Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Jill's take on Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

To be honest, I think I was a little late to take up interest in both this book and this author. I vaguely remember hearing her name mentioned on news feeds or just kind of popping up here and there because of a new book or something, but honestly, it didn't sink in who she was and what she was doing until I saw several of her books at a bookstore in Barcelona and decided to buy Americanah.

So, this is a thick book. And being full time travelers, I have certain restrictions on the sizes and types of books I will purchase because of weight and volume constraints. I sort of threw all that out the window with Americanah after I read a few pages in the bookstore. 

Ostensibly Americanah is a love story, but it is so much more than that. It is a deft and truthful tale of being black in America. There were so many times while reading this book that I thought about the series "Seeing White" (if you don't know this series it was an incredible multi week podcast by Scene on Radio) and found myself feeling as if I could start to understand race in America just a little bit better. 

While the subject matter seems heavy, Adichie's writing is not. The way Adichie creates character and scene is incredible. It provides the reader with some concrete examples of how race in America affects race in America. I found myself both entertained and schooled all at the same time. I thoroughly enjoyed the characters and found myself identifying with their struggles and really wanting things to work out in the end. I understood and nodded my head at their grievances with American culture and society and laughed out loud as Adichie describes how (paraphrasing here) "...Americans really like to show off their houses". It's hilarious because it's totally true. This is not something that is done in the rest of the world when a guest comes to visit. Observations like these helped me identify with the America being described both as an outsider and as an American myself. Adichie put to words many of the things I've been thinking about America as I've been traveling around the world and seeing both myself and the culture I grew up in from different and distant perspectives.

Americanah is a thoughtful, insightful and thoroughly entertaining read. I would definitely suggest picking up a copy despite its thickness. You will be so engrossed in reading that you will be done with it in no time. Then you will just be left carrying around all the thoughts she will have triggered in you. 

 

Zac's take on Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

I absolutely loved Americanah. 

Adichie is such a talented writer who knows her subject well. And in this case the subject is race and racism in America. She sees it all so clearly and writes from the perspective of an outsider coming to America from Africa for the first time. 

The lense through which she views race in America is particularly poignant because the main character is from Nigeria and is only considered black when she comes to live in America. 

She talks about the appeal of America while growing up in a middle class household in Nigeria and how that vision and culture is perceived and internalized around the world - and how this is really just the marketing of America. 

All of the heavy talk of race observations in the novel (the main character starts a very popular blog entitled “Raceteenth or Various Observations About American Blacks (Those Formerly Known as Negroes) by a Non-­American Black”) is lightened up with a beautifully moving plot, well drawn characters and finely described physical scenes.

At the core this is a story about race, but some of those hard to swallow lessons are made easier by the pure talent of Adichie. 

This is a truly essential novel.