Americanah

Americanah

by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Paperback(Reprint)

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Overview

Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

The bestselling novel—and one of Barack Obama’s summer reading picks—from the award-winning author of We Should All Be Feminists and Dear Ijeawele.

“From one of the world’s great contemporary writers comes the story of two Nigerians making their way in the U.S. and the UK, raising universal questions of race and belonging, the overseas experience for the African diaspora, and the search for identity and a home.” —Barack Obama

Nominated as one of America’s best-loved novels by PBS’s The Great American Read

Ifemelu and Obinze are young and in love when they depart military-ruled Nigeria for the West. Beautiful, self-assured Ifemelu heads for America, where despite her academic success, she is forced to grapple with what it means to be black for the first time. Quiet, thoughtful Obinze had hoped to join her, but with post-9/11 America closed to him, he instead plunges into a dangerous, undocumented life in London. Fifteen years later, they reunite in a newly democratic Nigeria, and reignite their passion—for each other and for their homeland. 

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780307455925
Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
Publication date: 03/04/2014
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 608
Sales rank: 643
Product dimensions: 5.17(w) x 7.99(h) x 1.07(d)

About the Author

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie grew up in Nigeria. Her work has been translated into thirty languages and has appeared in various publications, including The New Yorker, Granta, The O. Henry Prize Stories, the Financial Times, and Zoetrope: All-Story. She is the author of the novels Purple Hibiscus, which won the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize and the Hurston/ Wright Legacy Award; Half of a Yellow Sun, which won the Orange Prize and was a National Book Critics Circle Award finalist, a New York Times Notable Book, and a People and Black Issues Book Review Best Book of the Year; Americanah, which won the National Book Critics Circle Award and was a New York Times, Washington Post, Chicago Tribune, and Entertainment Weekly Best Book of the Year; the story collection The Thing Around Your Neck; and the essays We Should All Be Feminists and Dear Ijeawele, or A Feminist Manifesto in Fifteen Suggestions. A recipient of a MacArthur Fellowship, she divides her time between the United States and Nigeria.
 
www.chimamanda.com

Read an Excerpt

Princeton, in the summer, smelled of nothing, and although Ifemelu liked the tranquil greenness of the many trees, the clean streets and stately homes, the delicately overpriced shops, and the quiet, abiding air of earned grace, it was this, the lack of a smell, that most appealed to her, perhaps because the other American cities she knew well had all smelled distinctly. Philadelphia had the musty scent of history. New Haven smelled of neglect. Baltimore smelled of brine, and Brooklyn of sun-warmed garbage. But Princeton had no smell. She liked taking deep breaths here. She liked watching the locals who drove with pointed courtesy and parked their latest model cars outside the organic grocery store on Nassau Street or outside the sushi restaurants or outside the ice cream shop that had fifty different flavors including red pepper or outside the post office where effusive staff bounded out to greet them at the entrance. She liked the campus, grave with knowledge, the Gothic buildings with their vine-laced walls, and the way everything transformed, in the half-light of night, into a ghostly scene. She liked, most of all, that in this place of affluent ease, she could pretend to be someone else, someone specially admitted into a hallowed American club, someone adorned with certainty.
(Continues…)



Excerpted from "Americanah"
by .
Copyright © 2014 Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie.
Excerpted by permission of Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

What People are Saying About This

From the Publisher

“An incredibly readable and rich tapestry of Nigerian and American life, and the ways a handful of vivid characters—so vivid they feel like family—try to live in both worlds simultaneously. As she did so masterfully with Half of a Yellow Sun, Adichie paints on a grand canvas, boldly and confidently, equally adept at conveying the complicated political backdrop of Lagos as she is in bringing us into the day-to-day lives of her many new Americans—a single mom, a student, a hairdresser. This is a very funny, very warm and moving intergenerational epic that confirms Adichie’s virtuosity, boundless empathy and searing social acuity.” —Dave Eggers, author of A Hologram for the King

“Adichie’s great gift is that she has always brought us into the territory of the previously unexplored. She writes about that which others have kept silent. Americanah is no exception. This is not just a story that unfolds across three different continents, it is also a keenly observed examination of race, identity and belonging in the global landscapes of Africans and Americans. If Joyce had silence, exile and cunning for his defense, Adichie has flair, loss and longing. And Adichie is brave enough to allow the story to unfold with a distinct straightforward simplicity that never loses its edgy intellect.” —Colum McCann, author of Let the Great World Spin
 

Reading Group Guide

The questions, discussion topics, and other material that follow are intended to enhance your group’s conversation about Americanah, Chimamanda Ngozi Acichie’s powerful, moving story of a young man and woman from Nigeria who trace the difficult paths of migration, exile, and homecoming in a rapidly changing, globalized world.

