I️ just finished reading Chimamanda’s Americanah for the second time (I rarely read books twice) and I️ just feel all kinds of way. I️ feel connection, I️ feel conflicted, I️ feel lost, and I️ feel confused. I️ think it is so beautifully written and she has the ability to truly put to words the many thoughts I️ have had about living abroad, coming to terms with my in-between identity and even the trivial, yet not so trivial, everyday experiences of people asking about my hair and being in awe of my culture. I️ know that I️ DEFINITELY do not share the romantic story whatsoever but even though told in the third person you can feel all that the main characters feel.
In order to keep this nice and short I️ think I️ am just going to talk about Ifemelu because she is the character that resonated the most with me. That is not to say that Obinze falls short as a character because he too is worthy of deep analysis but yo girl does not want to bore you with a think piece with a long thesis and too many supporting paragraphs that I️ know all too well will not be well constructed (I️ am not an English major). Okay so I️ don’t know about you but ifemelu is both my spirit animal and the most frustrating sister I️ never had. She is the representation of every West African girl who spends some part of her life on the continent and moves abroad. We can all relate to the newness of moving to a new country, especially in America where there is already a pretty distinct black culture, where you look like them but somehow feel distant from them. There are also the everyday experiences such as getting your hair done, constantly hearing about white people’s charity work in an African country just to prove that they have a good heart and make you feel even more lucky to be in their country. There is also the responsibility and pressure you feel to excel academically. Ifemelu’s life in America truly highlights all of these.
But sometimes Ifemelu is frustrating, she is stubborn and although it’s sometimes very possible to read and not feel like screaming at her, these frustrations are what makes the book so captivating. Honestly I️ was mad that (spoiler alert) she was crying over the breakup with Curt even though she cheated. At the beginning of the book, she was introduced as a cheeky girl who did not take any bs, and owned up for herself, but then we see her sulking and crying for a man she cheated on!!! Like why are you crying over spilt milk?? The spilt milk that YOU consciously spilled! Like sis pull yourself together, you knew the relationship was numbing and the person who was sulking about Curt, in all honesty, was not who Obinze fell in love with . #teamobinze Also, Ifemelu definitely had an air of entitlement returning to Nigeria, and pushing Obinze around like that. Granted this man was blinded by love, but I️ just felt an inconsistency with her love for him. Waiting till she lost weight—since when was she this superficial. And then seeing other people and just finding him as if he did not at least deserve an answer. I️ am not going to lie I️ have done something like that before but reading I️t from the other side I️ know how horrible that must have been. However, even with the frustrations, there are many truths to this behaviour. Moving abroad changes someone; it changes our personality, how we interact with people, our morals and our actions. Chimamanda really did that! She did an incredible job capturing all the nuances and tricky points of being an African woman in diaspora.
Anyway all frustrations aside, I️ thoroughly enjoyed the book. I️ am not one to reread things but this definitely warranted I️t.