Saturday, January 30, 2016

Americanah

I recently read Americanah, a novel by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (2014).  



The book details the lives of two young Nigerian lovers, both intent on escaping the political and economic uncertainties of their native country.  One (Ifemelu, a female) views the prospect of American life as an intriguing possibility, and interestingly, is able to obtain a visa and live in the U.S. for a number of years.  The other (Obinze, a male) views the U.S. idealistically, (Val Halla? Nirvana?), infatuated by the possibilities that exist for those who can obtain legal residency in the U.S. 

I expected a book about the struggle of modern black immigrants trying to assimilate and live in the United States, with subplots about race relations.  Instead, it seemed to me the book was about race relations, with subplots about the struggle of modern black immigrants trying to assimilate and live in the United States. 

The book triggered within me much reflection on our realities as imagined (what we call fiction) versus our realities as perceived (what we call non-fiction).  In the book, Ifemelu experienced the full spectrum of possibilities of existence in the U.S.:  from poverty which drove her to prostitution with a tennis coach (white, if that matters) to cohabitation with a millionaire jet-setter (white, if that matters) to a long-term romantic relationship with a Yale professor (black, if that matters).  I continually found my assumptions about race relations in the U.S. being challenged.

The book forced me to (re)consider my view of those who choose to continually point out, postulate upon, and perseverate about our differences as humans (and also seem to deem humanity as some sort of privileged species on this planet) versus those who choose to continually point out, postulate upon, and perseverate about the possibilities that exist in our world if love, community, reconciliation and tolerance could pervade (these folks seem to view humanity as simply co-inhabitants with other life-forms on this planet).  As a fall-of-life-American white male, if that matters, I'm praying that the God of my understanding will judge the latter to be the nobler of those dispositions.

My biggest takeaway:  Race matters, a lot. Even when it shouldn't.

This book is masterfully written prose, and cognitively-emotionally provocative.  Very glad I read it.

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