1. The first part of Ifemelu’s story is told in flashback while she is having her hair braided at a salon before she returns to Nigeria. Why might Adichie have chosen this structure for storytelling? What happens when the narrator shifts to Obinze’s story? How conscious are you as a reader about the switches in narrative perspective?

2. The novel opens in the Ivy League enclave of Princeton, New Jersey. Ifemelu likes living there because “she could pretend to be someone else, . . . someone adorned with certainty” (3). But she has to go to the largely black city of Trenton, nearby, to have her hair braided. Does this movement between cities indicate a similar split within Ifemelu? Why does she decide to return to Nigeria after thirteen years in America?

3. How much does your own race affect the experience of reading this or any novel? Does race affect a reader’s ability to identify or empathize with the struggles of Ifemelu and Obinze? Ifemelu writes in her blog that “black people are not supposed to be angry about racism” because their anger makes whites uncomfortable (223). Do you agree?

4. Aunty Uju’s relationship with the General serves as an example of one mode of economic survival for a single woman: she attaches herself to a married man who supports her in return for sexual access. But Uju runs into a serious problem when the General dies and political power shifts. Why, given what you learn of Uju’s intelligence and capabilities later, do you think she chose to engage in this relationship with the General instead of remaining independent?

5. Ifemelu feels that Aunty Uju is too eager to capitulate to the demands of fitting in. Uju says, “You are in a country that is not your own. You do what you have to do if you want to succeed” (120). Is Uju right in compromising her own identity to a certain extent? How is Dike affected by his mother’s struggles?

6. In the clothing shop she visits with her friend Ginika, Ifemelu notices that the clerk, when asking which of the salespeople helped her, won’t say, “Was it the black girl or the white girl?” because that would be considered a racist way to identify people. “You’re supposed to pretend that you don’t notice certain things,” Ginika tells her (128). In your opinion and experience, is this a good example of American political correctness about race? Why does Ifemelu find it curious? Do you think these attitudes differ across the United States?

7. For a time, Ifemelu is a babysitter for Kimberly, a white woman who works for a charity in Africa. Adichie writes that “for a moment Ifemelu was sorry to have come from Africa, to be the reason that this beautiful woman, with her bleached teeth and bounteous hair, would have to dig deep to feel such pity, such hopelessness. She smiled brightly, hoping to make Kimberly feel better” (152). How well does Kimberly exemplify the liberal guilt that many white Americans feel toward Africa and Africans?

8. Ifemelu’s experience with the tennis coach is a low point in her life. Why does she avoid being in touch with Obinze afterward (157–58)? Why doesn’t she read his letters? How do you interpret her behavior?

9. In her effort to feel less like an outsider, Ifemelu begins faking an American accent. She feels triumphant when she can do it, and then feels ashamed and resolves to stop (175). Which aspects of her becoming an American are most difficult for Ifemelu as she struggles to figure out how much she will give up of her Nigerian self?

10. Ifemelu realizes that naturally kinky hair is a subject worth blogging about. She notices that Michelle Obama and Beyoncé never appear in public with natural hair. Why not? “Because, you see, it’s not professional, sophisticated, whatever, it’s just not damn normal” (299). Read the blog post “A Michelle Obama Shout-Out Plus Hair as Race Metaphor” (299–300), and discuss why hair is a useful way of examining race and culture.

11. What does Ifemelu find satisfying about her relationships with Curt and Blaine? Why does she, eventually, abandon each relationship? Is it possible that she needs to be with someone Nigerian, or does she simply need to be with Obinze?

12. Ifemelu’s blog is a venue for expressing her experience as an African immigrant and for provoking a conversation about race and migration. She says, “I discovered race in America and it fascinated me” (406). She asks, “How many other people had become black in America?” (298). Why is the blog so successful? Are there any real-life examples that you know of similar to this?

13. Obinze goes to London, and when his visa expires he is reduced to cleaning toilets (238); eventually he is deported. On his return home, “a new sadness blanketed him, the sadness of his coming days, when he would feel the world slightly off-kilter, his vision unfocused” (286). How does his experience in London affect the decisions he makes when he gets back to Lagos? Why does he marry Kosi? How do these choices and feelings compare to Ifemelu’s?

