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Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie born 15 September 1977 is a Nigerian writer whose works range from novels to short stories to nonfiction. She was described in The Times Literary Supplement as "the most prominent" of a "procession of critically acclaimed young anglophone authors [who] is succeeding in attracting a new generation of readers to African literature".
Adichie was born in Nigeria, and grew up as the fifth of six children in an Igbo family in the university town of Nsukka in Enugu State. While she was growing up, her father worked as a professor of statistics at the University of Nigeria. Her mother, was the universitys first female registrar. The family lost almost everything during the Nigerian Civil War, including both maternal and paternal grandfathers. Her familys ancestral village is in Abba in Anambra State.
Adichie completed her secondary education at the University of Nigeria Secondary School, Nsukka, where she received several academic prizes. She studied medicine and pharmacy at the University of Nigeria for a year and a half. During this period, she edited The Compass, a magazine run by the universitys Catholic medical students. At the age of 19, Adichie left Nigeria for the United States to study communications and political science at Drexel University in Philadelphia. She soon transferred to Eastern Connecticut State University to be near her sister Uche, who had a medical practice in Coventry, Connecticut. While the novelist was growing up in Nigeria, she was not used to being identified by the colour of her skin which suddenly changed when she arrived in the United States for college. As a black African in America, Adichie was suddenly confronted with what it meant to be a person of color in the United States. Race as an idea became something that she had to navigate and learn. She writes about this in her novel Americanah. She received a bachelors degree from Eastern Connecticut State University, with the distinction of summa cum laude in 2001.
Adichie was a Hodder fellow at Princeton University . She was also awarded by the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, Harvard University. Adichie divides her time between the United States, and Nigeria, where she teaches writing workshops. In 2016, she was conferred an honorary degree by Johns Hopkins University. In 2017, she was conferred honorary degrees by Haverford College and The University of Edinburgh. In 2018, she received an honorary degree, Doctor of Humane Letters, from Amherst College. She received an honorary degree from the Université de Fribourg, Switzerland, in 2019.
Adichie had a baby daughter with the man she ended up marrying in 2009 was almost comically suitable: a Nigerian doctor who practiced in America, whose father was a doctor and a friend of her parents. Adichie is a Catholic and was raised Catholic as a child, though she considers her views, especially those on feminism, to sometimes conflict with her religion. At a 2017 event at Georgetown University, she stated that religion "is not a women-friendly institution" and "has been used to justify oppressions that are based on the idea that women are not equal human beings." She has called for Christian and Muslim leaders in Nigeria to preach messages of peace and togetherness.
In March 2017, Americanah was picked as the winner for the "One Book, One New York" program, part of a community reading initiative encouraging all city residents to read the same book.
In April 2017, it was announced that Adichie had been elected into the 237th class of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, one of the highest honours for intellectuals in the United States, as one of 228 new members to be inducted on 7 October 2017.
Her most recent book, Dear Ijeawele, or A Feminist Manifesto in Fifteen Suggestions, published in March 2017, had its origins in a letter Adichie wrote to a friend who had asked for advice about how to raise her daughter as a feminist. (r.1)
There are some novels that tell a great story and others that make you change the way you look at the world. Chimamanda Ngozi Adichies is a book that manages to do both.
It is ostensibly a love story – the tale of childhood sweethearts at school in Nigeria whose lives take different paths when they seek their fortunes in America and England – but it is also a brilliant dissection of modern attitudes to race, spanning three continents and touching on issues of identity, loss and loneliness.
tells the story of Ifemelu, a spirited young girl with strong opinions, and her teenage boyfriend, Obinze, who grow up with romanticised notions of the west, shaped by the literature of Graham Greene, Mark Twain and James Baldwin. When Ifemelu is presented with an opportunity to continue her postgraduate studies in Philadelphia, she takes it. Some years later, Obinze, too, goes in search of a better life, but to Britain.
It is at this point that Adichie really begins to flex her muscles as a novelist: the sense of dislocation felt by both characters in two countries with wholly different histories and class structures is expertly rendered. She has an extraordinary eye for the telling nuance of social interaction within a particular kind of liberal elite.
In England, Obinze struggles to get hold of the ever-elusive national security number that will enable him to work legally. The newspapers are full of stories about schools "swamped" by immigrant children and politicians attempts to clamp down on asylum seekers. Against this backdrop, he is invited to a smug Islington lunch party by Emenike, a former classmate in Nigeria, who has married a high-flying solicitor. The food is served on self-consciously "ethnic" plates brought back from a holiday in India and Obinze is left wondering whether Emenike has become a person "who believed that something was beautiful because it was handmade by poor people in a foreign country, or whether he had simply learned to pretend so".
The polite conversation skates over race and the idea of foreignness, with each guest trying to outdo the next with their earnest political correctness. Adichie skewers their self-satisfaction with lethal accuracy. They "understood the fleeing from war, from the kind of poverty that crushed human souls", she writes. "They would not understand why people like him, who were raised well-fed and watered but mired in dissatisfaction, conditioned from birth to look towards somewhere else… were now resolved to do dangerous things, illegal things, so as to leave, none of them starving, or raped, or from burned villages, but merely hungry for choice and certainty."
In America, Ifemelu also finds it difficult to get part-time work. She gets turned away from menial jobs as a waitress, bartender or cashier. Her fellow students speak to her with painful slowness, as if she cannot comprehend basic English. In class, she is singled out as someone who will intuitively understand the plight of African Americans because of some half-formed belief in a nebulous, shared "black" consciousness.
Adichie is particularly good at exposing the contradictory ebb and flow of Americas painful attempts to reconcile itself with its recent past, when segregation still persisted in the south. She does so with a wryness and insight that never imposes itself on the flow of the story but which challenges the readers assumptions with each carefully crafted sentence.
There is the blond, well-heeled Kimberley who means well but says every black woman she sees is "beautiful", despite aesthetic evidence to the contrary. When Ifemelu buys a vintage 1960s dress on eBay she realises that when the original owner would have worn it, black Americans would not have been allowed to vote.
"And maybe," Ifemelu notes, "the original owner was one of those women, in the famous sepia photographs, standing by in hordes outside schools shouting Ape! at young black children because they did not want them to go to school with their young white children."
Eventually, Ifemelu starts blogging about her experiences. Adichie captures the tone of internet chatter with precision – at once both breezy and sporadically furious – and the blogposts add an extra dimension to the plot, allowing the reader to see how Ifemelu sees herself and how she wishes to present herself to the outside world.
A recurring theme of the blogs is the politics of black hair – how women are expected to relax their natural curls with toxic chemicals or weave in bits of someone elses hair in order to conform to comfortable white norms. In fact, much of the novel is written in flashback, as Ifemelu has her hair braided in a New Jersey salon in preparation for going home to Nigeria after 15 years in America, during which she has witnessed Barack Obamas election victory.
The final section of the book follows Ifemelus return and her reunion with Obinze who is, by now, married to someone else. It is to Adichies immense credit that such a sprawling, epic book remains so tightly structured. There are, perhaps, one too many of Ifemelus blogposts and a few extra scenes here and there that could have been cut, but part of s appeal is its immense, uncontained and beating heart. You can feel Adichies passion and belief pumping beneath every paragraph.
is a deeply felt book, written with equal parts lyricism and erudition. More than that, it is an important book – and yet one that never lets its importance weigh down the need to tell a truly gripping human story.
News is under threat …
Highlights vs self- reflection:
1.p.275: she believed that with apologies, smooth all the scalloped surfaces of the world.
