Americanah cover, first edition May 2013
Chimamanda Adichie says in one of her talks that she did not realise she was black until she went to America. The fact that this novel says a lot about race is primarily on account of Ifemelu's similar journey to America as part of her growing up, and Obinze's experience of England as a migrant without papers. Some of the most thoughtful writing is within the posts of Ifemelu on her blog Raceteenth or Curious Observations by a Non-American Black on the Subject of Blackness in America.
Author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
But it was the author's goal to write an old-fashioned love story too. Ifemelu takes a shine to this cool guy, Obinze, at school and over time he completely falls for her, and she becomes the first and last love of his life. This overhang is always in the background of the novel, but in the foreground she obtains her liberation in America, all but forgets Obinze, and lives with two other men in succession. They too hold our interest. Meanwhile the reader thinks: what will happen in the end?
Pamela, Kavita, KumKum
It ends a little too fast as though the publisher had a deadline and the author had to come up with the best ending she could in the time available. In the process she forgets the cardinal rule of classic love stories: they have to end tragically, or at least unsatisfactorily.
There are many memorable quotes:
You can love without making love.
Race matters because of racism. And racism is absurd because it’s about how you look.
I feel like I got off the plane in Lagos and stopped being black.
Ankush, Thommo, Shoba, Kavita, KumKum, Pamela, Joe