Tuesday, 27 September 2016

Americanah Book Review

AmericanahAmericanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

this book was recommended to me by my friend , emer
and we discussed a bit about it , i think your reaction toward the book is the thing that urged me the most to start reading it
so thank you my dear Xoxo

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.

American Blacks are not telling you that you are to blame. They are just telling you what is. If you don’t understand, ask questions. If you’re uncomfortable about asking questions, say you are uncomfortable about asking questions and then ask anyway. It’s easy to tell when a question is coming from a good place. Then listen some more. Sometimes people just want to feel heard. Here’s to possibilities of friendship and connection and understanding.

americanah starts with two nigerian teenager lovers who shared the american dream
ifemelu who was from a middle class family in Lagos and obinze who is the only child living with his professor mother , growing up with romanticised notions of the west .

under the dictatorship , the constant strikes and the deteriorating situation of the country every body wants to leave , america is the dream land they all aimed
so ifemelu manages to get to america in a scholarship
however, America is just a passing phase. America wouldn’t provide resolution , as its also distressed with its many issues. In adapting to strangeness abroad and finding home strange , nothing is solved , issues only become more complicated .

"there was cement in her soul. It had been there for a while, an early morning disease of fatigue, shapeless desires, brief imaginary glints of other lives she could be living, that over the months melded into a piercing homesickness.”

13 years after ifemelu returns to nigeria , a famous blogger about race and starts working in a magazine , while obinze is a wealthy man married and has a child

so generally that's the plot , but in fact this was more of a novel put into a band of collected assays than a subject of race displayed in a novel.
The book brings up the controversial issues of race and immigration in the Untied States. The difference between being black in Africa and being black in the States , blunt discussions of race and privilege and belonging and identity .

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.

and aside from the race , it will teach you about the diverse people and cultures of Nigeria.
it is an exploration of structural inequality, of different kinds of oppression, of gender roles, of the idea of home. Subtle, but not afraid to pull its punches.

i think it felt like biographies or like reading someone's personal diary , for the uncountable number of names and characters that you only meet once or twice through out the book all with full names and histories .. so Adichie seems to convulse us with the many details . She wants to write about everything around everything ..

the black women's hair is an issue that really struck me , how they would suffer for a simple thing as getting your hair done , i was surprised by the details , the attachments , the relaxer , the braiding , and i kept thinking whats wrong with the kinky hair , why all this suffering hiding their natural look , why would the world default something of nature .. why would kinky hair mean unprofessionalism ?!
so while asking yourself this question adichie led you through a simple detail to getting into discussions about racial politics.

That's why she opens americanah with a scene in which Ifemelu, must take the train from Princeton into Trenton just to get her hair done.
It will take Ifemelu six hours of sitting in a hot salon to get the kinky twist with extensions that she wants. including a painful flashback to the time that Ifemelu decided to relax her hair to get that "white-girl straight hair" to show professionalism and seriousness in the interview of her first job .
so The novel begins with Ifemelu’s point of view, and maintains it save for a few sections that allows us a glimpse of Obinze’s thoughts,

ifemelu is Morally reprehensible, flawed , judgemental , she has mood swings , kind of annoying , she tend to like taking than giving , she is ego centric (expecting all the world to be about her opinions) i also think she's a bit aggressive and just like Ginika suggested a self sabotage .
but though she felt too foreign for me but somehow she also felt real
its not like every body is perfect or alike and i want to read different , and so this was different .
i wasn't at ease reading , i felt uncomfortable and frustrated but this is another way of saying its not the novel that leave you feeling nothing , it itched on my skin
one thing that really irritated me and that me and Emer had previously discussed was the way women in nigeria defined them selves by the presence of men in their lives , never matters if educated , never matter what you are , you're never a complete essence if not for a man in your life It's a theme that was repeated throughout the novel
aunt uju's life and the very wrong decisions she made they annoyed me , the way she dragged here self to the bottom and wiped the meaning of her life by her own self .

Sometimes, while having a conversation, it would occur to Ifemelu that Aunty Uju had deliberately left behind something of herself, something essential, in a distant and forgotten place.

and big problem is not the way men were treating women , it was more of the way women treating each other , they had lost their sense of self respect and self worth .
i may quote from my beautiful friend's review emer about ifemelu losing her way searching for another half , she wrote :
" I wanted to cry out STOP Ifemelu, step back, and look what you are doing……. You are this brilliant, bright young woman. You can be a whole person on your own."

one more thing is , the characters were in haze with no solid ground under their feet
in america they were abused as for their race , in nigeria money ruled
it ruled everything , relationships , religion , principles
there are the rich and those underneath are slaves , You give them a job and you may owe their souls
Humiliation !! That's what many characters suffered and either they didn't notice it or they didn't care

so yes , it irked me to read it , but this is the thing about reading , its about knowing , we need to know that this exists , that people take decisions like these , that they lose their way , that society may abuse to give birth to people who are internally salves , and that this is maybe happening not in nigeria , far from where i am sitting now writing my review but maybe with someone now passing by my door ..
because in the not knowing , in the relieving ignorance of ours , it doesn't matter
doesn't matter that we don't know , because things wont cease to exist if we deny them ..

and there was this commentary on political and social circumstances folded delicately into layers of the book that i ended up reading much more than the 477 pages of it .
i found myself browsing something on the web every now and then , the american elections once or things like brown-paper-bag-test or why watermelon joke would offend a black man , another .
i was surprised one more time by how important it was for all black people that barack obama would be elated the new president , though it made sense and we all know it but this was like sharp blows to make the fact clearer and more sure .