2.p.276:Laura’s unhappiness was different, spiky, she wished that everyone around her were unhappy because she had convinced herself that she would always be.
3.p.360:..in American pop culture, beautiful dark women are invisible.
4.p.231:nigger is a word that exists, people use it. It is part of America. It has caused a lot of pain to people and I think it is insulting to bleep it out.
5.p.232: I don’t think it’s always hurtful. I think it depends on the intent and also on who is using it.
6.p.234:Ifemelu felt a gentle, swaying sense of renewal. Here, she did not have to explain herself.
7.p.286: to be from the country of eople who gave and not those who received, to be one of those who had and could therefore bask in the grace of having given, to be among those who could afford copious pity and empathy.
8.p.283: I read on the Internet that Nigerians are the mmost educated immigrant group in this country. I’ve heve been called privileged in my life. It feels good.
9.p.310:In America, tribalism is alive and well. There are four kinds-class, ideology, egion, and race. First , class. Rich folk and poor folk. Second, ideology. Liberals and conservatives. Third, region. The North and the South. Finally, race. There’s a ladder of racial hierarchy in America.
10.p.372:Be forgiving. If possible, make it funny. Most of all, do not be angry. Black people are not supposed to be angry about racism.
11.p.436: the life he had imagined for himself, and the life he now had, lacquered as it was by work and reading, by panic and hope. He had never felt so lonely.
12.p.585: Many abolitionists wanted to free the slaves but didn’t want black people living nearby.
13.p.134: That small money you gave him will not help him pay any school fees, but he can buy a little extra something and he will be in a better mood and he won’t beat his wife this night.
14.p.112: At least they are fortunate to have that option.
15.p.587: They did not fight again until the relationshiop ended, but in the time of Blaine’s stoniness, when Ifemelu burrowed into herself and ate whole chocolate bars, her feelings for him changed, She still admired him, his moral fiber, his life of clean lines, but now it was admiration for a person separate from her, a person far away.
1.p.305:hopefully you do stupid things when you’re young so you don’t do them when you’re older.
2.p.240: The devil is a liar. The devil wants to block us.
3.p.711: Suddenly you’re getting all of this sucking-up from people because they think you expect it, all this exaggerated politeness, exaggerated praise, even exaggerated respect that you haven’t earned at all, and it’s so fake and so garish, it’s like a bad overcolored painting, but sometimes you start to believing a little bit of it yourself and sometimes you see yourself differently.
4.p.504: Remember that a woman is like a flower. Our time passes quickly.
5.p.537:They wore their love like a heavy perfume.
6.p.614:ghosts of old friends suddenly morphing to life with wives and husbands and children, and photos trailed by comments.
7.p.615: It’s like a shallow muddy pond that we are all wallowing in.
8.p.716: It’s wonderful , but not heaven.
1.“Emigration is a kind of partial suicide. You don’t die, but a great deal dies within you. Not least, the language.”―
2. One country’s emigrant is another country’s immigrant.”― Mokokoma Mokhonoana
3.Emigration face more difficult problems to deal with: culture chock, marriage and carrier. Without outstanding ability and perseverance, it’s hard to overcome.
4. from puppy love to the real love: listen, overlook,voice, effort.
5. Real love is able to awaken your soul
6.Love isn’t about the time you spend together. It’s about the memories you create.
7.Emigration is tough. They help each other to be outstanding.
8.and U call me coloroured???by Agra Gra
When I was born I was black
(This poem was written by an African child that was nominated by the United nations for the Best Poem of 2005.)
Pachinko Questions by Torey:
About the Author
Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie is a feminist writer whose works have been translated into over 30 languages. Raised in Nigeria, she uses her writing to explore and expose common themes of the human experience through the lense of the female experience.
About the Book
Winner of the 2013 National Book Critics Circle Award for Fiction, and listed as a must-read by the New York Times, Washington Post, Chicago Tribune, and NPR, Americanah is a story of love, race, and identity.
Ifemelu and Obinze are young and in love when they depart military-ruled Nigeria for the West. Beautiful, self-assured Ifemelu heads for America, where despite her academic success, she is forced to grapple with what it means to be black for the first time. Quiet, thoughtful Obinze had hoped to join her, but with post-9/11 America closed to him, he instead plunges into a dangerous, undocumented life in London. Fifteen years later, they reunite in a newly democratic Nigeria, and reignite their passion—for each other and for their homeland.
1. What does the title “Americanah” mean? Does this word have a negative or a positive meaning?
The title, she says, is a Nigerian word for those who have been to the U.S. and ... Because in some ways theyre saying, Youre one of the good ones. ... You werent defined by race when you were in Nigeria; everyone around you was black.
2. How would you describe the qualities Obinze and Ifemelu admire in each other? Do you think they have a chance at a lasting relationship?
They have the dream behind the material need
3. Why does Ifemelu avoid talking to Obinze after her experience with the tennis coach?
Ifemelu is a week late on rent. She calls the tennis coach in desperation. She tells him she won’t have sex. He promises that he just needs her to let him touch her. Afterward, Ifemelu feels ashamed and blames herself. At home, she finds she has a phone message from Obinze. She cannot bring herself to respond, and deletes both his messages and his emails. She grows listless, skips her classes, and stops calling her parents and Aunty Uju.(r.13)
4. Do you think the characters in the book who emigrate lose something of themselves in the struggle to be successful in a new country and culture?
They change their appearance to get more closer to the new setting, but deep inside, they are more aware to be themselves.
5. On Page 194, shortly after Ifemelu moves to Philadelphia, her friend suggests she may be depressed. Ifemelu remarks that “Depression was what happened to Americans, with their self-absolving need to turn everything into an illness.” Do you agree with this, and why or why not?
In Nigeria, there is no race, but in America.
6. Why do you think Ifemelu abandons her relationships with Curt and Blaine?
Ifem left Curt cos she found out it’s puppy love, Ifem left Blaine cos she found out Paula run a more easy relationship with him, Her deepest concern can’t get connected with them.
Though it seems, looking at the novel as a whole, that Ifemelu never stopped loving Obinze, she does have long, healthy relationships with other men while living in the United States. These three men can be seen to represent certain archetypes - White American Men, Black American Men, and Nigerian Men - or be read more deeply for the specifics Adichie gives about their personalities and relationships with Ifemelu.
Curt is the most dissimilar from Ifemelu and from the other two men she seriously dates in that he has grown up in a sheltered, privileged environment and is not much of an intellectual. Their relationship seems based upon his love of Ifemelu - the way he makes her feel beautiful and cared for.
Her relationship with Blaine, however, is more intense, requiring her to stretch herself to like the books, music, and art that he does and spend time with his intellectual friends. In the end, Adichie does seem to imply that the differences between their upbringing pushes them apart as it gives them different goals for this important stretch of their life; the fight that brings on the decline of their relationship is due to Ifemelu not going to a protest Blaine organizes for a black man falsely accused of dealing drugs.
Whether Ifemelu wants to be with Obinze or simply with a Nigerian man is not stated explicitly, but it would seem that she has ample chance, both in America and in Nigeria, to have a relationship with other Nigerians and does not do so. Aunty Uju, on the other hand, makes an explicit point of seeking out African men to date in the United States, not seeming to put much value on their being a perfect match for her emotionally.(r.14)
7. Do you think Aunty Uju’s struggles and choices have anything to do with Dike’s attempt to committ suicide?
Aunty Uju spent more time to struggle for carrier, marriage, it’s hard to help Dike face his problems.
