I recently read “Americanah” by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Perhaps the best book I’ve read in a long time and one that made me rediscover what I loved about reading. She builds complete worlds without being over descriptive and although the plot feels secondary I felt like I had to keep turning the page. It is not about what happens next, but how it unfolds. Someone could have spoiled the ending for me and it wouldn’t have mattered one bit.
What struck me the most about this book is how relatable it felt. It was as though my experience as an International Student in an American college had been put down on paper and I was reading it back to myself.
I read this for Book club (after the last few books, I wasn’t excited, but one chapter in and I was hooked.) The thing about reading for discussion is that it simply isn’t an internalisaton of the novel, I read it with a critical eye and highlighted parts to talk about.
Although race was the primary theme, there an underlying feminist tone to the entire book. A couple of the parts I highlighted felt very very real to my own experience. Adichie has given a wonderful Ted Talk on Feminism which you can find here.
When describing her childhood her mother says “Why must this girl be a troublemaker? I have been saying it since, that it would be better if she was a boy, behaving like this.” This has been a constant in my life. (I hate the, I’m not like other girls trope, one I bought into when I was younger and much dumber) So much behavior of mine from getting into scraps, coming home covered in dirt or staying out all night drinking were unacceptable for me as a girl, where as all the boys my age were doing it without complaint from their parents. Also, has anyone noticed how detergent commercials are filled with mothers fussing over mud covered clothes that belong exclusively to their sons. As though little girls can’t go out, play in the mud and come home all mucky
“He had imagined Georgina, from the way Emenike spoke of her, as a fragile innocent, a successful lawyer who none-theless did not truly know the evils of the world, but when she arrived, square faced with a big square body, brown hair crisply cut,giving her an air of efficiency, he could see right away that she was frank, knowing, even world-weary. He imagined her clients instantly trusting her ability.” This one hit hard. I’m a small and young looking and worked in the real estate industry for the last 10 years, 4 of those in construction management. I had a client once, who turned around and told my boss I’m an overpaid secretary. The person I worked for is quite wonderful and stood up for me, but I know it shook his confidence in me as well. I can’t imagine that client saying the same thing about a man with my qualifications or experience. This is what constantly made work feel like work, proving myself worthy. My gender and appearance constantly spoke for me, even though my work should have.
I’ve highlighted half the book, so this could end up being a very long post. Better one goes and reads the book. It was easy to get through and hard to put down.
P.S. I read this on my iPad, since I have it I might as well use it for reading a book instead of buying something that needs to be printed on paper and then shipped to wherever I am.
Have you read Americanah? What’s your favourite bit?