“Princeton, in the summer, smelled of nothing, and although Ifemelu liked the tranquil greenness of the many trees, the clean streets and stately homes, the delicately overpriced shops, and the quiet, abiding air of earned grace, it was this, the lack of a smell, that most appealed to her, perhaps because the other American cities she knew well had all smelled distinctly.”
After reading this initial sentence of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s gorgeous novel, Americanah, it felt utterly impossible not to lose myself in this intricately woven tale. To say that I loved this book is a gross understatement; I even got to the point where I would read it while walking to work which, for a klutzy person such as myself, is saying something. Americanah crosses the boarders of Africa, Europe, and North America to tell the story of Ifemelu and Obinze, young lovers who depart to separate countries from their native Nigeria in order to chase their dreams abroad. Confident and sharply intelligent Ifemelu travels to the United States to attend college, where she encounters and wrestles with issues of race and what it means to be a person of color for the first time. Calm and pensive Obinze initially plans on joining Ifemelu, but ultimately winds up oceans away in London, where he leads a treacherous life as an undocumented immigrant. Their story is one of love, race, and finding the courage to accept your identity.
I seriously cannot praise this novel enough. Aside from spinning a masterful tale that leaves you constantly wondering what in the world will happen next, Adichie raises some important questions about what race and our perceptions of each other mean. This book encouraged me to pause often and consider my own awareness of social issues that are happening here in our Western world, and made me feel like parter of a larger conversation that we as human beings should be having. I highly, highly, highly recommend this book to anyone interested in a novel that honestly discusses race, immigration, and what it means to truly love someone.
What have you been reading lately? I’d love to hear!