Americanah: Life in the United States as an African American Woman
Americanah is a novel written by a Nigerian blogger named Ifemelu. Ifemelu writes about her experience in the United States as an African American woman, and the power of love. She addresses racism and the many stereotypes that describe African Americans in today’s world. She documents the comments and opinions of “”non-blacks”” about African Americans. Ifemelu uses one of her blogs, Raceteenth or Various Observations About American Blacks (Those Formerly Known As Negroes) by a Non-American Black, as a voice for African Americans.
In Ifemelu’s blog, Raceteenth or Various Observations About American Blacks (Those Formerly Known As Negroes) by a Non-American Black, she recognizes the disparities between Black Non-Americans and Black Americans. Her assumptions of the people were not always correct but as I read more, she usually was spot on. Ifemelu’s experiences in the United States proved her accusations about racism. Her hair, accent, body, and how “”dark”” her skin was all played important roles in Ifemelu’s American experiences and her blog.
(Ifemelu starts a relationship with a man named Curt who was white. She soon cheated on him, which resulted in Curt breaking up with her. She seems fairly depressed and after a visit from her parents, Ifemelu starts up her blog.) She tried to keep her feelings about the racism she saw and experienced to herself at first, but they soon came out in an email to her good friend. “”Telling Wambui what happened was not satisfying enough; she longed for other listeners, and she longed to hear the stories of others. How many other people had become black in America? How many had felt as though their world was wrapped in gauze?”” (Adiche, 366). She felt as if it was easy to explain her experiences to Wambui because she was also a “”Non-American Black””. The feedback she got from Wambui inspired her to continue with her blog.
When Ifemelu was in Nigeria she did not consider herself as “”black””. “”I came from a country where race was not an issue; I did not think of myself as black and I only become black when I came to America. When you are black in America but fall in love with a white person, race doesn’t matter when you’re alone together because it’s just you abs your love. But the minute you step outside, race matters”” (Adichie, 290).
Although light-skinned women were considered more beautiful in Nigeria, racism was never a serious problem. When she came to America she finds that racism is much more in depth than she imagined. She experienced many forms of racism we have discussed in class: Institutional racism and internalized racism. One example of Institutional racism is when Ifemelu was told to tame her hair before she could be given a job. An example of internalized racism was when Dike, Ifemelu’s cousin, went to summer camp and the counselor did not give him sunscreen because she assumed dark skin could not burn.
The way Ifemelu used humor in her blog kept me interested. I think the author used humor to make light of the situations Ifemelu went through. Adichie’s observations about racism were humorous but also intelligent. They challenged the way people think about race and show you an unfamiliar version of American society seen through African Americans eyes.
Love also plays a huge role in Americanah. Ifemelu has a few love stories, but there is one she keeps coming back to, Obinze. “”They have a kind of idealized teenage love as they find each other in school and become incredibly close, but they are then separated when Ifemelu goes to America. Ifemelu cuts off contact with Obinze during her period of depression, and this silence goes on for years. During this time each character has their own romantic experiences: Ifemelu dates Curt and Blaine, while Obinze marries Kosi. Even while Obinze and Ifemelu are separated, their romantic lives remain the central plot focus, particularly as Ifemelu deals with racial and cultural issues in her romantic relationships. With this Adichie not only creates tension and an interesting plot, but also delivers social commentary through an individual and emotional lens”” (Colby, 2015). I believe her relationships play a huge role in the novel and in her blogs. Blaine listened to her and discussed racial issues because he was a black man. They shared an interest in Barack Obama. Curt was a learning point because he was Caucasian and she got to see thing from other racial standpoints, but because he was white he did not understand her struggles. Obinze was the most important because he was a Nigerian who understood her everyday struggles in America.
After thirteen years, Ifemelu decides to return to Nigeria. She made a huge impact on her American life and wants to return to her true love, Obinze. Ifemelu has a newfound self-identity and is proud of all she accomplished. This blog made me understand race more in depth, so I know Ifemelu made an impact in the story and Adiche changed many viewpoints with her book. In America, Ifemelu was just black, but in Nigeria she was an Americanah.