14. While she is involved with Curt, Ifemelu sleeps with a younger man in her building, out of curiosity. “There was something wrong with her. She did not know what it was but there was something wrong with her. A hunger, a restlessness. An incomplete knowledge of herself. The sense of something farther away, beyond her reach” (291–92). Is this a common feeling among young women in a universal sense, or is there something more significant in Ifemelu’s restlessness? What makes hers particular, if you feel it is?

15. When reading Obinze’s conversations with Ojiugo, his now-wealthy friend who has married an EU citizen, did you get the sense that those who emigrate lose something of themselves when they enter the competitive struggle in their new culture (Chapter 24), or is it more of a struggle to maintain that former self? Does Adichie suggest that this is a necessary sacrifice? Are all of the characters who leave Nigeria (such as Emenike, Aunty Uju, Bartholomew, and Ginika) similarly compromised?

16. Aunty Uju becomes a doctor in America but still feels the need to seek security through an alliance with Bartholomew, whom she doesn’t seem to love. Why might this be? How well does she understand what her son, Dike, is experiencing as a displaced, fatherless teenager? Why might Dike have attempted suicide?

17. Is the United States presented in generally positive or generally negative ways in Americanah?

18. The term “Americanah” is used for Nigerians who have been changed by having lived in America. Like those in the novel’s Nigerpolitan Club, they have become critical of their native land and culture: “They were sanctified, the returnees, back home with an extra gleaming layer” (408). Is the book’s title meant as a criticism of Ifemelu, or simply an accurate word for what she fears she will become (and others may think of her)?

19. How would you describe the qualities that Ifemelu and Obinze admire in each other? How does Adichie sustain the suspense about whether Ifemelu and Obinze will be together until the very last page? What, other than narrative suspense, might be the reason for Adichie’s choice in doing so? Would you consider their union the true homecoming, for both of them?

20. Why is it important to have the perspective of an African writer on race in America? How does reading the story make you more alert to race, and to the cultural identifications within races and mixed races? Did this novel enlarge your own perspective, and if so, how?