8. Why do you think Ifemelu chooses to return to Nigeria after 13 years in the United States?
She can do what is more meaningful in her life.
9. What are some of the ways beauty is portrayed in the novel? How are these similar to or different from the definition of beauty in your home culture?
Box-braid is really so fresh to me. Like here, when we were young, we admire all the long straight hair.
10. Did you agree with Obinze’s final choice? Why or why not?
I agree with her choice. To be who you are is more important than what you have.
We are introduced to Ifemelu as she makes her way from the affluent ease and clean-smelling air of Princeton University to the decidedly non-affluent city of Trenton, to have her hair braided. On the train she muses about her recently-ended blog, wherein she catalogued her observations of race relations from the perspective of a non-American black person. Her musings are fueled by her observations of other passengers on the train, and she reflects on her first time in New York when she witnessed mostly skinny white people get off at the stops in Manhattan, while mostly fat black people get off in Brooklyn. Her thoughts while riding the train are an introduction to the current trajectory of her life - she is in the process of ending her blog, breaking up with her boyfriend, and moving back to Nigeria. But this decision seems at odds with the narrative of her feelings throughout Part 1, namely her hope that her taxi driver is not Nigerian; her dislike of the loud noise and stuffy heat of the hair salon; and her detached and judgemental attitude towards the other women in the salon who, despite being African as well, are perplexed by her accent, her un-relaxed hair, and her decision to return to Nigeria. We soon learn that the reactions of her family and friends to her return home are just as diverse as her own feelings on the subject.
In a fit of recklessness (or perhaps in an effort to make her plans more real to herself), Ifemelu sends an e-mail to her high school and college sweetheart, Obinze, to tell him she is returning to Nigeria. Upon receipt of the e-mail, Obinze reminisces about the early days of his relationship with Ifemelu. His nostalgia is interrupted when his wife calls to make sure he is on his way home. Obinze’s wife, Kosi, is nearly perfect by Nigerian standards: she is described as curvy and light-skinned with high cheekbones and a stunningly symmetrical face. She is eager to please, not too smart, and dedicated to giving Obinze children. They already have one daughter, named Buchi. She is the kind of wife a man like Obinze is supposed to have. She helps to make his charmed new life predictable and comfortable, but he still feels uneasy and discontented. We watch as they attend a party together, engaging in superficial conversations in the pretentious inner circles of “Chief,” the rich patron who made Obinze’s lavish life possible. His wife enjoys the party, gracing multiple cliques, engaging in pleasant conversation, and drawing attention for her beauty. Meanwhile Obinze finds himself mildly disgusted, reflecting his wife’s dehumanizing treatment of their housegirl. Once home with a plate of food, he returns to his thoughts about Ifemelu and responds to her e-mail, careful to leave out any mention of his wife.
Back in the Trenton hair salon, the workers take a short break to order Chinese food. Ifemelu’s hairdresser complains about the difficulty of working with her hair, and it brings Ifemelu pangs of nostalgia and envy as she recalls her mother’s beautiful hair, which changed throughout Ifemelu’s youth as her mother transitioned through various religions. When Ifemelu was 10 years old, her mother came home and cut off all of her hair; later, she fasted herself to the point of unhealthy thinness. She finally settled on a church that focused less on physical attributes, but taught the doctrine that material prosperity is the result of virtue and righteousness. Ifemelu thinks on the irony of how religion can convince people to think and behave in nonsensical ways. One example is how Ifemelu’s mother prays daily for Aunty Uju’s “mentor,” The General. Aunty Uju is a relative of Ifemelu’s father who hopes to open her own medical clinic one day. After graduation from medical school, Aunty Uju becomes The General’s mistress and he helps her get a job at a hospital. He also buys her a car and gives her money whenever she asks. Ifemelu’s mother constantly prays for The General, calling him Aunty Uju’s “mentor,” as if using that word will change the nature of their extramarital relationship to make it more acceptable.
Ifemelu’s childhood takes a turn when her father loses his job for being unwilling to call his boss “Mummy.” For a while her father tries to find another job. Ifemelu recalls how he used to use big words and speak high-level English to hide his shame at not having achieved a higher level of societal status. But as he loses hope for finding a job, he also loses much of himself, including his habit for flowery language. During this time especially, Aunty Uju spends a lot of time with Ifemelu around the house and becomes like a second mother to her. She talks to Ifemelu about her period and sex, helps when she gets in trouble at church, and even gives Ifemelu’s father the money for two years rent after the landlord comes banging on the door. Another influential figure from Ifemelu’s youth is Obinze, the love of her life. Obinze’s mother is a professor on sabbatical from the University of Nsukka who decides to temporarily move to Lagos with her son. As the new kid at Ifemelu’s high school, Obinze immediately becomes one of the cool kids, and a mutual friend tries to set him up at a party with Ifemelu’s better liked, well-off friend Ginika. But Obinze is much more interested in Ifemelu, and within just a few short weeks they share their first kiss and profess their love to each other. This causes temporary strain on Ifemelu and Ginika’s relationship, but the tension quickly dissipates when Ginika announces that her family is moving to the United States. It is during Ginika’s departure process - savoring final moments with friends and giving away clothes she won’t need - that her friends tease her by saying she will become an “Americanah,” someone who leaves Nigeria and comes back acting too American.
After Ginika’s departure, Ifemelu and Obinze fall even more in love, spending all their time with each other. Ifemelu admires Obinze, not only for his intelligence and quiet strength, but also for his eagerness to support her when she is uncertain of herself. Their relationship seems almost dream-like, except for Ifemelu’s perennial insecurity and Obinze’s obsession with “proper books” like Huckleberry Finn. When Obinze’s mother asks to meet her, Ifemelu is nervous because it is not normal for a Nigerian mother to meet her son’s high school girlfriend. But upon meeting her, the initial apprehension gives way to awe at her beauty, grace and intelligence. She and Ifemelu eventually enjoy a familial fondness as Ifemulu gets used to spending less time at home and more time at their house. Aunty Uju also spends far less time at Ifemelu’s house as she falls deeper in love with The General. Uju gives up everything to make herself beautiful and accessible to him. She lives in a house he bought her, stays out of the sun to keep her skin light, trims her pubic hairs, and cooks him special meals. Ifemelu is shocked when she finds out that Uju’s position at the hospital is not even paid, and The General pays for everything. Aunty Uju seemed to have once been a woman so full of ambition and intelligence, and now she is happy with living on the good graces of a married man. She even bears him a son who they decide to name Dike, and The General pays to have her flown to the United States to give birth. Everything seems wonderful until one week after Dike’s extravagant 1st birthday, when The General is killed in a suspicious military plane crash. Aunty Uju does not even have time to grieve, but flees to the United States to avoid the wrath of the General’s family.
Meanwhile, Ifemelu and Obinze are finishing high school and deciding where to go to college. They decide together to attend the University of Ibadan; however, Obinze’s mother has a fainting accident and they instead go to the University of Nsukka to look after her as she returns home from sabbatical. At first life is good in Nsukka, Obinze’s childhood home.
