Review: Americanah (***)
This week I am reviewing a book club read. For those of you who don’t know, a little over a year ago I started a book club with two of my friends in Delft. We read classics and modern literature and if you want to have more info you can check our Facebook page. Last month we read ‘Americanah‘ by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. I was really excited to read this book because it had great reviews and I enjoyed reading the short text of her TEDx speech on feminism. Almost everyone in the book club really loved the book, except me. So here is my review of ‘Americanah‘.
‘Americanah’ tells the story of Ifemeluh and Obinze. They are young, in love and living in military-ruled Nigeria dreaming of leaving to the West. Ifemeluh manages to leave for America to attend college, but Obinze stays in Nigeria. It tells the struggle of Ifemeluh to adapt to a new country, not just being homesick, but also struggling with her identity as a ‘black’ person in a country that thinks in colors. Obinze wants to join her in America, but the borders of post 9/11 America stay closed. He chooses a tense, undocumented life in London before returning to Nigeria. After fifteen years Ifemeluh decides to return to Nigeria, but will she have become too ‘Americanah’ to fit in?
Having just finished ‘The Hate U Give’ and ‘Homegoing’, I think I had the wrong type of expectations for this book. The other books go deeper into the question of identity and racism in America. ‘Americanah’ is more a love story, touching on deeper, in my opinion, more interesting subjects. Ifemeluh blogs about life as a Non-American Black in America, these blog posts feature in the book and made me crave for more in-depth coverage of the subjects mentioned. The book also skips over most of Obinze’s time in London as an undocumented immigrant, another incredibly interesting subject which is not delved into deeper than just below the surface. However, discussing the book with my book club (and so discussing the book with people who loved it) made me realize that maybe I was searching for something in this book that it wasn’t meant to give. The story is meant to be about Ifemeluh, her life and her reconnection with Nigeria and Obinze, not an in-depth story about blackness in America or the lives of immigrants in London. The thing that makes me not not recommend this book is the writing. Even though I could not really get into the story, the writing was superb. Adichie manages to create characters with just one or two sentences, bringing them to life with a stroke of her pen. For me, it made the difference between just giving up and finishing the book.
Overall I don’t know if I would recommend this book. I know that all the other people in the book club (about 9) did really like this book. It gives great insight into blackness in America and the difference between American Blacks and Non-American Blacks, even though I would have liked a more in-depth story about it. So if you are curious and want to make up your own mind on this book, I wouldn’t not recommend reading it (if that makes sense :P).