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Levi Phillips
Levi Phillips

What You Need to Know about Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie PDF: A Summary and Analysis of the Award-Winning Book



Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie: A Review




Americanah is a novel by Nigerian author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, published in 2013. It tells the story of two young Nigerians, Ifemelu and Obinze, who fall in love as teenagers and separate when they migrate to different countries. The novel explores their experiences of race, culture, identity, and love in America, England, and Nigeria.




americanah by chimamanda adichie pdf 84


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Introduction




What is Americanah about?




Americanah is a term used by Nigerians to describe someone who has lived in America and adopted its culture and values. It is also the title of a popular blog written by Ifemelu, the protagonist of the novel. Ifemelu is a smart and outspoken young woman who leaves Nigeria for America to pursue higher education. There, she faces various challenges and opportunities as an immigrant and a black woman. She also starts a successful blog where she comments on race and racism in America from her perspective.


Obinze, on the other hand, is Ifemelu's first love and childhood sweetheart. He dreams of joining her in America, but his visa application is denied after the 9/11 attacks. He then moves to England, where he lives as an undocumented worker and faces exploitation and discrimination. He eventually returns to Nigeria, where he becomes a wealthy businessman.


The novel alternates between the past and the present, tracing the lives of Ifemelu and Obinze from their teenage years in Nigeria to their adulthood in different continents. It also follows their reunion in Lagos after 15 years of separation.


Who is Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie?




Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie is a Nigerian writer who has won several awards and accolades for her works of fiction and non-fiction. She was born in 1977 in Enugu, Nigeria, and grew up in Nsukka, where her father was a professor at the University of Nigeria. She studied medicine and pharmacy at the same university for a year before moving to the United States to study communication and political science at Eastern Connecticut State University. She later earned a master's degree in creative writing from Johns Hopkins University and a master's degree in African studies from Yale University.


Adichie is the author of four novels: Purple Hibiscus (2003), Half of a Yellow Sun (2006), Americanah (2013), and The Thing Around Your Neck (2009). She has also written two non-fiction books: We Should All Be Feminists (2014) and Dear Ijeawele, or A Feminist Manifesto in Fifteen Suggestions (2017). She has received many honors and awards for her writing, including the Commonwealth Writers' Prize, the Orange Prize for Fiction, the National Book Critics Circle Award, the PEN Pinter Prize, and a MacArthur Fellowship.


Adichie is known for her engaging and insightful stories that explore themes such as gender, race, identity, culture, politics, and history. She is also a prominent voice for feminism and social justice, and has delivered several TED talks and speeches on these topics. She divides her time between Nigeria and the United States, where she teaches writing at various universities.


Why is Americanah important?




Americanah is an important novel for several reasons. First, it offers a nuanced and realistic portrayal of the experiences of African immigrants in the West, especially in the context of race and racism. It challenges the stereotypes and assumptions that often shape the representation of Africa and Africans in the media and literature. It also exposes the complexities and contradictions of race and identity in different societies, and how they affect the relationships and choices of the characters.


Second, it is a compelling and captivating story of love and longing, of hope and disappointment, of home and exile. It explores the emotional and psychological effects of migration and separation on the characters, and how they cope with the changes and challenges in their lives. It also shows how they maintain their connections to their roots, culture, and history, while adapting to new environments and realities.


Third, it is a witty and insightful commentary on contemporary issues and events, such as globalization, social media, politics, feminism, and pop culture. It uses humor and irony to critique and question the norms and values of different societies, and to expose the hypocrisy and injustice that often underlie them. It also invites the reader to reflect on their own views and assumptions, and to engage in dialogue and debate with others.


Main Body




The themes of Americanah




Americanah explores several themes that are relevant and important for understanding the world today. Some of the major themes are:


Race and identity




One of the main themes of Americanah is race and identity, and how they are constructed and perceived in different contexts. The novel shows how Ifemelu and Obinze experience race differently in Nigeria, America, England, and other countries they visit or live in. In Nigeria, they are not conscious of their race or skin color, as they are part of the majority group. They are more aware of their ethnic, religious, class, or regional differences. However, when they move to the West, they become aware of their race as a marker of difference and discrimination. They have to deal with stereotypes, prejudices, microaggressions, racism, and colorism that affect their opportunities, relationships, self-esteem, and identity.


The novel also shows how Ifemelu and Obinze react differently to their racial experiences. Ifemelu becomes outspoken and critical about race issues in America, using her blog as a platform to express her opinions and observations. She also experiments with different hairstyles, accents, clothes, and attitudes to fit in or stand out in different settings. She struggles with her identity as a Nigerian-American-African-black woman who does not fit into any neat category or label. Obinze, on the other hand, becomes silent and passive about race issues in England, where he lives as an illegal immigrant. He tries to blend in with the crowd and avoid attention or trouble. He feels alienated from his own culture and history as he adopts a fake name and identity.