Part 3 switches away from Ifemelu’s point of view for the first time to capture Obinze’s experiences in England. In sharp contrast to Ifemelu, who was shocked at the sweltering heat of Brooklyn, Obinze is startled by the “weightless menace” of London’s cold nights. We find him walking the streets of London almost three years after arriving there, envying passerby for their ability to work and enjoy a legally permissible existence in England. He reflects on the shady Angolans who are arranging a citizenship marriage between him and a woman named Cleotilde. Obinze had insisted on meeting her first, to make sure she was okay with everything, and the two had hit it off. Obinze fondly recalls their first date over fish and chips, where he learned about her Angolan father and Portuguese mother. And although they both knew that they should avoid complicating matters until after the marriage, they continued to see each other. Obinze unexpectedly develops a deep desire for Cleotilde - she makes him feel whole again.
When the couple go to apply for their marriage license, there is a board with all the names of people who are getting married. Obinze spots the name of an old classmate and it takes his memory back “to a time when he still believed the universe would bend according to his will” (287). He recalls that, even in his final year of college, students and professors alike were still leaving Nigeria in search of better academic opportunities. His mother looked about in despair, concerned that one day everyone she knew would be dead or abroad - and he harbored some guilt for his dreams and plans to pursue a postgraduate degree in America. He had dreamed of the United States since he was a child. With time, he had come to view America as his destiny, and applied for a Visa just days after college graduation. He was denied that first time, and then three more times after that. After Obinze spent months searching for jobs and growing more dejected and ashamed, his mother was invited to a conference in London. Although it pained her, she offered to add his name to her British visa as her research assistant in order to give him an opportunity to go abroad. The gesture meant so much to Obinze because he knew his mother to be an almost painfully honest person - and he felt enormous guilt that she had lied for him. He felt guilty to the point where he barely spoke to her the entire three years he was in England because he didn’t want to speak to her until he had made something of himself. He started out cleaning toilets, but quit the day he found a purposely placed pile of shit on top of a toilet lid. Later that night after quitting, he had received Ifemelu’s apology e-mail and experienced at first disbelief, then renewed resentment at her sudden five year silence. Feeling an overwhelming sense of betrayal, he deleted the e-mail without responding.
Obinze is lucky to have a network of family and friends in London who can help through these difficult times. Nicholas, Obinze’s cousin who also happened to have been the most popular and outrageous student on campus in Nsukka, had married a smart, rebellious woman named Ojiugo. Obinze lives with them in London, and is surprised to find that Nicholas has become an ordinary, sober father and homeowner in England. He seems monotonous, melancholy, and full of worry despite having a decent job in his chosen field; whereas his wife is wholly content despite having given up her career in literature when she had their two children, Nna and Nne. “It puzzled him that she did not mourn all the things she could have been. Was it a quality inherent in women, or did they just learn to shield their personal regrets, to suspend their lives, subsume themselves in child care?” (301)
Besides living with Nicholas and Ojiugo, Obinze also kept in touch with Emenike, a friend from high school who had become one of his closest friends in college. In his youth, Emenike always tried to hide that he was the poorest of his friends. He was obsessed with gaining knowledge and status, and he finally has those things in London. His wife is a lawyer and the two of them enjoy a very comfortable life. When Obinze first arrived in London, Emenike kept him at arm’s length, always saying he was busy or it’s not a good time. Obinze was at first hopeful that Emenike would take him in and show him the ropes in London, but in the end it was another University friend named Nosa who welcomed him to London, picking him up from the airport and gathering friends to reminisce at the pub. Nosa was also the one who reminded Obinze that his “cousin,” Iloba, lived in London as well. Iloba is a person from Obinze’s mother’s village who always called Obinze “Kinsman” when they were coming up. Obinze always found Iloba’s enthusiasm to be vaguely annoying, and had forgotten that Iloba moved to London a while back. Nosa gave Obinze Iloba’s number and, after a couple weeks, Iloba had put him in touch with a man named Vincent who let Obinze use his NI card to get work, in exchange for 35% of his salary. Obinze used Vincent’s identity for two years, at first for small temporary jobs like cleaning toilets, halls, and kitchens, and then for a job working in a warehouse. The warehouse job turned out to be great for Obinze, allowing him to work some overtime and save money, get lost in books at a cafe once per week, and develop a true friendship with Nigel, his boss. With time, he even developed a semi-regular sexual relationship with a Zimbabwean woman named Tendai. Despite all this, he still misses Ifemelu and his mother, and the strong anti-immigrant sentiments of London always leave him feeling lonely and isolated with a constant panic in his chest. This is why he decides to meet the Angolans for an arranged citizenship marriage.
One day Obinze’s coworkers surprise him with a birthday celebration (on Vincent’s birthday), and Obinze realizes with relief that he has actually developed a thin but comforting sense of safety. That same night, Vincent calls to demand a raise - he wants 45% of Obinze’s income, which Obinze chooses to ignore. Just one week later, Vincent calls Obinze’s boss and reports him for working illegally - a move that shatters Obinze’s newfound feeling of safety and leaves him desperate to get the marriage with Cleotilde finalized. Meanwhile the Angolans are stringing him along and asking for more money than was originally agreed upon. It has been several months since he met them and they hold Cleotilde’s passport, which prevents Obinze and Cleotilde from getting married on their own. Desperate for money to pay the Angolans, Obinze calls Emenike to borrow 500 pounds. When they do finally meet up, it is clear that the relationship has diminished and Eminike now sees himself as superior. He wears cashmere sweaters, talks down about people he perceives to be low class, and openly revels in the luxurious life of travel and fine dining that he and his wife enjoy. After a long conversation that leaves Obinze wondering if Emenike secretly hates him, Emenike finally hands him 1000 pounds and tells him it’s not a loan. He tells Obinze to count it, even though counting money right when its given to you goes totally against Nigerian culture. After this uncomfortable exchange Obinze goes to dinner with Emenike and his wife a couple times, but the fancy food and their fancy friends both leave a bad taste in his mouth. After all this, Obinze is at least relieved to have the money he needs to finally marry Cleotilde. He buys her a dress and Nicholas gives him a suit, and all seems to be in order on the day of the wedding. They meet outside the civic center to take photos with their close friends and family. After three years in London, Obinze is filled with nervous excitement that, in less than an hour, he will be able to kiss Cleotilde like he wants to and walk the streets as a free man. But as soon as they enter, they are approached by a man who informs Obinze that his visa has expired and he is not allowed to be present in the UK. Cleotilde collapses on the floor crying as Obinze is taken away in handcuffs. After being questioned and kept in a detention center near Heathrow airport, Obinze is deported back to Nigeria, where his mother waits to receive him at the airport.
Part 4 finds Ifemelu recalling the end of her relationship with Curt. She cheats on him, and also remarks that she didn’t feel things that she thought she ought to feel - perhaps passion? Later she regrets her behavior and tries to work things out with Curt, but he ignores her. Ginika tells her she is a self-sabotager, and Ifemelu moves on with life, doubting herself and wondering why she had destroyed something so special.
