I finally made it around to Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. I say finally because I had been trying to find a copy of the book in multiple different libraries in the year following its release. Just this past Christmas I received Americanah as a gift (thanks Mom!), and at long last was able to get into Ms. Adichie’s work.
Though I had no prior experience reading the Nigerian author, I knew that I wanted to start with Americanah over Adichie’s other novels, Purple Hibiscus and Half a Yellow Sun. Undoubtedly, the main reason I wanted to begin with the most recent novel rather than start at the beginning of an author’s literary catalogue, like I usually do, was the timing. 2013 can be described as the year of Chimamanda (as well as the year of Beyoncé, though it’s no coincidence that the stars aligned and brought these two ladies together in their shared year of ascension) from the publication of Americanah, to the release of the movie Half of a Yellow Sun based on Adichie’s book, to, yes, a feature on Beyoncé’s “Flawless.” As Adichie’s star shone bright, I admired her as the fresh face of African literature, and her ability to hustle not one but two of her novels into movie deals within the same year (Kenyan actress, Lupita Nyong’o, is slated to star in and co-produce the film adaptation of Americanah).
Though I was new to her writing, I was familiar with Adichie’s voice through watching author interviews around the time of Americanah’s release. Most memorable was her conversation with Zadie Smith at the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture in Harlem. Obviously the interview stood out to me because of Queen Zadie’s presence, but more than that the two women’s discussion of blackness and race relations in the USA as black non-Americans was fascinating to me. Having always been privy to a wide spectrum of experiences of blackness in the USA and also talking with both English and African folks about race, it was dope to hear them weigh in with wit. I also liked Adichie’s fashion and her demeanor, which was enough to solidify my interest.
I’m about halfway through Americanah since I’m only reading it on my bus rides, but thus far, it is proving to be a fairly straightforward love story with frequent, satirical, though not obscure, observations of similarities and differences between “American blacks (those formerly known as Negroes)” and the “Non-American blacks,” and jabs at the absurdity of racism in the USA. Adichie also focuses a lot of energy on conveying immigrant life of Nigerians in both the USA and the UK. I can’t really say much more than that at this time, since I try hard not to overanalyze any novel I’m reading for the first time until I’m finished…
You read this? What’d you think?