Are You Americanah?

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From being a single lady to a grown woman, there is not much that Beyonce didn’t teach me in life. But if there is one thing I would have never expected Queen Bee to pass on to me, it’s Nigerian literature.

We all heard a mysterious woman talking about gender equality in the middle of the song “Flawless.” The beautiful, determined and resilient voice intrigued me right away and is no other’s than the Nigerian author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. After watching a few of her Youtube videos, I fell in love with the author’s sassiness and ended up buying her latest book, Americanah.

Who knew I would relate so much to the hero’s story, largely inspired by the Ngozi’s experience as an expatriate in America? Ifemelu is a Nigerian girl who moves to the USA to study and becomes aware of her skin color, culture, and passion in the process. Saying that I loved this book would be an understatement, so here are ten reasons why you will too, featuring a few sneak peeks:

#1 If You grew up with the American Dream, and most specifically the New York Dream

” ‘You look like a black American’ was the ultimate compliment, which he told her when she wore a nice dress, or when her hair was done in large braids. Manhattan was his zenith. He often said: ‘It’s not as if this is Manhattan’ “

#2 If you struggled to get a visa and were traumatized by the whole process

” Many of the internationals understand the trauma of trying to get an American visa and that is a good place to start a friendship.”

#3 If you’ve had to deal with roommates

” She was standing at the periphery of her own life, sharing a fridge and a toilet, a shallow intimacy, with people she didn’t know at all. People who lived in exclamation points. “Great!” they said often. “That’s great!” People who did not scrub in the shower (…) and this, the absence of a sponge, made them seem unreachably alien to her.”

#4 If contemplating the American food industry leaves you speechless

” All his life, he had eaten oranges without seeds, oranges grown to look perfectly orange and to have faultless skin and no seeds, so at eight years old he did not know that there was such a thing as an orange with seeds.”

#5 If you ever were the “Exchange Student”

” I. Need. You. To. Feel. Out. A. Couple. Of. Forms. Do. You. Understand. How. To. Fill. These. Out? and she realized that Cristina Tomas was speaking like that because of her, her foreign accent, and she felt for a moment like a small child, lazy-limbed and drooling. ‘I speak English’ she said. “

#6 If listening to American students thinking out loud in class was painful

” School in America was easy (…) but she was uncomfortable with what the professors called “participation,” and did not see why it should be a part of the final grade; it merely made students talk and talk, class time wasted on obvious words, hollow words, sometimes meaningless words. It had to be that Americans were taught, from elementary school to always say something in class, no matter what. “

#7 If you hustled hard to find a job in the US and felt extreme frustration

” Ifemelu wanted to fling the phone away. Keep her in mind. Why would Ginika even repeat such an empty expression, “keep her in mind” ? “

#8 If you know how it feels to be broke in America

” It was late autumn, the trees had grown antlers, dried leaves were sometimes trailed into the apartment, and the rent was due. Her roommates’ checks were on the kitchen table, one on top of the other, all of them pink and bordered by flowers. She thought it unnecessarily decorative, to have flowered checks in America; it almost took away from the seriousness of a check. “

#9 If you were fascinated by race issues in the US

” Why didn’t she just ask ‘Was it the black girl or the white girl?’ Ginika laughed. “Because it’s America. You’re supposed to pretend that you don’t notice certain things.”

#10 If you created a blog about your experience in America

” Sometimes they say “culture” when they mean race. They say a film is mainstream when they mean “white folks like it or made it.” When they say “urban” it means black and poor and possibly dangerous and potentially exciting. “Racially charged” means we are uncomfortable saying ‘racist.’ “

In conclusion, if you feel like a foreigner in the US but like an American everywhere else, you are (and will love) Americanah.

Order the book here

 

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