In the aftermath of the relationship with Curt, she finally starts a blog, the idea for which was sparked by an experience she had with Curt while they were still dating. Ifemelu recalls many of their misadventures as a mixed-race couple: white people staring at her, wondering how and why he chose her; going to a restaurant together and the host asking Curt “Table for one?” But the particular incident that inspires her blog revolved around Essence Magazine - a magazine written by and for black women, which Curt called racist for its featuring of black women and exclusion of other races. Ifemelu took him to a magazine store and made him flip through thousands of pages from other magazines like Elle, Vogue, and Cosmopolitan. In the thousands of pages, they only found maybe 3 or 4 pictures of black women, and Ifemelu emphatically pointed out that its not possible for her to get useful makeup, hair, or styling tips from those magazines. Rather than expressing outrage at these mainstream magazines, Curt simply responded with “Okay, babe, okay, I didn’t mean for it to be such a big deal.” Ifemelu wrote a long e-mail to a friend from the ASA about this experience, and all the feelings and thoughts that went unspoken afterward. Her friend responded by saying she should write a blog. And one day after breaking up with Curt while searching for meaning in her life, she starts the blog with an edited version of that same e-mail. Posts from the blog, entitled Raceteenth or Various Observations About American Blacks (Those Formerly Known as Negroes) by a Non-American Black, are sprinkled throughout the whole book. Here are a few consolidated posts, to give an idea of their content and voice:
On American Tribalism:
In America, tribalism is alive and well. There are four kinds—class, ideology, region, and race. First, class. Pretty easy. Rich folk and poor folk. Second, ideology. Liberals and conservatives. They don’t merely disagree on political issues, each side believes the other is evil. Intermarriage is discouraged and on the rare occasion that it happens, is considered remarkable. Third, region. The North and the South. The two sides fought a civil war and tough stains from that war remain. The North looks down on the South while the South resents the North. Finally, race. There’s a ladder of racial hierarchy in America. White is always on top, specifically White Anglo-Saxon Protestant, otherwise known as WASP, and American Black is always on the bottom, and what’s in the middle depends on time and place. (227)
To My Fellow Non-American Blacks: In America, You Are Black, Baby
Dear Non-American Black, when you make the choice to come to America, you become black. Stop arguing. Stop saying I’m Jamaican or I’m Ghanaian. America doesn’t care. So what if you weren’t “black” in your country? You’re in America now. We all have our moments of initiation into the Society of Former Negroes. Mine was in a class in undergrad when I was asked to give the black perspective, only I had no idea what that was. So I just made something up. And admit it—you say “I’m not black” only because you know black is at the bottom of America’s race ladder. And you want none of that. Don’t deny now. What if being black had all the privileges of being white? Would you still say “Don’t call me black, I’m from Trinidad”? I didn’t think so. So you’re black, baby. And here’s the deal with becoming black: You must show that you are offended when such words as “watermelon” or “tar baby” are used in jokes, even if you don’t know what the hell is being talked about—and since you are a Non-American Black, the chances are that you won’t know. (In undergrad a white classmate asks if I like watermelon, I say yes, and another classmate says, Oh my God that is so racist, and I’m confused. “Wait, how?”) You must nod back when a black person nods at you in a heavily white area. It is called the black nod. It is a way for black people to say “You are not alone, I am here too.” In describing black women you admire, always use the word “STRONG” because that is what black women are supposed to be in America. If you are a woman, please do not speak your mind as you are used to doing in your country. Because in America, strong-minded black women are SCARY. And if you are a man, be hyper-mellow, never get too excited, or somebody will worry that you’re about to pull a gun. When you watch television and hear that a “racist slur” was used, you must immediately become offended. Even though you are thinking “But why won’t they tell me exactly what was said?” Even though you would like to be able to decide for yourself how offended to be, or whether to be offended at all, you must nevertheless be very offended. When a crime is reported, pray that it was not committed by a black person, and if it turns out to have been committed by a black person, stay well away from the crime area for weeks, or you might be stopped for fitting the profile. If a black cashier gives poor service to the non-black person in front of you, compliment that person’s shoes or something, to make up for the bad service, because you’re just as guilty for the cashier’s crimes. If you are in an Ivy League college and a Young Republican tells you that you got in only because of Affirmative Action, do not whip out your perfect grades from high school. Instead, gently point out that the biggest beneficiaries of Affirmative Action are white women. If you go to eat in a restaurant, please tip generously. Otherwise the next black person who comes in will get awful service, because waiters groan when they get a black table. You see, black people have a gene that makes them not tip, so please overpower that gene. If you’re telling a non-black person about something racist that happened to you, make sure you are not bitter. Don’t complain. Be forgiving. If possible, make it funny. Most of all, do not be angry. Black people are not supposed to be angry about racism. Otherwise you get no sympathy. This applies only for white liberals, by the way. Don’t even bother telling a white conservative about anything racist that happened to you. Because the conservative will tell you that YOU are the real racist and your mouth will hang open in confusion. (273)
A Michelle Obama Shout-Out Plus Hair as Race Metaphor
White Girlfriend and I are Michelle Obama groupies. So the other day I say to her—I wonder if Michelle Obama has a weave, her hair looks fuller today, and all that heat every day must damage it. And she says—you mean her hair doesn’t grow like that? So is it me or is that the perfect metaphor for race in America right there? Hair. Ever notice makeover shows on TV, how the black woman has natural hair (coarse, coily, kinky, or curly) in the ugly “before” picture, and in the pretty “after” picture, somebody’s taken a hot piece of metal and singed her hair straight? Some black women, AB and NAB, would rather run naked in the street than come out in public with their natural hair. Because, you see, it’s not professional, sophisticated, whatever, it’s just not damn normal. (Please, commenters, don’t tell me it’s the same as a white woman who doesn’t color her hair.) When you DO have natural Negro hair, people think you “did” something to your hair. Actually, the folk with the Afros and dreads are the ones who haven’t “done” anything to their hair. You should be asking Beyoncé what she’s done. (We all love Bey but how about she show us, just once, what her hair looks like when it grows from her scalp?) I have natural kinky hair. Worn in cornrows, Afros, braids. No, it’s not political. No, I am not an artist or poet or singer. Not an earth mother either. I just don’t want relaxers in my hair—there are enough sources of cancer in my life as it is. (By the way, can we ban Afro wigs at Halloween? Afro is not costume, for God’s sake.) Imagine if Michelle Obama got tired of all the heat and decided to go natural and appeared on TV with lots of woolly hair, or tight spirally curls. (There is no knowing what her texture will be. It is not unusual for a black woman to have three different textures on her head.) She would totally rock but poor Obama would certainly lose the independent vote, even the undecided Democrat vote. (367)
So What’s the Deal?