The novel also explores how race affects the romantic relationships of the characters. Ifemelu dates both white men (Curtis and Blaine) and black men (Obinze and Aunty Uju's son Dike) in America. She faces different challenges with each partner: cultural misunderstandings with Curtis; political disagreements with Blaine; emotional distance with Obinze; suicidal tendencies with Dike. She realizes that race is not the only factor that determines compatibility or love; but it is also not something that can be ignored or dismissed. Obinze dates a white woman (Nicky) in England. He faces different challenges with her: social pressure from her family; economic dependence on her; lack of passion or intimacy with her. He realizes that race is not the only factor that prevents him from being happy or fulfilled; but it is also not something that can be overcome or transcended.


Love and migration




Another major theme of Americanah is love and migration, and how they are intertwined and affected by external forces. The novel shows how Ifemelu's and Obinze's love story is shaped by their migration journeys, and how their migration journeys are motivated by their love for each other.


Ifemelu's decision to leave Nigeria for America is partly influenced by her desire to escape from her abusive father, to pursue better education opportunities, and to support Obinze's dream of going to America. She hopes to reunite with him soon, but their communication becomes difficult due to distance, time difference, Culture and belonging




A third major theme of Americanah is culture and belonging, and how they are influenced by migration and globalization. The novel shows how Ifemelu and Obinze experience different cultures in Nigeria, America, England, and other places they visit or live in. They encounter various aspects of culture, such as food, music, literature, religion, politics, fashion, and language. They also interact with different groups of people, such as Nigerians, Americans, British, Africans, immigrants, expatriates, and tourists.


The novel also shows how Ifemelu and Obinze adapt to different cultures in different ways. Ifemelu tries to assimilate to American culture at first, but then becomes more critical and outspoken about its flaws and contradictions. She also develops a sense of belonging to a transnational community of Africans and African Americans who share similar experiences of race and identity. She maintains her connection to Nigerian culture through her blog, her friends, her family, and her memories. Obinze tries to resist British culture at first, but then becomes more accepting and appreciative of its diversity and richness. He also develops a sense of belonging to a transnational community of immigrants who share similar struggles and aspirations. He maintains his connection to Nigerian culture through his mother, his books, his music, and his dreams.


The novel also explores how culture affects the sense of belonging of the characters. Ifemelu feels alienated from both American and Nigerian cultures at different points in her life. She feels like an outsider in America because of her race and accent. She feels like an outsider in Nigeria because of her returnee status and Americanah attitude. She eventually finds a balance between the two cultures that allows her to feel comfortable and authentic in both places. Obinze feels attached to both British and Nigerian cultures at different points in his life. He feels like an insider in Britain because of his love for its literature and history. He feels like an insider in Nigeria because of his success and influence. He eventually finds a balance between the two cultures that allows him to feel responsible and generous in both places.


The characters of Americanah




Americanah features a large cast of characters who represent different aspects of the themes and issues explored in the novel. Some of the main characters are:


Ifemelu




Ifemelu is the protagonist and narrator of the novel. She is a smart, confident, outspoken, and independent young woman who grows up in Lagos, Nigeria. She falls in love with Obinze as a teenager and plans to join him in America after university. However, she faces many difficulties and challenges as an immigrant and a black woman in America. She starts a successful blog about race and racism in America from her perspective as a non-American black person. She also dates different men from different backgrounds: Curtis (a rich white American), Blaine (a black American academic), Obinze (her Nigerian first love), and Dike (her cousin's son). She decides to return to Nigeria after 15 years because she feels dissatisfied with her life in America. She reconnects with Obinze but faces complications because he is married with a child.


Obinze




Obinze is Ifemelu's first love and childhood sweetheart. He is a kind, thoughtful, sensitive, and ambitious young man who grows up in Lagos, Nigeria. He loves reading books and dreams of going to America with Ifemelu after university. However, he is denied a visa because of the 9/11 attacks. He moves to England instead, where he lives as an illegal immigrant and works menial jobs under a fake identity. He is deported back to Nigeria after a failed attempt to get a green card through marriage. He becomes a wealthy businessman in Lagos through his connections with his cousin's friend Chief. He marries Kosi (a beautiful Nigerian woman) and has a daughter named Buchi. He still loves Ifemelu but feels trapped by his marriage.


Other characters




Some of the other characters who play important roles in the novel are:


  • Aunty Uju: Ifemelu's aunt who becomes the mistress of The General (a wealthy married man) and has his son Dike. She moves to America after The General dies and faces many hardships and humiliations as an immigrant and a single mother. She becomes a doctor and marries Bartholomew (a Nigerian man).



  • Dike: Aunty Uju's son and Ifemelu's cousin. He is born in Nigeria but grows up in America. He faces racism and identity issues as a black American boy. He attempts suicide when he is 17 but survives. He visits Nigeria with Ifemelu and feels a connection to his roots.



  • Ginika: Ifemelu's friend from Nigeria who moves to America with her family. She helps Ifemelu adjust to American culture and find a job. She works for a non-profit organization and marries Brian (a white American man).



  • Kimberly: A wealthy white American woman who hires Ifemelu as a babysitter for her two children Morgan and Taylor. She becomes friends with Ifemelu and introduces her to Curt (her cousin).



