on GoodReads, mentioned that she thought she was going to get a love story. Hmm… I re-read the back of the book and it reads, “… Americanah is a remarkable novel of race, love, and identity …” I guess she only focused on the love part.
She also said that the novel includes too many names and unnecessary characters. The book is written in third person omniscient, but it reads like I speak, personally. I would rather say: I went to lunch with Lisa, my friend with the big teeth and then always refer to Lisa by Lisa. This annoys the BF since he says it’s not important. But when the story carries on there are references to those people and although small appearances, they return later in the novel, so I would rather have Lisa written all over than to always have to refer to “the girl with the big teeth” or have to leave her out of my story.
At one point this reviewer said, not verbatim, but something along the lines of: if you’re looking for a novel about love you won’t get it in Americanah. Apparently she felt cheated because the book focused too much on race and on Ifemlu’s character flaws. I was pleased to read a lot of the responses to her post because they fell in line with checking her. It IS about love. It’s about the tearing apart of two souls due to things that are not in their control. And about the experiences that lead you to realize that nothing will ever be the same as it was with this ONE person. This ONE person that understands every bit of you and accepts you. She does love Curt, but not the same way as she loves Obinze. She also loved Blaine, but it’s a different love- they are safe loves. While on the other side of the world is Obinze, familiar, understanding, challenging, appreciating. There is one part in the novel that Ifemlu accepts that with Obinze she does not have to explain herself – and to me, there is no greater feeling than what being 100% yourself brings. And Obinze too, he marries Kosi knowing he shouldn’t, knowing that they do not see life the same way. All that I just said is a story about race, love, and identity.
I found the novel funny, moving, eye opening, and recommend worthy. I liked to read other reviews on how much they appreciate the references and being familiar with certain stories. Kind of like when I read novels or stories about Latinos in a world where stories about white women or men are abound.