They tell us race is an invention, that there is more genetic variation between two black people than there is between a black person and a white person. Then they tell us black people have a worse kind of breast cancer and get more fibroids. And white folk get cystic fibrosis and osteoporosis. So what’s the deal, doctors in the house? Is race an invention or not? (374)
Open Thread: For All the Zipped-Up Negroes
This is for the Zipped-Up Negroes, the upwardly mobile American and Non-American Blacks who don’t talk about Life Experiences That Have to Do Exclusively with Being Black. Because they want to keep everyone comfortable. Tell your story here. Unzip yourself. This is a safe space. (308)
Job Vacancy in America—National Arbiter in Chief of “Who Is Racist”
In America, racism exists but racists are all gone. Racists belong to the past. Racists are the thin-lipped mean white people in the movies about the civil rights era. Here’s the thing: the manifestation of racism has changed but the language has not. So if you haven’t lynched somebody then you can’t be called a racist. If you’re not a bloodsucking monster, then you can’t be called a racist. Somebody has to be able to say that racists are not monsters. They are people with loving families, regular folk who pay taxes. Somebody needs to get the job of deciding who is racist and who isn’t. Or maybe it’s time to just scrap the word “racist.” Find something new. Like Racial Disorder Syndrome. And we could have different categories for sufferers of this syndrome: mild, medium, and acute. (390)
Unlabeled Excerpt from Page 403
Dear American Non-Black, if an American Black person is telling you about an experience about being black, please do not eagerly bring up examples from your own life. Don’t say “It’s just like when I …” You have suffered. Everyone in the world has suffered. But you have not suffered precisely because you are an American Black. Don’t be quick to find alternative explanations for what happened. Don’t say “Oh, it’s not really race, it’s class. Oh, it’s not race, it’s gender. Oh, it’s not race, it’s the cookie monster.” You see, American Blacks actually don’t WANT it to be race. They would rather not have racist shit happen. So maybe when they say something is about race, it’s maybe because it actually is? Don’t say “I’m color-blind,” because if you are color-blind, then you need to see a doctor and it means that when a black man is shown on TV as a crime suspect in your neighborhood, all you see is a blurry purplish-grayish-creamish figure. Don’t say “We’re tired of talking about race” or “The only race is the human race.” American Blacks, too, are tired of talking about race. They wish they didn’t have to. But shit keeps happening. (403)
Traveling While Black
A friend of a friend, a cool AB with tons of money, is writing a book called Traveling While Black. Not just black, he says, but recognizably black because there’s all kinds of black and no offense but he doesn’t mean those black folk who look Puerto Rican or Brazilian or whatever, he means recognizably black. Because the world treats you differently. So here’s what he says: “I got the idea for the book in Egypt. So I get to Cairo and this Egyptian Arab guy calls me a black barbarian. I’m like, hey, this is supposed to be Africa! So I started thinking about other parts of the world and what it would be like to travel there if you’re black. I’m as black as they get. White folk in the South today would look at me and think there goes a big black buck. They tell you in the guidebooks what to expect if you’re gay or if you’re a woman. Hell, they need to do it for if you’re recognizably black. Let traveling black folk know what the deal is. It’s not like anybody is going to shoot you but it’s great to know where to expect that people will stare at you. In the German Black Forest, it’s pretty hostile staring. In Tokyo and Istanbul, everyone was cool and indifferent. In Shanghai the staring was intense, in Delhi it was nasty. I thought, ‘Hey, aren’t we kind of in this together? You know, people of color and all?’ I’d been reading that Brazil is the race mecca and I go to Rio and nobody looks like me in the nice restaurants and the nice hotels. People act funny when I’m walking to the first-class line at the airport. Kind of nice funny, like you’re making a mistake, you can’t look like that and fly first class. I go to Mexico and they’re staring at me. It’s not hostile at all, but it just makes you know you stick out, kind of like they like you but you’re still King Kong.” (410)
Ifemelu’s blog begins to take on a life and persona of its own, and the pace of life increases for Ifemelu. Her cousin Dike is growing up quickly - becoming a tall, attractive, basketball-playing teenager whose inexplicable swagger makes him the center of his friend group. Even Aunty Uju seems to be finding happiness as her clinic in Willow gains business and she dates a likeable gentleman named Kewku, who she met volunteering with African Doctors for Africa. Ifemelu’s parents come to visit, which turns out to be an unexpectedly nerve-wracking experience for her. She’s relieved when they leave, but then feels guilty about feeling relieved.
Ifemelu makes money off the blog, eventually quitting her public relations job. She makes enough to buy herself a condo and hire an intern. She even receives invitations to give talks on diversity - realising quickly that the point of diversity talks is not to inspire real change, but to make people feel good about themselves. At a Blogging While Brown conference in Washington, D.C., she unexpectedly bumps into Blaine, a man she met on the train years ago (in Part 2 of the book), shortly after she had decided to stop "faking an American accent." After coincidentally sitting next to each other on the train, they had flirted and talked about Africa and academia. They talked for much of the 2 hour trip, even getting beers and food together, but in the end he seemed hesitant to give her his number. When she called later that day and on the weekend he didnt pick up. So she had assumed he did not feel the spark she felt, but reflected on their meeting often, imagining him as the man of her dreams. She is surprised to bump into him again at the conference in Washington D.C., where she finds out he had been in a relationship when they first met. Now that Blaine’s previous relationship is long over, they immediately hit it off again and begin dating.
Ifemelu at first views Blaine as a purely good person and perfect marriage material. She moves in with him after a year and tells her parents about him. They are disappointed that he is a black American rather than Nigerian, but otherwise they are excited at the prospect of her getting married. A professor at Yale, Blaine eats tempeh and drinks organic juice because its good for him, not because he likes it. He does yoga. He encourages Ifemelu to floss, and he spends his free time writing letters to his congressman about Darfur, volunteering at a shelter, and tutoring teenagers. The dark side of his goodness is that he is often self-righteous and condescending toward people who do not share his world view. Calling people lazy was often how he communicated his disapproval (386). And there was often tension between him and Ifemelu because of the differences in their life experience as a Nigerian and a black American. For example, he is furious when Ifemelu consents to allowing a white woman to touch her hair. (387)
Then there’s Shan. Shan is Blaine’s older sister, and the world revolves around her. She has a very seductive personality, drawing people in and stealing all the attention in any room - and she has an even more severe case of self-righteousness than her brother. Ifemelu dislikes Shan immediately, and she also dislikes the way Blaine always defers to her. When Ifemelu first meets her, Shan is trying to get a book published, and there is a lot of drama surrounding the cover art.
With the entrance of Shan comes a deeper realization for Ifemelu that she feels like an outsider in Blaine’s life. She wishes she could more seamlessly connect with him academically like his ex-girlfriend. She wishes she liked soul food and could identify more closely with his life experience as an African-American like his friends. Her resentment over Shan and the spell she holds over Blaine also continues to grow. He often runs to Shan’s aid during her frequent nervous breakdowns and is quick to agree with her, no matter how flippant or hurtful her comments are towards Ifemelu. Ifemelu’s relationship with Blaine comes to an abrupt pause when Ifemelu does not attend a protest that Blaine organized and expected her to attend. It takes a while for Blaine to talk to her again, and even then the relationship is strained. For a year or so their romance is rekindled by the shared excitement of Barack Obama’s campaign for president. Ifemelu recalls how, on the night of his election, they enjoyed sex for the first time in a long time. After the election, Ifemelu ss selected for a fellowship program at Princeton. She describes the feeling of her acceptance on page 440: “The pay was good, the requirements easy: she was expected to live in Princeton and use the library and give a public talk at the end of the year. It seemed too good to be true, an entry into a hallowed American kingdom.”
Part 4 ends with a flash forward back to the present, as Ifemelu finishes her hair appointment. After reflecting on the challenges that shaped her time in the United States, she feels a renewed sense of sympathy for the women in her braiding salon who haven’t had the same opportunities she has had. She offers to help one of the women secure a husband. After exchanging contact information, she departs for the train station to make her way back to Princeton. On the train platform she receives a call from Aunty Uju: Dike has attempted suicide.
Around the time of Dike’s suicide attempt, Obinze and Ifemelu resume e-mail correspondence. She tells him of her nervousness for leaving her American life to move back to Nigeria, while he tells her how much he thinks of her and opens up for the first time about his struggles in England. He also informs her that his mother has died, and they mourn together. He reflects on his mother’s attitudes and the seemingly strange and alienating behavior of their community surrounding her death. She had been sad about the stagnation of her career, and was caught off-guard by Obinze’s quickly acquired wealth. When she passed, the church in his hometown charged many dues before her funeral; the caterers stole meat at the burial; and his family erupted into accusations and arguments afterward. The news of his mother’s death causes Ifemelu to ask for Obinze’s number so they can talk. He feels a renewed sense of hope and boldness about their relationship, and begins to experience a strong jealousy toward Blaine. At the end of Part 5, Ifemelu finally shares the news about Dike’s suicide. The fact that Obinze last saw Dike when he was a happy toddler, and now he is a teenager attempting suicide, reminds Obinze of how much time has gone by since he and Ifemelu were together. He begins reading her blog and researching her old boyfriends, and feels a sense of loss at not having been there as she found her way and became a new person in America.
