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Something that Chimamanda Adichie does well is place her readers in the heads of her characters.  Adichie doesn’t waste time in the first few chapters of Americanah; she knows who her characters are and the story she wishes to tell.  Adichie isn’t afraid to make her readers uncomfortable.  She knows her audience and she writes with that idea in mind.  She knows she will have American audiences, UK audiences, Nigerian-American audiences, etc., etc., and her awareness is evident in the way she “talks” to her readers through her characters.  Coming at this from the point of view of a white American, I feel this is an eye-opening book.  Through Ifemelu, Adichie shows an America that I am not used to seeing.  It is an uncomfortable America but an important America.  She does the same thing with Obinze in Nigeria.  She shows a Nigeria that we do not see in the news, a Nigeria that is a home for people and not just a statistic on CNN.  For example, Ifemelu notes she does not know she is black until she comes to America where race is a big deal.  Adichie handles the situation well. It is a powerful moment.

Being the outsider is a common theme throughout the novel.  Ifemelu must travel across town to get her hair done. People comment on her clothing, assuming her nationality on the tightness of her shirt or the way she does her hair.  Ifemelu is never identified by who she is but where she is from or what clothes she wears.  But Ifemelu also fears being the outsider in her own home in Nigeria.  She talks about how those who go to America and return to Nigeria are called “americanah.”  They are americanized, no longer Nigerian but not American either.  They are totally something of their own.  Ifemelu is one of those people.  Being the outsider is something that none of these characters can seem to shake.

The same goes for Obinze. He cannot even work under his own name, forced to take up a new identity in order to live in London. Eventually, the plan backfires on him and he must return to Nigeria.  Still this idea of being the outsider is prevalent in Obinze’s story and his short time in London. He cannot even be himself. Ifemelu may not have to change her name, but she suffers from the same loss of identity while in America.



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