Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie is a moving story of a love tested by time, distance and circumstance, but it’s also so much more than that. At 17 hours audio/around 400 pages, this is a sweeping and epic novel embodying so much and exploring so many themes; love, identity and personal evolution, the different relationships we have in our lives, family duties and dynamics, migration and return migration, race and racism, observations of society in Nigeria and African immigrants in America, the pull to be true to ourselves, and so much more.
Americanah tells the story of Ifemelu, a young woman who emigrates from Nigeria to America, for university and the wider promise it holds. The novel explores her life in both countries, while also revealing, and reflecting on, her high-school love story with classmate Obinze. As the story unfolds, they move in and out of contact but never forget each other. Ifemelu is such a compelling protagonist, strong minded but also introspective and self-aware. Although we mainly see from her perspective, we also occasionally see from Obinze’s, and through the vast amount of characters and dialogue we hear from so many different voices; from Ifemelu and Obinze’s families, to Ifemelu’s colleagues in a Nigerian magazine, the women in the American hair salon, Obinze’s business associates and friends, and so many more. An affecting and thought-provoking theme running throughout is the profound meditation on the challenges of immigration, and the sacrifices made, but also the different levels and contexts of integration and adaptation. This is beautifully captured in Adjoa Andoh’s reading, representing everything from the native Nigeria accents and language, to the highly Americanised, and everything in between, sometimes shifting as well depending on the situations the characters find themselves in.
I absolutely loved every minute of this book; the writing, the storytelling, the character development, and the diverse and highly compelling themes, and will be going back for more by Adichie very soon.
Americanah was published in 2013 by Knopf.
Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie was born in Enugu, Nigeria in 1977. She grew up on the campus of the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, where her father was a professor and her mother was the first female Registrar. She has a Master’s Degree in Creative Writing from Johns Hopkins University and a Master of Arts degree in African History from Yale University. She was awarded a Hodder fellowship at Princeton University for the 2005-2006 academic year, and a fellowship at the Radcliffe Institute of Harvard University for the 2011-2012 academic year. In 2008, she received a MacArthur Fellowship. Her first novel, Purple Hibiscus (2003), won the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize, and her second novel, Half of a Yellow Sun (2006), won the Orange Prize. Her 2013 novel Americanah won the US National Book Critics Circle Award and was named one of The New York Times Top Ten Best Books of 2013. Her most recent work, Notes On Grief, an essay about losing her father, was published in 2021. Full bio here