Americanah (Adichie)

(I’m going to pause here and enjoy the idea that I’m blogging about a book whose protagonist is a blogger. Can you say “meta”?)

Americanah is, no doubt, a masterpiece. It recently won the National Book Critics Circle award and that honor, and many other accolades, are well-deserved. In fact, it’s so good, I’m already worried about Adichie’s next novel. How will she avoid the headline – Not as good as Americanah?

Adichie’s prose – from the title, with its Rockwellian echoes and particularly Nigerian usage, to the final words – is pitch perfect. Her sentences are elegant and precise. She moves across time and space and character with unlatched fluidity. This is the modern Nigerian novel. One wonders if it will ever replace the inevitable and great Things Fall Apart in the classroom (or, better yet, be read in conjunction with it).

Still, a few things nagged at me while I read it. First, the protagonist, Ifemelu has welcome insecurities about relationships, but when it comes to race, she’s sharp and confident. I just didn’t buy the consistent certainty. There was no self-doubt, no potential missteps. This leads to my second concern.

In interviews and her wonderful TED talk (www.ted.com/speakers/chimamanda_ngozi_adichie – which many teachers show and few actually act on), Adichie positions herself and is being positioned by others as the moral authority on race. While I don’t find myself disagreeing with Adichie’s or Ifemelu’s insights, their surety is, I think, potentially problematic.

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