Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie is among the most insightful writers alive today, in my estimation. I adore her historical Nigerian novel, Half of a Yellow Sun. I really enjoyed her novel Purple Hibiscus, about power and domestic abuse. I loved Americanah. She tells the story of Ifemelu, a Nigerian woman who comes to the US during university and eventually succeeds as a race blogger, writing about race and class in the U.S. from the perspective of a non-American black. She tells the story of Obinze, Ifemelu’s first love, who navigates class in modern Nigeria. In the course of all this, Adichie comments on the middle and upper classes in Nigeria, on American attitudes toward Africans, and on American attitudes towards race. Some of my favorite passages were on this last point: “Racism should never have happened, and so you don’t get a cookie for reducing it.”
There are parallels to NoViolet Bulawayo’s We Need New Names, who also pokes fun at how Americans meet an African and tell about some charity they donate to that benefits children in some other country in Africa. (But Africa IS a country, right?) Okey Ndibe’s Foreign Gods, Inc. explores being an adult migrant from Nigeria to the U.S., expecting a land of plenty and facing great financial hardship. But Adichie sets herself apart with gorgeous, engaging prose and steady stream of thoughtful observations, large and small. (When a train arrives late, a stranger “turned to her and said, ‘About time,’ … with the familiarity strangers adopt with each other after sharing in the disappointment of a public service.”) Americanah is not to be missed.
I particularly recommend Adjoa Andoh’s narration in the audiobook, available on Audible. She is a British actress of Ghanaian descent; you might know her as Martha Jones’s mother on Doctor Who. The accents she does are fabulous.
Notes on content: Some language, some sexual content.