Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

AmericanahShortlisted for this year’s Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction, ‘Americanah’ by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie tells the story of Ifemelu and her boyfriend Obinze who fall in love as teenagers in Lagos. During university strikes, Ifemelu leaves Nigeria to pursue her postgraduate studies in the United States. Meanwhile, Obinze has moved to England after graduating and is working in Essex using a false identity while attempting to secure a visa through an arranged marriage. The story follows the separate paths they take on different continents before they are reunited back in Lagos many years later.

Adichie said in an interview with Goodreads that “In Nigeria race is not a conscious and present means of self-identification. Ethnicity is. Religion is. But not race.” This is more or less the conclusion that Ifemelu arrives at when she moves to the United States. She starts writing an anonymous blog called Raceteenth or Various Observations About American Blacks (Those Formerly Known As Negroes) By a Non-American Black about her life there. However, Ifemelu doesn’t just experience culture shock in a foreign country – her eventual return to Nigeria is equally disorientating for her and Adichie presents an intriguing portrait of Lagos through the eyes of a former resident who has spent a long time away.

Although the blogging aspect of the story was occasionally long-winded, the in-depth and intricate explorations of contemporary race and identity politics were thoughtfully written. It is easy to be confrontational when discussing such topics but Adichie tackles these challenging issues in an honest and engaging way without being heavy-handed. Moreover, the story doesn’t get lost in detailed social commentary. The characters have real depth, particularly Ifemelu, and Adichie’s story-telling is consistently assured and perceptive.

‘Americanah’ is an impressive, complex and brilliantly observed novel about identity, immigration, race and love. While ‘The Lowland‘ by Jhumpa Lahiri and ‘Burial Rites‘ by Hannah Kent are both beautifully written and are very strong contenders for this year’s Women’s Prize for Fiction, I think ‘Americanah’ and ‘The Goldfinch‘ by Donna Tartt are the books on the shortlist which I have enjoyed reading the most. Adichie won the Women’s Prize for Fiction in 2007 for her second novel ‘Half of a Yellow Sun’ and she may well win a second time for ‘Americanah’.


Filed under Books

13 responses to “Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

  1. Chris Sullivan

    As you may or may not know I also recently reviewed Americanah and was rather underwhelmed by it. It is the wonder of books that two people can read the same book but come away with differing impressions. 🙂 I recently reviewed The Lowland, so I am off to read your review of that.


  2. bibliosa

    I had no idea that this had blogging aspects in it, and I’m very interested to see how that will be represented. I plan on getting to Americanah some time very soon, and your review has made me very excited for it:)


  3. I really enjoyed Americanah ( and Goldfinch too) and I really hope it wins the prize . I am going to hear her speak about it at Hay Festival and can’t wait !

    I agree that altho the book raised and discussed some very serious issues , it is not a finger wagging polemic . The love story is wonderful.


  4. I loved Americanah and Adichie brings up some issues of race that may displease some Americans. However, it was so well written and the blog posts are some of the best parts of the novel. I hope she wins the Women’s Prize. She certainly deserves it.


  5. Good review. I’m just joining the chorus of voices rooting for this to win the Women’s Prize. I thought it was wonderful. Every bit of it.


  6. Glad to hear you liked it. I liked Yellow Sun. She was so young when she wrote that. I like her mature and well rounded style, and the fact that this can be just as effective for a reader as a more hardcore approach (thinking about other books on the list).


  7. Great. I was very impressed by Half of a Yellow Sun, and have bought Americanah.


  8. Enjoyed both Americanah and Half of a Yellow Sun and hearing the author speak. She is brilliant. Interesting news this morning about the movie premier of Half of a Yellow Sun.


  9. This sounds like a very interesting read. I’ve never read anything by Adichie, but my interest is definitely sparked!


  10. This book is sitting on my shelf waiting for me to read it! I’m glad you enjoyed it 😀


  11. Enjoyed your review and have now put this on top of the TBR pile! Thanks for introducing so many people to what seems like a very interesting read!


  12. Pingback: Bailey’s Women’s Prize for Fiction: Book Blogger’s Re/Views; | Women's Prize for Fiction Book Reviews

  13. Pingback: The Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction Shortlist Readings | A Little Blog of Books and Other Stuff

Leave a Reply to Chris Sullivan Cancel reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.