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Where does Americanah rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?
I heard an author's interview on NPR about this book, and I immediately knew I wanted to read it. I downloaded the Audible version, and was delighted immediately by the narration by Adjoa Andoh. The book carried me into the romance of a young couple who are separated by circumstance and opportunity, and are later reunited by chance and perhaps the inevitability of returning "home". What made me love this book is the main character, Ifamelu, an academician, a romantic (at heart) but also a realist. While experiencing life in America, Ifamelu challenges what other Americans, and Black Americans especially think about "Black women" and "Africans" generally. I loved her fictional blog, Raceteenth, and I wish it were real frankly. Her biting and acid criticism of race and perceptions of race among minorities was thought provoking, funny, and at times stunning. The main character's romances, her sexuality, and her reflection on love and companionship weaved together with the academic side of Ifamelu in a way that had me laughing and crying, and ultimately sad the book had to come to an end. I would liken reading Americanah to reading one my of other favorite novels, "Face of an Angel," by Denise Chavez. The intimacy you feel with the characters is unmatched, and when a book has you blushing about things you rarely will acknowledge, much less articulate to another, you know you have something special. Finally, I can't emphasize what a great narrator Andjoa Andoh is. About 80% of the books I listen to on Audible have boring or flat narrators, and so this narrator set Americanah on audio apart. The narrator took time to change her tone of voice, add inflection to separate the "sound" of characters male and female, American and non-American accented English, and to create a world of many different characters. I loved it, and I hope you will too. I look forward to more from Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie.
What other book might you compare Americanah to and why?
Face of Angel by Denise Chavez. This novel and Americanah have a lot of depth, and elve into intimacies that are sometimes uncomfortable, but necessary to understand the whole person.
What about Adjoa Andoh’s performance did you like?
She adjusted her voice to embody each character, and that was my favorite thing. She brought the characters to life, and her inflection carried the passion that I felt between the lovers in the story.
If you were to make a film of this book, what would the tag line be?
A yearning for home, an adventure apart
48 of 48 people found this review helpful
American literature is full of immigrant perspectives - but these are mostly from the days of an Ellis Island stuffed full of European peasants fleeing economic deprivation in search of a better life. Americanah gives us a detailed look into a fresh perspective - African (Nigerian) immigrants coming to America or the UK in current times.
The main character, Ifemelu, and her college boyfriend, Obinze, both seek opportunity to grow and develop their lives outside the limitations of Big Man politics and limited economic opportunity in Nigeria. Ifemelu's experience includes fascinating details about what it's like to be a non-American black person in the U.S. and demonstrates the many faces of racism in the education system, in employment, and in the liberal intellectual elite. Adichie does a great job making the impacts of this racism real through the eyes of Ifemelu and her family and friends in the U.S. Obinze's challenges in the UK are more structural; in a post-9/11 world, it is difficult for a young, African male to get through the bureaucracy of EU/UK immigration, and he ends up returning to Nigeria and navigating the corruption as best he can to make his way.
Ifemelu and Obinze's star-crossed love life is the romantic plot intertwined with their immigrant experiences and plays out using conventional romance tropes, well-told. There are a couple of places where I didn't believe the storyline (Ifemelu's long silence to Obinze after a traumatic experience just didn't ring true but was necessary so that Obinze could develop his own plot complications.)
Is Americanah a great book? My personal standard for literature is that the crafting of a sentence is so breathtaking that you have to stop and stare - and I didn't find any of this high art in Americanah. Nonetheless, the book is extremely well-crafted - Adichie is a skilled writer with both an excellent eye for what's just under the surface, and fine writing technique. Her characters are extremely well-drawn, with lots of interesting detail and good development. The book is perhaps drawing so much attention because it tells such an important, under-told story and does it so well. As a reader, you care a lot about what happens next for each of these characters, and the book is a pleasure to read.
The narrator reads with a Nigerian accent, which takes a chapter or two to get used to, and ultimately adds a lot to the listening experience. Her inflections and expressiveness are superior to most narrators.
19 of 19 people found this review helpful