Beerside Chat -> Americanah
In celebration of Women’s History Month, the TWB book club read Americanahby Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie.
Americanah is the story of young lovers Ifemelu and Obinze who meet as teenagers growing up in Nigeria. They form an instant bond, but when Ifemelu moves to America, Obinze is unable to go with her. He eventually moves to England where he stays as an illegal immigrant. The two are separated by distance, time, and Ifemelu’s silence due to a traumatic experience. While their lives are separate, they face many of the same hardships as they encounter issues of race for the first time and seek to find their identities.
The story reminded us of Adichie’s TED Talk in which she discusses the dangers of a single story. In the talk she says, “The single story creates stereotypes, and the problem with stereotypes is not that they are untrue, but that they are incomplete. They make one story become the only story.” This is reflected in the book from both perspectives. When Ifamelu comes to America, she is surprised that New York appears dirty, opposed to the clean cut images she has seen in the movies. One of the first Americans Ifamelu encounters repeatedly associates Africa with charity. Ifamelu contains many stories, and Adiche not only demonstrates this through her actions, but through her preferences as well: Ifamelu hates when people ask her what the book she’s reading is about because she does not believe a book has to be about one thing.
We also talked about the benefits of listening to this story as an audiobook rather than reading it. Hearing the characters’ strong Nigerian accents allows you to immerse yourself further into their culture. You are also able to hear an American accent through Ifamelu’s foreign ears. The overly articulate way in which she hears our pronunciations helps to relate to her feeling of being an outsider.
The novel will soon be brought to life as a miniseries by the badass ladies of Black Panther, Lupita Nyong’o and Danai Gurira. The long time collaborators are teaming up once more with Gurira signed on to write and Nyong’o starring as the main character, Ifemelu.