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BY CHIMAMANDA NGOZI ADICHIE
Everyone in the Den loved Americanah. Not only is it a beautiful, captivating read, with a love story at its heart, it also perceptively deals with race and cultural differences, not just within two different continents, but within communities at home and abroad.
Ifemula and Obinze are childhood sweethearts who are separated when Ifemula gets the opportunity to go to America to make her mark in the world. The story follows the next 15 years of Ifemula’s life in America, her relationships, her career, her politics (with the election of Barack Obama) and the constant stress of having the right hair! It is during this time that Ifemula, as she herself says, “discovers race in America and it fascinates her.” She then experiences the “superiority of being a returnee”. Through her blogs Ifemula highlights the difference between African Americans and American Africans, making us all question our own assumptions without affecting the narrative flow.
Obinze meanwhile, having graduated, tries his luck in England and again Adichie explores the nuances of being an educated Nigerian forced to take illegal work and make dangerous choices to try and stay beyond his visa. Circumstances mean that he too returns to Nigeria where he starts a family. The story comes full circle when Ifemula and Obinze are reunited in Lagos.
The key to Adichie’s writing is that she educates the reader whilst not being patronising because she also recognises normal human flaws. The book is filled with humour and the attention to detail, particularly over food, drink, fluctuating weight and the scene in the New Jersey hair salon are remarkable and touching. We all felt such empathy for the main characters even if we didn’t necessarily always like the decisions they made.
The Den has also reviewed Half Of A Yellow Sun - see favourite authors.
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