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Barack Obama’s voice rose and fell, his face solemn, and around him the large and resplendent crowd of the hopeful. Ifemelu watched, mesmerized. And there was, at that moment, nothing that was more beautiful to her than America. 

This quote from page 448 started my reflection about this book because it shows how contradictory a character can be when it comes to living in a foreign country. Indeed, throughout the book and particularly in her blog post, Ifemelu is criticizing America. She is not criticizing in a bad way all the time, but she emphasizes what stands out to her so it feels like she is a critic. What I’m interested in is to explore the fact that when we look at another culture we often only see what is different, and our interest seems to always be on the edge between fascination and detestation. In this quote, the reaction seems to be too strong towards a politic because she lives in America at the moment and she experiences a lot of difficult things as an immigrant, and yet the figure of Barack Obama, in a minute, seems to be enough to change her vision of America as the most beautiful thing. What is also interesting in that quote is the syntaxis. We can see that it appears as a conclusion of an instant as it starts with “And there was,” but then we have a precision about the timing; it is only true “at that moment” that she thinks America is the most beautiful thing.

This leads me to my final point, which is about being an immigrant and having the role of the immigrant. Indeed, during the whole novel, Chimamanda Adichie is crafting the portrait of a black woman in America but also, more than anything, of an immigrant. But the character of Efemelu is as clever as annoying sometimes. She is aware of that and can see it in her work — for example, when she has to be the best all the time and in her everyday life because people think that all immigrants are a community and get along together and go through the same things. At the beginning she seems to observe all the differences between herself, an educated woman living in Princeton, and, for example, the hairdresser Aicha, but by the end she is “friends” with her and tries to help her with her romantic life. This phenomenon repeats throughout the novel; she seems to be “stronger” at the beginning or at least more aware of the fact that she is not a simple immigrant and can’t be reduced to that. The more she stays in America, though, the more she seems to struggle to find herself, and she feels drowned by American culture. De facto, she seems to endorse the role of the immigrant in every aspect of her life but not to be an immigrant anymore. Indeed, she just has the behavior that American people expect from an African immigrant and not the behavior she had at the beginning when she was still discovering and looking at the culture and the manners from her point of view.

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