Americanah written by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie chronicles the intriguing and troubling life of Ifemelu, a young, love-filled girl with ambition.
In Trenton, Ifemelu goes to plait her hair. There she comes to realise the world of the African. Already a blogger about race in America, Ifemelu finds the opportunity to delve into the reality of Blacks from African countries such as Nigeria. Far away from home, from her family and her lover, Obinze, in Lagos, Efemelu stops sending messages to Obinze probably because she has found a better company in Blaire, her new Black American boyfriend.
Obinze attends a party organised by Chief, the man who had single-handedly helped him rise from grass to grace. Shortly after deportation from England, the man, Chief, as he is fondly called, had effortlessly made him a successful estate manager.
Aunty Uju is Ifemelu’s father’s sister who is a mistress to the General, a powerful and wealthy man in the Nigerian military government. He is responsible for Aunty Uju’s sudden rise to wealth after her miserable post-university life. A week after Aunty Uju delivers a baby boy, the military government is overthrown and the General is among the military officers executed in the coup. Her sorrowful condition is aggravated by the General’s family members asking her to vacate the apartment. Frustrated and confused, Aunty Uju leaves for America where she now stays with her son, Dike.
When everything becomes tough for Ifemelu’s father, who has been sacked from work, Aunty Uju helped Ifemelu get a student visa to join her in the US. There in America is where Ifemelu discovers the realities of living abroad, especially in the utopian country, the United States of America. In America, Ifemelu is first confronted by the fact that America is not really heaven as has been painted often in the movies. She also observes another problem in America – the issue of race. After battling to get a job using another person’s identity to no avail, Ifemelu becomes fed up with everything. When the rent of Ifemelu’s flat is due, she has no money. But when she eventually gets a job with a man, a baseball coach who desperately needs massage and female company willing to pay Ifemelu a hundred dollars per day, she later hates herself for doing such a dirty job. She then becomes depressed and cut all communication with Obinze and her family.
Luckily, she eventually gets a babysitting job, where she meets Kurt, who suddenly becomes her boyfriend, and with the help of whom, she secures her stay, through a work permit. She later wants to try something new and so she cheats on Kurt by having sex with a neighbour. This marks the end of her relationship with Kurt. By this time, Ifemelu has already become a popular blogger about race in America.
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On the train one day, Ifemelu comes across Blaire, a Black American college professor whom she suddenly falls in love with. Later, they meet at a seminar to which Ifemelu has been invited as a blogger. With Blaire Ifemelu’s discoveries of life in America takes a new turn. Not only does she become more popular, but she is also introduced into the fold of scholars in America. Through the help of Blaire she is able to get into the American fellowship where she lectures a group of college students. All of this makes Ifemelu so successful and rich that she is able not to only regularly send money home to her folks, but also to afford her parents’ visit.
Meanwhile, Obinze, who had been denied a visa to America many times, is now in England. But the turbulence of immigrant life in England renders his travelling abroad a nightmare. Getting a job as a casual labourer for a construction company is soon short-lived because the person whose work permit he is using is demanding a raise Obinze cannot afford. In anger, he informs his place of work and Obinze stops going to work. After realising that he might be able to pay the balance to arrange his sham marriage with an Angolan English girl who seems to have fallen in love with him, he seeks help from his Nigerian friend and classmate, Emenike, who is now also in England married to a white woman. On the day of the wedding, Obinze is arrested and is removed from England.
Even Aunty Uju, like all emigrant Blacks from Africa, is not spared the racial prejudice by White Americans. Her practice as a visiting doctor is wrought with racial comments and acts by her white patients who feel she is unfit to occupy her post because of her skin colour. Even Aunty Uju’s case is understandable. What is extreme is the racial insults and abuse hauled at the young and fragile but intelligent and witty Dike. In short, the frustration resulting from this nearly costs the young boy his life through an abortive suicide attempt. It is for this reason that Ifemelu has delayed her return to Nigeria.
Ifemelu finally returns to Nigeria and comes to realise how torn apart she is within herself. She now feels a sense of loss – a sense of dual identity. She can no longer fit into the Nigerian life she was once used to. When she gets a job at Aunty Onenu’s celebrity gossip blog named Zoe, she is exposed to the lies and fake of most Nigerian establishments. As if she is no longer Nigerian, she shrugs at the revelation that most celebrities Aunty Onenu’s Zoe interviews actually pay for the services. For acting this way, her co-worker, Zemaye and Doris see Ifemelu as someone who seems to have fallen from another planet. She quits and starts her own blog in which she features the realities of life in Lagos. Dike visits Ifemelu in Lagos.
Finally, Obinze re-unites with Ifemelu and their love life is reinvigorated again. Unlike when they started dating, were young, and still in school and trying to avoid mistakes, sex now seems a pastime for both of them, as they engage in it almost every day. Without a doubt, Obinze does not love his wife and mother of his children, Kosi, because he feels his life is in no way connected with hers.
Kosi finds out about her husband’s escapade, but instead of being mad at him, she begs that they sustain the relationship, at least as father and mother to the children. Unyielding and determined, especially for the marathon of sex he now enjoys with Ifemelu, Obinze packs out of the house, set to be living alone in his flat at Parkview. He begs Ifemelu to allow him in, which she finally does.
Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s Americanah is indeed an eye-opener for a lot of Nigerian youths or even African youths who are American wannabe. After reading this witty and well-crafted novel, I interviewed some readers, who enthusiastically told me that the novel, Americanah, has sprouted in them an unquenchable yearning for America: that through this novel, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie has resuscitated their deferred dream of travelling abroad.