Author: Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
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.
Speechless. This is storytelling at it’s best. She challenges the reader, but is such a beautiful weaver of words that I was swept into her story before I even knew what was happening. She weaves and moves so eloquently this felt like reading a dance—every move perfectly executed. This story is part commentary on race(ism) in America, part coming of age and part love story. It’s woven together so beautifully it catches one with surprise—and delight.
I love how imperfect her characters are. She didn’t spare her protagonists. Adichie created complex human beings who live in this real world. They were sometimes successful, sometimes failing. Their ideals were challenged and they were forced to respond, change, and adapt. Some places broke my heart.
As for the commentary on racism part, Adichie points out the obvious, but always with an almost question-mark, that leaves the book, as a whole, easily digestible for people who don’t want to see racism. This is done so well. Because Ifemelu is an outsider, she’s able to observe from a distance, which gives the reader the space to observe through her eyes. For example, she explains the simplest things—Ifemelu can’t buy a mainstream magazine for beauty tips because none of the models look like her—even though the magazine boasts it coveres all skin types. Because she’s an outsider, Ifemelu is “allowed” to notice and comment on these things.
Have you read it? What were your thoughts? Love it? Hate it? Ambivalent?