Americana is a tale of two people from Nigeria, Ifemelu and Obinze, who fall in love at a young age but are torn apart by the struggles of life. The book is an intriguing narrative themed with a fairytale love story that many of us know so well, where boy meets girl at a party and what follows is undeniably a warming translation of the great story of that instant connection between two people, who then embark on a ‘together forever’ dream. However, growing up in an unstable society taunted by political power struggles, Ifemelu finds herself moving to America with hopes that her beloved Obinze will eventually join her. After 9/11, Obinze’s dream of America is shattered as a result of tighter visa protocols. This leads him to a life filled with fear and uncertainty in London, before his eventual deportation back to Nigeria because of an expired visa. In America, Ifemelu finds herself battling with the issue of race, which is ironic because she had never previously had to identify herself as a black woman back home in Nigeria. Motivated by this, she steers her successful career as a blogger, exploring issues of identity for ‘non-American blacks’ and ‘American blacks’ in the so-called ‘land of opportunity’.
An unfortunate incident leads Ifemelu to cut ties wit Obinze. Many years pass, which see Obinze become a successful married man in Lagos, however he is still plagued by Ifemelu’s absence. After two life altering but failed relationships, Ifemelu leaves her life in America to return to Lagos, looking to start her new life in a city unbeknownst to her that will no longer recognize. On her return, Ifemelu reaches out to Obinze, their shared emptiness leads to their reconciliation and their story continues almost as if it were never closed. Americana is a story of love, hope and race in today’s globalized world.
One of the things I loved about this book is Adichie’s brutal honesty about how life in Nigeria really is; She illustrates the story of an emerging country in the process of globalization jaded by indigenous traditional norms. The rich flaunt their wealth, undeterred by the legitimacy of its source, while women embark on pursuing such ‘big men’ not discouraged by their means of attaining such luxury. My favourite part of the story comes after Ifemelu moves back to Lagos, at work for a local magazine she is told by a colleague that she has the spirit of ‘husband repelling’ because she was too ‘hard’ and would not find a husband. Her colleague in typical Nigerian fashion recommends her pastor to destroy the spirit in Ifemelu. Another highlight is Adichie’s exploration of the pretentious attitudes of Nigerians who return from abroad and look down at Nollywood, complain about the lack of vegetarian restaurants and avoid mixing with local Nigerians as if they were a different species. Adichie humorously covers Ifemelu’s experience in dealing with such individuals and her struggle to not become one of them. In the end, Adichie creates a character that is unforgettable. A strong woman newly engulfed in her indigenous yet unfamiliar environment but somehow repellant to the mould of the elitist minded female. From her mother’s struggle with Christianity, her Aunty Uju’s struggle to find a good man and a good job in America and her friends who seemed to all be solely concerned with finding a husband, it is refreshing to see a character that has chosen to not give in to the expectations of the society around her. Americana is a thought-provoking book that most Nigerians can relate to. Chimamanda Adichie is an incredible writer, with previous equally captivating books like Half a Yellow Sun, it comes as no surprise that Americana would also be as astonishing. I would give it 9/10.