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One of the many issues regarding immigration that stood out in Chimamanda Adichie’s Americanah was how Ifemelu and Obinze had very different experiences interacting with other African immigrants. Some of Ifemelu’s first interactions with other immigrants were in college. In one of her classes, she met a girl from Kenya who invited her to join the African Students Association. There, Ifemelu met “Nigerians, Ugandans, Kenyans, Ghanaians, South Africans, Tanzanians, Zimbabweans, one Congolese, and one Guinean [who] sat around eating, talking, fueling spirits, and their different accents formed meshes of solacing sounds” (170). The group joked about different assumptions Americans made about them and “mocked Africa, trading stories of absurdity, of stupidity, and they felt safe to mock, because it was mockery born of longing, and of the heartbroken desire to see a place made whole again” (170-171). Ifemelu felt comfortable with them, since she did not have to explain herself to them. The group also told her that she might make friends more easily with other international students than Americans because “many of the internationals understand the trauma of trying to get an American visa and that is a good place to start a friendship” (173). While that statement was a joke, it is also a statement that rings true. People often bond over shared experiences, especially when meeting several new people at once. It makes sense for someone who is new to America, who doesn’t know anyone or any of the customs, to find comfort in someone who has been in their shoes before.

However, one of Obinze’s early experiences with another immigrant was much different. While cleaning toilets in London, he often tried to speak to a Ghanaian woman who cleaned the women’s bathroom. “He sensed, in the way she spoke and carried herself, a background similar to his, a childhood cushioned by family, by regular meals, by dreams in which there was no conception of cleaning toilets in London” (292). Here, we see that Obinze was searching for a relationship similar to that of the people in Ifemelu’s ASA group. He thought they could bond over shared experiences growing up in similar households in Africa and the transition to life in England, doing a job neither of them ever imagined for themselves. However, the woman “ignored his friendly gestures, saying only ‘Good evening’ as formally as she could, but she was friendly with the white woman who cleaned the offices upstairs… It was not that she did not want friendship, it was rather that she did not want his. Perhaps friendship in their present circumstances was impossible because she was Ghanaian and he, a Nigerian, was too close to what she was; he knew her nuances, while she was free to reinvent herself with the Polish woman, to be whoever she wanted to be” (292).

This woman reacted quite differently from the people Ifemelu met. While they all wanted to bond over a connection they shared, she seemed ready to forget her life in Africa altogether. As Chimamanda Adichie mentioned in an interview about writing Americanah, the book shows the experiences of middle-class African immigrants. These characters, though only briefly featured, show that even in a smaller focus on immigration, there are many different ways people are affected. Some want to remember their home countries while still trying to get a better life, while others would rather forget their home countries almost altogether.

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