Story in Review: Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie | Inkwells & Images

I cannot decide how I feel about Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. On one hand, it is well-written, full of vibrant characters, and deals with tough themes: race, poverty, being an immigrant, and returning home to find it a changed place. On the other hand, I got the end of the novel not caring if any of the characters found happiness.

Adichie’s discussion of being black in America, but not necessarily a Black American, is eye-opening. As a white American who has only ever lived in the Midwest, this is a topic that I know nothing about. In college I took course in African history and African-American Intellectual history, so went into the novel familiar with certain themes of belonging and identity as they relate to race and immigrant status, but learning about race in America is not the same as experiencing it. It was interesting to read Ifemelu’s perspective on how being black in America was different, and how when she returned home to Nigeria that she didn’t feel black anymore. I don’t know as that I have the right lens to judge this novel – perhaps it’s merit is one that I cannot fully see.

What I can see is the words and the story itself: Adichie’s prose is at times poetical, and the first quarter of the novel is compelling: the plot, the observations, the commentary all work together to tell the story of Ifemelu, a young Nigerian woman heading to college in America on scholarship, leaving a boy she loves behind. She lands in the states to find a different world than what she was promised, faces significant struggles, and eventually attains success as a blog writer and speaker on the topic of race from the perspective of a Non-American Black. The novel flattens from there, as Ifemelu makes decisions that don’t always make sense and that sometime hurt others.

Favorite Quotes:

“But she had not had a bold epiphany and there was no cause; it was simply that layer after layer of discontent had settled in her, and formed a mass that now propelled her… her relationship with him was like being content in a house but always sitting by the window looking out.” – p. 7

“He was no longer sure, he had in fact never been sure, whether he liked his life because he really did or whether he liked it because he was supposed to.” – p. 21

“She rested her head against his and felt, for the first time, what she would often feel with him: a self-affection. He made her like herself.” – p. 61

“Did things begin to exist only when they were named?” – p. 160

“He was like a salutary tonic; with him, she could only inhabit a higher level of goodness.” – p. 313

“She heard his words like a melody… and between them silence grew, an ancient silence that they both knew. She was inside this silence and she was safe.” – p. 439

“Race doesn’t really work here [in Nigeria]. I feel like I got off the plane in Lagos and stopped being black.” – p. 475

Was it a good story? Yes, in that I think it is an important story to learn from, but it’s not one I would recommend to a friend as an engaging or entertaining read. It’s a book to read for perspective.

What could have made it a better story? While I imagine that all the ancillary characters were there to serve as anecdotes and fodder for Ifemelu’s blog, I often got through a section wondering if it had been necessary. I feel like the middle third of the book could almost not exist and it still retain its shape.

Have you read Americanah? What did you think? 

Story in Photos: A Winter Walk

It’s hard to believe that we sold our house almost nine months ago and have been living in an apartment since. We miss our little house: it was charming and old, filled with nicks that stand for the stories that only fill old homes.

In an absolute contrast, we now live in a shiny-new suburb, filled with homes that all look the same, at least on the outside. While I know that this is the dream for some people, and that we are lucky to live where we do, the neighborhood doesn’t quite fit on us: it’s a skin stretched too tight, scrubbed pink and obviously fresh out of the tub. The day we moved in, a friend remarked “This is not you guys at all.” It’s true, but we are telling ourselves “temporary.”

And it is.

A couple weeks ago we sat down with an architect to sketch our someday home.

We are excited and nervous and oh-so-happy that life is moving forward after many years of waiting. One of these days I’ll tell our story of trying and failing to sell our first home, of the holding pattern we lived in for four years as we waited for someone else to fall in love with our little yellow house. But for now, we are learning contentment in this transition, savoring the simplicity of apartment life, and focusing on other efforts as we wait for next spring to arrive.

How are you learning contentment these days?

A Winter Walk | Inkwells & Images

A Winter Walk | Inkwells & Images1

A Winter Walk | Inkwells & Images1

A Winter Walk | Inkwells & Images1

A Winter Walk | Inkwells & Images1

A Winter Walk | Inkwells & Images1

A Winter Walk | Inkwells & Images1

A Winter Walk | Inkwells & Images1

A Winter Walk | Inkwells & Images1

A Winter Walk | Inkwells & Images1

A Winter Walk | Inkwells & Images1

 

The Stories of Others: Links From All Over

There has been some really awesome stuff on the internet lately.

I’m listening to Madi Diaz’s Smokestack Sessions on repeat all the time (video above, or here).

Can I gush a little bit about how much I love the modern day literary heroine series that Sarah over at Yes and Yes has started? She’s taking a favorite gal from the past and re-imagining her living and breathing in today’s world. She started with Anne of Green Gables, who we all know has a soft spot in my heart:

Anne obviously got into the MFA program at Sarah Lawrence on the first try, her collection of poems about birch trees moved the admissions team to tears.

Now, Sarah has tacked Lizzie Bennet, and let me tell you: Tinder would welcome her wit.

A French bakery that’s open 24/7/365 AND has free WiFi? I’m definitely there if I am ever in Charlotte, NC.

I loved being part of Jessica Lawlor’s Get Gutsy week this year. If you ever need some inspiration, hop on over and read 60+ stories of strong men and women who are making gutsy life decisions.

The Midwestival is my new favorite blog to follow. It’s everything I love about the Midwest – the food, artists, culture – and the site is simple and elegant and lovely. Their Instagram game is top notch, too.

What are you in love with on the internet lately?