Ifemelu spends time at Aunty Uju’s house after Dike’s suicide attempt. She sleeps on the floor of Dikes room for the first few nights, thinking obsessively of him taking the pills while trying to interact with him normally during the days. She mentions to Aunty Uju that she thinks her refusal to classify him as either African or black gave him a troubled sense of identity, which Aunty Uju pushes back on, saying "His suicide attempt was from depression... Its a clinical disease. Many teenagers suffer from it" (470). As weeks pass, Ifemelu passes from total guilt and fear into acceptance that Dike might want to spend time with his friends or would be okay for a few minutes in the bathroom alone. She asks him what he wants for his birthday and takes him to Miami at his suggestion. As they lay by the pool, she looks at the hair on Dike’s chest and thinks sadly about his transformation into an adult. He tells her that she should go to Nigeria and she suggests that he visit her there.
Ifemelu feels assaulted by Lagos. Crammed buses, hawkers on the street, week-long power outages, and trash everywhere. Everyone now has cell phones, which used to be a luxury of the rich. She wonders if people had always been so rude, and when people became so enamored with free things. And she marvels at how many women make their living now by being a mistress, since regular jobs do not pay enough salary to cover rent and expenses. Would she have resorted to that herself had she stayed? It simply does not seem like the Lagos of her childhood. Her old friend Ranyinudo pokes fun at her, telling her she is not even a proper Americanah because she came back with all these opinions but doesn’t have an American accent. Ranyinudo plays a role similar to that of Ginika in the United States, helping Ifemelu get settled back in her new old life. Ifemelu is grateful for Ranyinudo’s friendship, as well as Nigerian malt beverages, which she had missed terribly.
Ifemelu spends weekends with her parents, sitting and talking, and eating her mother’s stew. When people ask about Blaine, she lies and says he will join her in Lagos soon. She is especially quick to do this with her friends, who always insist on talking about marriage. Despite telling Obinze she would call him when she arrived, she does not tell him she is in Lagos. But, she does keep imagining that she sees him everywhere.
Ifemelu takes a job as Features Editor of Zoe magazine and rents her own condominium. She has big plans for the position, hoping to overhaul the magazine to benefit readers more and gain more market share, but after taking the job she comes to realize the owner is not interested in changing anything. So, Ifemelu puts up with petty office politics and fulfills her work obligations just enough to collect a paycheck. Her two closest coworkers, Doris and Zemaye, hate each other. Zemaye is the more reserved of the two, and spent her whole life in Nigeria. Doris is a thin, talkative vegetarian with a Valley girl style American accent. She went to Temple, dresses in an ironic and boyish kind of way, and seems to think she and Ifemelu have a lot in common. It is Doris who invites Ifemelu to the Nigerpolitan Club, a regular meeting of Nigerians recently returned from the United States and the UK. Ifemelu attends the club and feels at once both comfortable and uneasy about her comfort. They talk about things they miss about the US and UK, the poor customer service in Lagos, and how African women should be more proud of their natural hair. Ifemelu admits to missing low-fat soy milk, NPR, and fast internet. She was hoping she had not become this type of person, but perhaps she had.
With time Ifemelu’s life gains a comfortable sense of routine and a feeling of being home again. She increasingly mistakes people for Obinze, and always makes up excuses not to call him. She goes on adventures with her friends, and no longer has to pester Ranyinudo about basic things like where to buy meat. She very quickly becomes bored with the shallowness of Zoe magazine. She covers events that all feel the same, and interviews the same types of wealthy socialites in their overstated mansions. She begins to fantasize about having her own blog again, a place where she can write meaningful posts about people helping others, and the need for better pharmaceutical regulation. In her frustration with work she eventually has a confrontation with Doris and resigns shortly thereafter. Within a week she has established a blog called The Small Redemptions of Lagos. The home page features a photo of the abandoned colonial mansion next to her condo. Dike arrives for a visit the day after she establishes her new blog. She is happy to have him there and sees his arrival as both auspicious and inspiring. Her first few posts include a feature of her celebrity event planner friend Priye, a piece about the Nigerpolitan Club, and a post entitled Can You Tell If Two People Are Doing It Just by Looking at Them Together? Dike offers to moderate the blog posts for her, to give her a break. He really enjoys learning about Nigerian culture through moderating the blog and expresses regret at never having learned the Igbo language. He also asks Ifemelu about his father, so she tells him what she knows and takes Dike to the house where Aunty Uju lived when he was a toddler. Ifemelu also llets him practice driving in Lagos, and he even becomes proficient at restarting the generator when there is a power outage. It is clear that Dike likes it in Lagos and Ifemelu is tempted to tell him he can stay - but instead she sends him home. After Dike’s departure, Ranyinudo comments to Ifemelu that she can’t understand how a fine boy like Dike who lives in America and has everything would want to kill himself. Ifemelu is especially angry when Ranyinudo calls it “foreign behavior.”
Months after arriving in Lagos, Ifemelu finally calls Obinze and recommends they meet at a bookstore. On page 528, their first meeting starts out awkward and nervous for Ifemelu, but they eventually regain a relaxed comfort with each other. They talk about how the city has changed and what they like and what they don’t like about it. They talk about the creation of the middle class in Nigeria, and how it led to all their friends becoming fat. They talk about the bombastic way people in Lagos speak and how money changes the way people treat you. After a while chatting in the bookstore, they go their separate ways and plan to meet up again the next day for lunch. Over lunch, Obinze asks why Ifemelu cut him off all those years ago, and she finally tells him the story of the tennis coach. After many minutes of silence, Obinze responds with a grave sadness that he wishes she had told him, and he can’t imagine how alone she must have felt. This reconciliation and his acceptance of her pain seem to be healing for her. Over the next several days they go on drives, eat Brazilian food, and play table tennis together. Ifemelu talks to him about her blog, and he teases her Americanness when she uses words like “asshole” and complains about cigarette smoke. With time they fall in love all over again and, amidst her sparkling joy, Ifemelu feels jealousy for all the women he loved in the past, as well as his marriage, of which she knows nothing. The fact that he has a whole other life that he keeps separate from her is a dark knowledge looming over their heads. Ifemelu’s resentment finally boils over one day when Obinze comments on how he’s not allowed to cook at home. For the first time he talks about his home life, how he married his wife during a time of great vulnerability, and that he feels nothing more than a sense of responsibility towards his wife, Kosi, and their daughter, Buchi. Ifemelu attacks him with bitterness, and eventually their fight ends with him going on a business trip and Ifemelu refusing to return his calls.
