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Americanah

Americanah is an ambitious novel tackling race in the U.S., the experience of African immigrants in London, and the contemporary culture of materialism in Lagos. I appreciated the scope and honesty of this book. I admired the author’s ability to be forceful while gently softening her polemics, mainly expounded through the main character, Ifemelu’s, blog entries.

I found the characters in Americanah to be believable enough, although for all of Ifemelu’s perceptive blog posts, she came across as somewhat vacant in the rest of her life in the United States. Perhaps that was intentional to an extent–a statement about whether immigrants and expatriates can ever be their true selves when living abroad, or if in the act of finding their international self, they can only approximate the fullness of their character. That said, Ifemelu seemed to be floating along most of decade or more in the U.S., which seemed inconsistent with her obvious intelligence and forthright character.

I was not enamored with the central love story that gave shape to this novel. I was disappointed with the ending: to be specific, I liked the last chapter until the last page or so when the plot shifts on a languorous Sunday evening. I won’t say more to avoid spoilers.

Finally, if you don’t like the novel as platform, this book is not for you. Ms. Adichie included numerous blog posts written by Ifemelu about race in the United States. While this device enabled her to incorporate Ifemelu’s observations on far more topics than she could have through conversations and experiences, it seemed too much of a crutch.

All in all I would recommend this book. It presents important ideas and makes readers think about the layers and nuances of race and racism. Ms. Adichie’s writing is sharp and she has a good ear for the voices of her characters, making the dialogue, of which there is a lot, a delight to read.

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