One day blaine came home and told her about an old black woman, face shriveled like a prune, who stood holding on to her door as though she might fall otherwise, and told him, “I didn’t think this would happen even in my grandbaby’s lifetime.”
Ifemelu blogged about this story, describing the silver streaks in the woman’s gray hair, the fingers quivering from Parkinson’s, as though she herself had been there with Blaine.

the book was Gross for my taste at times , few extra scenes here and there that could have been cut, but part of Americanah's appeal is its immense, uncontained and beating heart. You can feel Adichie's passion and belief pumping beneath her words .

i wont rate americanah now , i am kinda confused about the rating
i should pull all these thoughts together and then decide
all in all , this was a total different experience for me , thats what i am sure about ..

and here are some quotes i liked , i think they should be included in the review :

People were flattered to be asked about themselves and if she said nothing after they spoke, it made them say more. They were conditioned to fill silences.

She had not thought of them as “fat,” though. She had thought of them as “big,” because one of the first things her friend Ginika told her was that “fat” in America was a bad word, heaving with moral judgment like “stupid” or “bastard,” and not a mere description like “short” or “tall.”

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.

Okwudiba, often told him how humble he was, and it irked him slightly, because he wished Okwudiba would see that to call him humble was to make rudeness normal. Besides, humility had always seemed to him a specious thing, invented for the comfort of others; you were praised for humility by people because you did not make them feel any more lacking than they already did. It was honesty that he valued; he had always wished himself to be truly honest, and always feared that he was not.

You see, in American pop culture, beautiful dark women are invisible. (The other group just as invisible is Asian men. But at least they get to be super smart.) In movies, dark black women get to be the fat nice mammy or the strong, sassy, sometimes scary sidekick standing by supportively. They get to dish out wisdom and attitude while the white woman finds love. But they never get to be the hot woman, beautiful and desired and all. So dark black women hope Obama will change that. Oh, and dark black women are also for cleaning up Washington and getting out of Iraq and whatnot.

“No, she didn’t fight. She was on a committee and they discovered that this professor had misused funds and my mother accused him publicly and he got angry and slapped her and said he could not take a woman talking to him like that. So my mother got up and locked the door of the conference room and put the key in her bra. She told him she could not slap him back because he was stronger than her, but he would have to apologize to her publicly, in front of all the people who had seen him slap her. So he did. But she knew he didn’t mean it. She said he did it in a kind of ‘okay sorry if that’s what you want to hear and just bring out the key’ way. She came home that day really angry, and she kept talking about how things had changed and what did it mean that now somebody could just slap another person. She wrote circulars and articles about it, and the student union got involved. People were saying, Oh, why did he slap her when she’s a widow, and that annoyed her even more. She said she should not have been slapped because she is a full human being, not because she doesn’t have a husband to speak for her. So some of her female students went and printed Full Human Being on T-shirts. I guess it made her well-known. She’s usually very quiet and doesn’t have many friends.”

Ifemelu imagined the writers, Nigerians in bleak houses in America, their lives deadened by work, nursing their careful savings throughout the year so that they could visit home in December for a week, when they would arrive bearing suitcases of shoes and clothes and cheap watches, and see, in the eyes of their relatives, brightly burnished images of themselves. Afterwards they would return to America to fight on the Internet over their mythologies of home, because home was now a blurred place between here and there, and at least online they could ignore the awareness of how inconsequential they had become.

To be here, living abroad, not knowing when she could go home again, was to watch love become anxiety.

SHE WOKE UP torpid each morning, slowed by sadness, frightened by the endless stretch of day that lay ahead. Everything had thickened. She was swallowed, lost in a viscous haze, shrouded in a soup of nothingness. Between her and what she should feel, there was a gap. She cared about nothing. She wanted to care, but she no longer knew how; it had slipped from her memory, the ability to care. Sometimes she woke up flailing and helpless, and she saw, in front of her and behind her and all around her, an utter hopelessness.

Depression was what happened to Americans, with their self-absolving need to turn everything into an illness. She was not suffering from depression; she was merely a little tired and a little slow

Blacks” as a whole are often lumped with “Poor Whites.” Not Poor Blacks and Poor Whites. But Blacks and Poor Whites. A curious thing indeed

When he started conversations with people in elevators, or lavishly complimented strangers, she held her breath, certain that they could see what an attention-loving person he was. But they always smiled back and responded and allowed themselves to be wooed.

. “I don’t even know why I came to this place. The other day the pharmacist said my accent was incomprehensible. Imagine, I called in a medicine and she actually told me that my accent was incomprehensible. And that same day, as if somebody sent them, one patient, a useless layabout with tattoos all over his body, told me to go back to where I came from. All because I knew he was lying about being in pain and I refused to give him more pain medicine. Why do I have to take this rubbish? I blame Buhari and Babangida and Abacha because they destroyed Nigeria.

But race is not biology; race is sociology. Race is not genotype; race is phenotype. Race matters because of racism. And racism is absurd because it’s about how you look. Not about the blood you have. It’s about the shade of your skin and the shape of your nose and the kink of your hair. Booker T. Washington and Frederick Douglass had white fathers. Imagine them saying they were not black.

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