Customer Reviews

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Americanah 4.2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 70 reviews.
taxbarbie More than 1 year ago
As a white in rural America, I have had limited personal experience with blacks except in traveling. But I have tried to understand the issues of race relations and cultural divides within our country and our world and seek ways to build bridges between the races. I have read lots of books from the perspective of other cultures, but this is the first I've read by a non-American black in America. I was amazed at the differences she noted between the Nigerian culture and the US culture in terms of how she felt as a black person. It is a work of fiction but the experiences she relates within this work are experiences she actually had to deal with when she came to America initially. Very fascinating!!!
Davidinwonderland More than 1 year ago
I am A 62 year old white guy...born and raised in America. My inclination as it comes to race is to keep my mouth shut. What do I know of anyone else's experience. This book tells me of another's experience. And, how eye opening it is!  We live on a planet where anything is possible. What a joy it's been to read of all those possibilities and viewpoints. I loved this book for it's expansive teaching. I've learned a lot. I've learned, though, to keep my mouth shut....for I'm still not in a position to contribute. All I can say is, read this book and learn.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I loved this book! It was an interesting take on the experiences of African immigrants in the US and England regarding race and class distinctions. The love story was left without closure for me but hopefully that's left for the next book! Overall a great read, definitely worth getting. 
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This was a great read. As a middle-classed African American who works and lives in mainstream America, there were so many things I could identify with. I picked up a few things I can use in racial debates too.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Very interesting book, lots of "blog" about race in America which was a bit much for me bur I Love that it is a true portal of life aboard for people from third world country and the struggle for the one raise abroad and they crisis they deal with. Hard to put down. Thanks Ms Adichie
jbagby30 More than 1 year ago
Great book!! I fell in love with the modernism of the Ife's character at the beginning. It was like getting to know a new friend. Reading the pseudo blog post from Raceteenth gave the story a very personalized effect. You began to believe that Ife is not a figment of Adichie's imagination. There were times throughout the reading I found myself irritated with her choices and that made me appreciate her multi dimensional personality. Hoping for a sequel. Chimimanda Ngozi Adichie has a new reader, anxious to read her past and future works, Im sure I won't be disappointed.
BeckyNC More than 1 year ago
Chance to look at race and white privilege and immigration from a different perspective.
zumbafool More than 1 year ago
AS a white woman I thoroughly enjoyed this smart, thoughtful, insightful story about race/class/immigration in America. Although it is a fictional account of two separated lovers and what befalls them, it is also a non-fictional account of what it is like to be Black, non-American from a third world country and to struggle against poverty in this country. I learned a lot about Nigeria and a lot about many racially-charged nuances. This novel covers it all, from haircare for Black women to knowing that when one looks for "nude" underwear to wear under white clothing it is not going to be in the skin-tone of someone "of color." Very well done.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is the first book I have read by this author. Oh my gosh! Loved it! Loved it! Loved it! It was a page turner. I read this book in one day my entire day off! could not put it down. The end was left to your imagination but I am hoping for a sequel. I like the fact that Ifem never did contact her hairdresser's boyfriend because of an emergency. The author could have easily addressed it but left it open which was a smart strategy because in reality that is exactly what would have happened. The negative. . too many blogs at the end of the book. I was wondering if the author had to submit a certain among of pages. Great book, well written a must have. (postedby Guyrn2)
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Well worth reading
Maertel More than 1 year ago
Well written...yet, I kept waiting - after the interminable job searches and braids after braids after braids - to care/like/love ANY of the main characters. And dirt required between the braids - not for any babe or dude I've met. But, even with the ever sensational blog events, I feel no connections and, worse still, the way she treated the men she sort of supposedly felt some strong emotion for is traditionally the way that many men have treated women. Who wants to read more of that?
perfcangel More than 1 year ago
Another book that I would not have finished had it not been a book club selection. I can't deny it's well written, the story is fairly interesting, with an exploration of Ifemelu's relationships and her development into a mature adult, and I always enjoy hearing a foreigner's observations of the US. But I also found this book particularly frustrating: 1. The story seemed half-baked in places (e.g. mentioning someone's suicide attempt but never delving into the reasons for it). 2. Some of the conversations on race. In one moment, the foreigners are making fun of the fact that race is such an uncomfortable topic of conversation in the US without going into why that might be, and in the next moment, Ifemelu is writing a blog post about all of the things a non-black should not say when discussing race. She basically covers the gamut, from the inane to the sympathetic, and ends the posts saying something like, "Now that I've listed everything you shouldn't say, what should you say? I don't know. Maybe just listen." Ok, so if everything a non-black could possibly say is wrong, do you think maybe there's a reason race is such an uncomfortable topic in the US? 3. The ending. As someone who believes in commitment and living with the consequences of your choices but also is a bit of a romantic at heart, I knew there was no way the ending could be a happy one for all parties. It was basically a no-win situation. I was going to be annoyed by the ending no matter what. Thus, mixed feelings.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
very interesting story that expands your understanding of some very complicated issues.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I've read 3 of Chimamanda's books and frankly I didn't think I could be more impressed with the author than I already am. Well " Americanah" proved me wrong. It is an exceptional book. It feels like you are in the story and actually feel Ifem's experiences. I'm an non-American black myself and her references just hit home. I absolutely would recommend this book to all. It opens your eyes to so much issues we all choose to ignore just to be safe. I loved it!!!
Anonymous 5 months ago
This book has to be my favorite book. Chimamanda style of writing captivates every essence of an immigrant moving to America. The cultural, racial, social and gender differences are outlined in a way that we are all able to understand. I had to highlight so many passages because they hit so close to home for me. A must read!!!!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Enjoyed the perspective of a Nigerian African immigrant regarding race in the United States. Also the story was quite compelling and the characters were well-developed.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Love love love...very talented writer and spot on!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Captivating story and extremely insightful. I was hooked from the first page and grew to love all the characters by the end. I really learned a lot from it about how different American culture is from Nigerian and how difficult it is to make American home. Excellent book.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Being Afro-American, it took a little while to get into the characters but I did come to realize that no matter what culture, we all face many of the same problems. The Nigerian characters all thought somewhere else would be better than Nigeria but many came back to Nigeria to live. I enjoyed reading about Ifemelu asshe grew to know herself better. I also liked Obinze and couldn't ait for them to reunite in Nigeria. The author let you decide what their fate might be........
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Worth reading! Well put together with exvelent flow. Adichie presents wonderfully poignent observations about race in regards to both African and American cultures.
TRFeller More than 1 year ago
This is a semi-autobiographical novel by a Nigerian-American author about a young woman, Ifemelu, and a young man, Obinze, from Nigeria. They are high school sweethearts, but Ifemelu moves to the United States for college and ends up staying for thirteen years. She becomes a well-known blogger and has two long term relationships with Americans, one white and one black. Obinze emigrates to London, but stays after his visa expires. After he is deported back to Nigeria, he makes a lot of money in real estate, gets married, and fathers a daughter. It is quite interesting for the author’s observations on race relations in the United States and the United Kingdom, but easy to put down until the very end when you want to learn whether Ifemelu and Obinze are going to get back together again.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Enjoyed it.