Obinze finds himself tired and distracted on his business trip, giving in easily during a sale negotiation and being tormented by thoughts of Ifemelu. He also thinks about his wife, the reasons why he married her, and the pleasant friendship he has with her. He doesnt love her and they don’t share interests, but they have a perfectly fine life together with their daughter, and she has only grown more beautiful with time and motherhood. After returning from the business trip, he finds himself irritable and restless. Nigel, his old boss from London, now lives in Lagos and works with Obinze, pretending to be his white General Manager to inspire confidence when they need real estate loans. Obinze and Kosi take Nigel out for his birthday, and Obinze is noticeably aggravated the entire evening, lashing out at Nigel and his girlfriend. That night in bed Kosi tries to soothe and comfort him, but he turns away from her. The next day he finally confronts Kosi to tell her that he wants a divorce. He tells her he is in love with somebody else and that he will take care of Kosi and their daughter Buchi. Kosi’s response is measured and powerful:
“She raised her hand, her open palm facing him, to make him stop talking. Say no more, her hand said. Say no more. And it irked him that she did not want to know more. Her palm was pale, almost diaphanous, and he could see the greenish criss-cross of her veins. She lowered her hand. Then, slowly, she sank to her knees... ‘Obinze, this is a family,’ Kosi said. ‘We have a child. She needs you. I need you. We have to keep this family together.’ She was kneeling and begging him not to leave and he wished she would be furious instead. ‘Kosi, I love another woman. I hate to hurt you like this and …’ ‘It’s not about another woman, Obinze,’ Kosi said, rising to her feet, her voice steeling, her eyes hardening. ‘It’s about keeping this family together! You took a vow before God. I took a vow before God. I am a good wife. We have a marriage. Do you think you can just destroy this family because your old girlfriend came into town? Do you know what it means to be a responsible father? You have a responsibility to that child downstairs! What you do today can ruin her life and make her damaged until the day she dies! And all because your old girlfriend came back from America? Because you have had acrobatic sex that reminded you of your time in university?’ Obinze backed away. So she knew.” (571-572)
Obinze is shocked and humiliated when he finds out that Kosi already knew about the affair, and he sleeps in his home office that night. The next day he assumes Kosi will not want to go to a party they have planned to attend, but she has already laid out their family’s matching outfits by the time he emerges from his office. At the party that night, Obinze tells his close friend Okwu that he is in love with Ifemelu and wants to divorce Kosi. The friend refers to Obinze’s plan to divorce Kosi and marry Ifemelu as “white-people behavior,” and advises him to instead behave in a more culturally appropriate way, keep his marriage together, and keep Ifemelu as a mistress. And so life continues this way for several months, with Obinze and Kosi’s marriage held together by the sheer force of Kosi’s denial. Obinze tries texting Ifemelu, but she does not respond. In the meantime Ifemelu continues with her life, working on her blog and dating a man named Fred despite her ongoing thoughts of Obinze. She even calls to reconnect with Blaine and Curt. Blaine is rather cold towards her, but she and Curt rekindle an intimate friendship, and even entertain the possibility of him visiting her in Lagos. Then on a Sunday evening seven months after their last conversation, Obinze shows up on her doorstep. He tells her that he moved out of his house and is getting a divorce. He tells Ifemelu that he’s going to chase her, and after several tense moments, she invites him in.
The request is:(From Florence)
to match Torey’s hard leading, would you please write your feeling, what do you get from her, or what do you learn from her, or what you learn from the book, or say something? Thanks.
In order to coordinate with Toreys attentive reading lead, each of us has written a report :
Lydia: First of all, I would like to thank Torey for providing such a thorough discussion for Americanah. This really provides a lot of insight into how American society functions underneath the sugarcoating of democracy and freedom of speech, that these are rights that white Americans are entitled to but not the ABs or NABs. The touch on racism also portrays how although "racists" are no longer commonly seen as there are less aggressive and straightforward assaults toward ABs and NABs, racism still exists everywhere in the country. The characters struggle to identify with both cultures as they are the "foreigners" in America, but not “Nigerian” enough in Nigeria, leading them to conform with the societal standards and stereotypes, just like Michelle Obamas unnatural hair as she and Obama struggle to be successful in America. These are all factors that we cannot see without being a part of American society, as we have not experienced what the ABs and NABs have gone through. This reminds me of the #BlackLivesMatter movement and how as it gained popularity, there are voices saying that it should be #AllLivesMatter instead. Similar to what was written in Ifemelus blog, "Unlabeled Excerpt" on p. 403: "You have suffered, Everyone in the world has suffered. But you have not suffered precisely because you are an American Black." #BlackLivesMatter diverged from a history that no other races have experienced. Therefore, yes, all lives matter, but not in the same way as what the movement is implying. What they want to say is, from the American history of slavery and racism, that *Black lives matter*, which should not be diminished. I would like to thank Torey again for your diligence for summarizing the whole book, as well as sharing your personal experience that shows us a world we were unaware of.
Emma: Thank you for Torey’s true-hearted sharing, how hard to go through 35-year with fear and no true color of self. Wish our love could embrace your wound and your great thought of wits and humor will bring you to see the rainbow of the world again. You are not alone anymore.
Mingli: Many immigrants choose to leave their mother countries due to a corrupted government. This makes the situation more complicated.
A mental preparation before moving abroad is important as you will soon face a totally new and unexpected cultures and value system. Attending some related conferences or classes would help for the adjustments.
Do not expect a better life too soon , instead, it is better to tell yourself that you will likely have to start from zero and work from there.
Loneliness is a big problem you will have to face when living in a foreign country. Parents can help young kids at the beginning by getting involve school activities whether you can speak the local language or not. You will see later it is worth the effort.
Set your goal and make sure you are prepared mentally before making the decision to study or live in a foreign country.
I like the ending of the story even though
Obinze had to divorce his wife. Love of reading made
Ifem and Obinze know each so well;
Honest to love made them last to the end.
Today was an exceptional meeting. Torey explored not just the novel but also the experience of colour and culture in the US and the experiences of people of colour. Torey led us on a journey of history and expriences, while also holding up a mirror to some of the experiences of America and people in America. The differences between black and white are not based on blood or color and the migrant experience is one that binds all of us a who have been strangers or guests in countries that are not our own. Faye, Lydia and Carol really helped to share and explore the novel while Toreys leadership steered us into deeper notions. The discussion highlighed the common road of hope which many African Americans have traveled. She brought us into a stronger kinship than the novel by sharing her own personal journey with the members. It was such a rewarding and powerful meeting. The final message we learned today is that what African Americans want, what they represent and what they endure are shared dreams and struggles. Though issues of discrimination and racisms remain, African Americans endure, achieve, and lead.
Thank you Torrey for your hard work and sharing with us your personal feelings
I feel this is a good book, we are so lucky to find the right person to guide the book that completely coincides with Toreys background, Torey gave us a very plentiful journey on discussion, races discrimination, expatriates in a new countrys suffering, Niigeriaa degenerate high-ranking officials luxurious life use the power to obtain wealth. The most interesting is Torey told us how African womens hair quality, how do they deal with their hair, and hairstyles always concerned with their social status.
We had a great time today and had benefited a great deal with each one. Thanks to Torey, you brought us l lot that we didnt know.
Florence Cheng - Correspondent.
5. Obinze go to Ibadan: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ibadan
6.Ifemelu go to Nsukka: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nsukka
7.emigration quotes: https://www.goodreads.com/quotes/tag/emigration
12.character list: https://www.goodreads.com/topic/show/19655645-americanah---adichie
Thanks to you all the participation of our book club in the first half of the year, we believe we have obtained and absorbed knowledge from our reading books. Next, we will have two months off, and then, we will continue to work hard in the second half of the year.
Sept. 7, 2020 activity:
Book: Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine
Leader: Lydia Lai
Time: 1 p.m. Sept. 7, 2020
Place: Qubit Cafe (Hanshin Arena) No.6, Lane 50, Bo-Ai 3 Road,
Zuo Ying District, Kaohsiung. Tel:07-3459477
Parking: in the basement of the Qubit Café
We wish you have a wonderful vacation in July and August. Hope to see you soon.
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