As teenagers, Ifemelu and Obinze fall in love in a Nigeria under military dictatorship. The self-assured Ifemelu departs for America, where Obinze hopes to join her, but post-9/11 America will not let him in, and he plunges into a dangerous, undocumented life in London. Fifteen years later, after so long apart and so many changes, will they find the courage to meet again, face to face?
©2013 Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (P)2013 W.F. Howes
"Andoh's rich voice and distinct characters and rhythm keep the listener engrossed.... Andoh has fun adopting a mocking lilt for Ifemelu's snarky blog entries.... [and] a more serious tone brings authenticity to the heartbreak of Obinze's London experience." (AudioFile)
I heard an author's interview on NPR about this book, and I immediately knew I wanted to read it. I downloaded the Audible version, and was delighted immediately by the narration by Adjoa Andoh. The book carried me into the romance of a young couple who are separated by circumstance and opportunity, and are later reunited by chance and perhaps the inevitability of returning "home". What made me love this book is the main character, Ifamelu, an academician, a romantic (at heart) but also a realist. While experiencing life in America, Ifamelu challenges what other Americans, and Black Americans especially think about "Black women" and "Africans" generally. I loved her fictional blog, Raceteenth, and I wish it were real frankly. Her biting and acid criticism of race and perceptions of race among minorities was thought provoking, funny, and at times stunning. The main character's romances, her sexuality, and her reflection on love and companionship weaved together with the academic side of Ifamelu in a way that had me laughing and crying, and ultimately sad the book had to come to an end. I would liken reading Americanah to reading one my of other favorite novels, "Face of an Angel," by Denise Chavez. The intimacy you feel with the characters is unmatched, and when a book has you blushing about things you rarely will acknowledge, much less articulate to another, you know you have something special. Finally, I can't emphasize what a great narrator Andjoa Andoh is. About 80% of the books I listen to on Audible have boring or flat narrators, and so this narrator set Americanah on audio apart. The narrator took time to change her tone of voice, add inflection to separate the "sound" of characters male and female, American and non-American accented English, and to create a world of many different characters. I loved it, and I hope you will too. I look forward to more from Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie.
Face of Angel by Denise Chavez. This novel and Americanah have a lot of depth, and elve into intimacies that are sometimes uncomfortable, but necessary to understand the whole person.
She adjusted her voice to embody each character, and that was my favorite thing. She brought the characters to life, and her inflection carried the passion that I felt between the lovers in the story.
A yearning for home, an adventure apart
And it's so much more than a love story. Very intelligent, lyrical and insightful book about race relations and personal relations both within and without the United States. The Narrator was simply outstanding! Highly recommended.
The narrator brought alive the Americanah experience in a direct way that the written page would not have. She literally gave voice to the characters that enriched the narrative for me.
I hear voices. But maybe that's because there's always an Audible book in my ear.
Days after finishing this book I'm still thinking about it. I loved it while I listened and love it even more now. Here's why:
First off, the writing is wonderful. It's witty, poetic, sad ... it travels and takes you places. I can't count how many things happened where I felt like I was there and the people were real. That's an achievement. The way blogging is incorporated is a great tool in this writer's hands. It feels like the way people have used letters before to change the voice yet make a point. It never felt contrived and always contributed to the story.
Second, it opens up new thinking. I am in a city where many Africans have settled - yet they remain distinctly apart from the black community. I understand it more than I ever have before.
Third, the narration is brilliant. There are a host of characters, nuances with pronunciation, complicated shifts and yet Adjoa Andoh handles it all with ease. Her performance makes this one of the best audio books I've ever heard. I can't imagine a better book club selection.
American literature is full of immigrant perspectives - but these are mostly from the days of an Ellis Island stuffed full of European peasants fleeing economic deprivation in search of a better life. Americanah gives us a detailed look into a fresh perspective - African (Nigerian) immigrants coming to America or the UK in current times.
The main character, Ifemelu, and her college boyfriend, Obinze, both seek opportunity to grow and develop their lives outside the limitations of Big Man politics and limited economic opportunity in Nigeria. Ifemelu's experience includes fascinating details about what it's like to be a non-American black person in the U.S. and demonstrates the many faces of racism in the education system, in employment, and in the liberal intellectual elite. Adichie does a great job making the impacts of this racism real through the eyes of Ifemelu and her family and friends in the U.S. Obinze's challenges in the UK are more structural; in a post-9/11 world, it is difficult for a young, African male to get through the bureaucracy of EU/UK immigration, and he ends up returning to Nigeria and navigating the corruption as best he can to make his way.
Ifemelu and Obinze's star-crossed love life is the romantic plot intertwined with their immigrant experiences and plays out using conventional romance tropes, well-told. There are a couple of places where I didn't believe the storyline (Ifemelu's long silence to Obinze after a traumatic experience just didn't ring true but was necessary so that Obinze could develop his own plot complications.)
Is Americanah a great book? My personal standard for literature is that the crafting of a sentence is so breathtaking that you have to stop and stare - and I didn't find any of this high art in Americanah. Nonetheless, the book is extremely well-crafted - Adichie is a skilled writer with both an excellent eye for what's just under the surface, and fine writing technique. Her characters are extremely well-drawn, with lots of interesting detail and good development. The book is perhaps drawing so much attention because it tells such an important, under-told story and does it so well. As a reader, you care a lot about what happens next for each of these characters, and the book is a pleasure to read.
The narrator reads with a Nigerian accent, which takes a chapter or two to get used to, and ultimately adds a lot to the listening experience. Her inflections and expressiveness are superior to most narrators.
There is no Frigate like a Book To take us Lands away Nor any Coursers like a Page Of prancing Poetry – Emily Dickinson
This was a beautifully written book, and I enjoyed the story. The author’s keen insights into issues of immigration and race and what it means to be black in America AND in Africa were really interesting. It was particularly interesting to read about Nigeria from the viewpoint of some very well educated people. The main problem I had with the book is that it was too didactic. The author was critical of whites, critical of blacks - Nigerians, and Americans. That’s ok, and a lot of it was interesting, BUT it just went on too long. All of the preaching bogged the book down. Much of it could have been edited out, and the powerful main points would still have had as much or more impact.
reader, teacher, writer=happy person
The high points of this book are worth the intermittent sections of long internal narrative. I found myself sitting in my car, holding my breath for most of the last chapter. So many emotions aroused by this book-I have to think before I review. I read it because I liked One Half Of a Yellow Sun, and because I want to evaluate the book for my AP Lit class. I don't know if I will read it with a class (would have been perfect for the now defunct world lit), but I do know that I just read a novel by a writer I will be reading for a long time. True love described with an accuracy that made my teeth hurt. Sweet and aromatic
I highly recommend as a visual but not an audio read. The narrator does a fine job when the story is in the 3rd person or when she is speaking as the protagonist, but all her male and other-female characters sound like pre-adolescent boys. After so many hours of cringing when the narrator "turned male", I downloaded the e-book to enjoy the remainder of the story.
30 something mom of three. Reading is and has always been my favorite escape.
I'm actually sad this book is over. Her perceptions about race in American culture is spot on. There are so many different layers to this story! From the politics of immigration to a simple and beautiful love story. I will be reading the rest of her work.
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