Finally I’ve got an African book on my list! In April (yes I know this post is a little backdated) I read Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie who is a Nigerian author.
Americanah tells the story of Ifemelu who is preparing to move back to Lagos after many years in America. Her decision to move back home prompts her to dwell on life before and after moving to America, the changes she’s seen in herself and the world around her.
When she arrived in the US to attend college, Ifemelu discovered that America wasn’t quite the land of plenty that she had been expecting. She had an exceedingly difficult introduction to live in the states and one of the main issues she struggled with was American views towards race. She says at one point that she wasn’t ‘black’ until she moved to America because race isn’t a thing that exists in Nigeria but all of a sudden she was having to deal with stereotypes and ignorance at every turn. To the extent that she starts what turns out to be a very popular blog about race in the USA, excerpts of which are peppered throughout the book.
I enjoyed this book (although I have to admit that one or two of the blog extracts got me a little riled because they could be very judgmental towards white people and could be somewhat offensive, I do however get the point) and I thought it was interesting to see someone both leave and then return to their own country and the struggles to fit in that go with both scenario. Adiche’s writing is incredibly powerful and her descriptions made me feel as if I know Lagos myself!
A minor quibble would be that this book is sold as a love story between Ifemelu and Obinze and a ‘will they-won’t they’ scenario after their return to Nigeria whereas in actual fact this is a situation that takes up less than a third of the book. Fine by me but if that’s what you’re in to you might be disappointed!
Interestingly, I’ve just finished reading Half of a Yellow Sun, an earlier novel by the same author, which I enjoyed even more. The story is set in the Nigerian-Biafran war of 1967, a conflict I’d never heard of and is told by three people who have very different experiences – the rich, beautiful Olanna, her house boy Ugwu and her twin sister’s lover, the white man Richard. I enjoyed this book much more, I learned a lot about something I was completely unaware of as well as getting to really know and care for some wonderful characters who I felt much more interested in then I did with Ifemelu. I read Half of a Yellow Sun for my book group (even though I’m probably going to miss this month’s meeting as well) but it was so well timed that I delayed this post so that I could include it at the end.
And now, because I know you guys love this part as much as I do…the graphs!
And of course the map: