As teenagers in Lagos, Ifemelu and Obinze fall in love. Their Nigeria is under military dictatorship, and people are fleeing the country if they can. The self-assured Ifemelu departs for America. There she suffers defeats and triumphs, finds and loses relationships, all the while feeling the weight of something she never thought of back home: race. Obinze had hoped to join her, but post-9/11 America will not let him in, and he plunges into a dangerous, undocumented life in London.
Thirteen years later, Obinze is a wealthy man in a newly democratic Nigeria, while Ifemelu has achieved success as a blogger. But after so long apart and so many changes, will they find the courage to meet again, face to face?
Fearless, gripping, spanning three continents and numerous lives, the National Book Critics Circle Award-winning ‘Americanah’ is a richly told story of love and expectation set in today’s globalized world.
When I opened this blog, I decided that it would be a blog dedicated to literature for young children. However, I wanted to have the possibility to write about any other subjects that were linked the afro culture : toys our children could identify with, afro culture events etc. So on the blog, in the category entitled « Pour quel public » (for which public / audience), I created a sub-category entitled « Adults ». I wanted to have the opportunity to talk to you about the books I would have read if I really liked them and if I thought that they can be interesting for you.
In the literature offered in France for adults, the issue is not that it does not exist. Indeed, we have a lot of books related to afro culture : we have novels, biographies, autobiographies, History documentaries etc… The issue is we don’t always know where to find those books, we don’t always know any author, we don’t know which author we would appreciate.
I read a certain number of books about slavery in the French West Indies, in the United States. I read those books on my own initiative because we are not taught a lot about slavery in French schools whereas slavery is a big part of French History. But that’s the way it goes, it is not an event we like to talk about…
But when as a black person you grew up knowing everything about World War II and Holocaust and nothing about the African genocide that was slavery, its reasons, your ethnic origins, the island where your parents come from, the country where your ancestors come from, so when you become an adult, when you are old enough and intellectually emancipated enough to realise that you can read other books that the ones called « classics » (those kind of books that make you appear stupid or feel like you aren’t cultivated if you never read them), so at this point you choose to select the books that are more close to you, to your life, interests, to what you would like to learn about.
It came a moment when I wanted to read about subjects more pleasant than slavery. I wanted to read romance novels in which I could identify myself, like the children in the youth literature. I felt the need to identify myself in books in which I would find objects, places, expressions, flavours, perfumes and feelings that I knew.
One day on the internet, I came accros Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s speech « The danger of a single story ». I found her speech was very poignant. I even hurry to apologise to one of my Nigerian friend to whom I said a few days before I saw this video that it seemed to be very dangerous to live in Nigeria. What a stupid woman I was !
I come from one of the most dangerous French suburb and the island where my parents come from is considered as more dangerous than Marseille or La Corse. I have been living for 24 years in this suburb and I often went to the French West Indeeds since I was born, however I am still alive ! So I was the first who should have known that the image that is given to a person or to a place is not necessarily the reality. Or in any case, the version of the « story » that is given by some people (often medias) is not the only story, the single story, the whole story.
So I came accros this video and I talked about it to an Rwanda friend. Some weeks later, she sent me a text message telling me to look at the programme « La Grande Librairie » on the channel France 5 because Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie was talking about her book « Americanah ». I immediately liked the story ! It was exactly the kind of books I was looking for ! I thought « I will buy this book for sure ! » It took me some time to buy it because I was reading other books in the meantime but at the end of year 2015 I finally bought it and read it. I just finished reading it.
I am not very old so I think that I will have the opportunity to read much more novels but I can already assure that Americanah will stay the best novel that I ever would have read. These mixtures of lives and love stories throughout Nigeria, the United States and England with those racial, ethnic, cultural concerns that it is about…
Whereas I am French, born in France with parents coming from the French West Indies and that I never lived neither in England, nor in the United States, nor anywhere in Africa I totally recognized myself in Ifemelu, the principal character. All the events that she talks about when it comes to race, I guess a lot of black women or black men already experienced the same. She talks about her hairdresser as if it was our hairdresser in Château d’eau here in France, about the issues of her biracial love story that lots of other biracial couples have already suffered with. And her big love, Obinze… I am pretty sure that we all one day have had an Obinze or an Ifemelu in our lives. May be this person is still here with you…
I deeply recommend you to read Americanah. Because the love story is very strong, because the Nigerian’s exuberance in the book is funny, touching but also sad and because the author manages to talk to us about « race » without really offending us.
I think that even the non-black people would like this book. We as black people already read a lot of « classics » written by white authors. So why don’t you come and discover our world in your turn ?
As Chimamanda says « Literature can change things »…
The danger of a single story
And sorry for my english not being as good as I would like it to be 🙂