  • Curt: Kimberly's cousin and Ifemelu's boyfriend for three years. He is a rich, handsome, charming white American man who works for a magazine. He loves Ifemelu but does not understand her racial experiences. He cheats on Ifemelu with a hotel receptionist.



  • Blaine: A black American academic who teaches at Yale University. He meets Ifemelu at a conference and starts dating her after she breaks up with Curt. He is intelligent, passionate, and politically active. He loves Ifemelu but does not appreciate her humor or independence. He has a sister named Shan (a successful black woman who writes books and articles).



  • Emenike: Obinze's friend from Nigeria who moves to England and becomes rich and successful. He marries Georgina (a white British woman) and has two children. He helps Obinze with money but also looks down on him.



  • Cleotilde: A black British woman who agrees to marry Obinze for money so that he can get a green card. She is arrested on the day of their wedding by immigration officers.



  • Kosi: Obinze's wife and Buchi's mother. She is a beautiful, loyal, submissive Nigerian woman who works as an accountant. She adores Obinze but does not share his intellectual or emotional interests.



The style of Americanah




Americanah is written in a style that reflects the themes and issues explored in the novel. Some of the features of the style are:


Narrative structure




The novel is divided into seven parts, each containing several chapters. The chapters alternate between the past and the present, following the lives of Ifemelu and Obinze from their teenage years in Nigeria to their adulthood in different continents. The novel also switches between the perspectives of Ifemelu and Obinze, giving the reader access to their thoughts, feelings, memories, and experiences. The novel also includes excerpts from Ifemelu's blog posts about race in America, which provide commentary and analysis on various topics and events.


Language and dialogue




The novel uses different languages and dialects to reflect the diversity of cultures and identities of the characters. The novel uses English as the main language, but also incorporates words and phrases from Igbo (Ifemelu's and Obinze's native language), Pidgin English (a creole language spoken in Nigeria), American English (spoken by Americans), British English (spoken by British people), African American Vernacular English (spoken by black Americans), Nigerian English (spoken by Nigerians), and other languages (such as French, Spanish, Yoruba, etc.). The novel also uses different accents and tones to convey the personalities, emotions, and backgrounds of the characters.


Humor and irony




The novel uses humor and irony to critique and question the norms and values of different societies, especially in relation to race, culture, identity, politics, and history. The novel uses satire, sarcasm, exaggeration, understatement, parody, puns, jokes, anecdotes, metaphors, similes, allusions, references, etc., to create humor and irony. The novel also uses contrast, contradiction, paradox, ambiguity, etc., to create irony.


Conclusion




Summary of the main points




Evaluation of the book




Americanah is a book that has received much praise and criticism from readers and critics alike. Some of the positive aspects of the book are:


  • It is a well-written and engaging story that captures the attention and imagination of the reader.



  • It is a realistic and nuanced portrayal of the experiences of African immigrants in the West, especially in relation to race and racism.



  • It is a witty and insightful commentary on contemporary issues and events, such as globalization, social media, politics, feminism, and pop culture.



  • It is a compelling and captivating story of love and longing, of hope and disappointment, of home and exile.



Some of the negative aspects of the book are:


  • It is a long and dense book that can be difficult to follow or finish for some readers.



  • It is a biased and subjective book that reflects the author's personal views and opinions, which may not be shared or agreed by all readers.



  • It is a controversial and provocative book that challenges and questions the norms and values of different societies, which may offend or anger some readers.



  • It is a complex and ambiguous book that does not provide clear or easy answers or solutions to the problems or dilemmas faced by the characters.



Recommendations for further reading




If you enjoyed reading Americanah, you might also like to read some of these books that are related or similar to it:


  • Purple Hibiscus by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie: This is Adichie's first novel, which tells the story of a young girl who grows up in a wealthy but abusive family in Nigeria during a military coup.



  • Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie: This is Adichie's second novel, which tells the story of three characters who are affected by the Nigerian Civil War in the 1960s.



  • The Thing Around Your Neck by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie: This is a collection of short stories by Adichie that explore various themes such as gender, race, identity, culture, politics, and history.



  • We Should All Be Feminists by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie: This is a non-fiction book by Adichie that argues for the importance and relevance of feminism in today's world.



  • Dear Ijeawele, or A Feminist Manifesto in Fifteen Suggestions by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie: This is another non-fiction book by Adichie that offers advice on how to raise a feminist daughter.



  • Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe: This is a classic novel by Achebe that tells the story of a man who struggles with his identity and culture in colonial Nigeria.



  • The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Díaz: This is a novel by Díaz that tells the story of a Dominican-American nerd who dreams of becoming a writer and finding love.



  • The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri: This is a novel by Lahiri that tells the story of an Indian-American family who deals with issues of identity, culture, and belonging.



  • The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini: This is a novel by Hosseini that tells the story of two boys who grow up in Afghanistan during political turmoil and war.



  • The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan: This is a novel by Tan that tells the story of four Chinese-American women and their mothers who share their stories and secrets.



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