I’ve been reading a lot about race lately, starting with The White Girl, then the fabulous Too Much Lip, and now Americanah. Each in its own way has been eye-opening.
However, to say that Chimamanda Ngozi Adiche’s third novel is not just about race would do it a disservice – it is also a love story that is complicated and convincing. I thoroughly enjoyed having my eyes opened in this way.
The two characters at the heart of the novel are Ifemelu and Obinze, who are separated when Ifemelu gets the opportunity to work in the US – a land she and many Nigerians consider a land of freedom and opportunity. However, Ifemelu discovers that it is also a land where her race confines and constrains her.
Obinze seems his own utopia in Britain, and confronts a culture that is different but a racism that is similar to that experienced by Ifemelu.
I found myself squirming at some points when I recognised by own unconscious ignorance and prejudices. While I would never consider myself to be racist, I was surprised and ashamed to see some of my misconceptions set out and explored from a racial perspective, and found wanting.
But I don’t think that’s necessarily a bad thing, and Adiche offers a witty and engaging opportunity to change lazy and ignorant attitudes.
I was fascinated (and sometimes horrified) when Adiche write about the politics of fair, and the lengths women went to in order to tame their locks. I had no idea that this was the case, due to lazy ignorance.
And the observations Ifemelu makes in her blogs were scathing, but often funny and eye-opening.
I was a bit worried about how Adiche was going to conclude this love story, but the ending is satisfying.