Americanah / Summary
Americanah / Summary
Author: Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Subject: It is about a young Nigerian woman, Ifemelu, who immigrates to the United States where she struggles with racism, relationships, and identity.
Type: Fiction novel
Characters: Ifemelu,Obinze ,Obinze’s Mother,
Ifemelu’s Mother and Father,Aunty Uju, Ifemelu’s father’s cousin,Dike,The General,Curt,Blaine,Shan,Kosi,Buchi,Ginika
Americanah – Summary
Princeton, New Jersey, as she has her hair braided at an African salon to prepare for her return to Nigeria.In her interactions with the women at the salon, Ifemelu thinks about her past and also considers her current situation.It is revealed that she has recently uprooted her life: she has suspended her blog, in which she writes about race in America, and broken up with her boyfriend, Blaine.Her thoughts lead her to remember her first love, a man named Obinze, prompting her to email him.
Obinze is now a wealthy man living in Lagos, Nigeria, with his wife and their daughter. Upon receiving Ifemelu’s email, he, too, remembers their shared past and becomes distracted from his present life.He becomes caught up in memories of the love he and Ifemelu once shared, which was a stronger connection than the one he currently shares with his wife, Kosi.
The narrative then pivots with a flashback that begins by focusing on Ifemelu’s youth in Nigeria. She meets Obinze at a school party, where they fall in love.They date throughout their school years and attend university together. Nigeria, however, is under the rule of a military dictatorship that causes university strikes that frustrate Ifemelu. At the encouragement of her Aunty Uju, whom she is close with, and Obinze, Ifemelu applies to a university in America. She is accepted and, shortly thereafter, approved for a student visa.The couple subsequently breaks up, but they promise to reunite in America one day.
Upon moving to America, Ifemelu lives in Brooklyn with Aunty Uju, who has also fled Nigeria with her young son, Dike, who was fathered by a rich, married man in Nigeria. Ifemelu is not permitted to work on her student visa.However, without a scholarship, she must look for work when she leaves for Philadelphia, where she will attend university.Aunty Uju gives her a fake social security card to apply for jobs, which turns out unsuccessful.At school, Ifemelu reunites with a friend from Nigeria, Ginika, who helps to familiarise her with American culture and, importantly, the country’s complex racial politics.
Still desperate for a job, Ifemelu reluctantly agrees to become a ‘relaxation assistant’ for a tennis coach, which involves him inappropriately touching her in return for $100. Afterwards, she becomes ashamed and depressed. She stops replying to Obinze’s emails and struggles to eat and sleep.
Ginika later introduces Ifemelu to Kimberly, a wealthy woman who offers her a job babysitting her children. Ifemelu finally feels stable, and the reliable work allows her to focus on her studies.Kimberly and Ifemelu become friendly, and Kimberly introduces Ifemelu to her cousin, Curt, who she soon begins dating. After graduating, Curt helps her find a job so that she can secure a green card.
Meanwhile, a jilted Obinze moves to London after graduating from university, unable to secure an American visa because of the stricter immigration laws that were brought in after the 9/11 terror attacks in 2001. Whilst in Britain, Obinze also struggles to find work and overstays his visa, making him an illegal immigrant. To find employment, Obinze resorts to using a friend’s national insurance card in exchange for a portion of his earnings. He begins a job in a warehouse, where he makes friends with his boss and co-workers but is later reported for his illegal immigrant status. Out of desperation, Obinze manages to arrange a sham marriage with a woman named Cleotilde to remain in the country. However, on the day of the wedding, he is arrested and deported back to Nigeria.
The narrative soon shifts back to Ifemelu, who is struggling to adjust to the pressures of her interracial relationship with Curt.She is frustrated by his inability to fully recognise racial nuances that are present in American society. She cheats on him, and they break up. Her friend Wambui suggests that Ifemelu should start a blog, which she does to popular reception due to her funny and interesting observations.She attends a conference for minority ethnic bloggers, where she meets a black American Yale professor named Blaine, who she begins dating.
Ifemelu moves in with Blaine, but their relationship becomes fraught after they have an explosive argument because she did not attend a protest that he organised.However, they soon reconcile by connecting through their shared passion for Barack Obama’s presidential campaign.As the election nears, Ifemelu is offered a fellowship at Princeton.However, she is unsure about her life in America and resolves to move back to Nigeria.She breaks up with Blaine and shuts down her blog in the process.
The narrative returns to the opening scene of the novel, in which Ifemelu is having her hair braided in the salon a week before she is due to return home.After leaving the salon, Ifemelu receives a call from Aunty Uju, who frantically tells her that her son, Dike, has attempted suicide. She then rushes to the scene: this marks the climax of the novel.
After returning to Nigeria, Ifemelu slowly readjusts with the help of an old friend and begins work at a women’s magazine.She quits after a short period of time and resumes blogging, now about her experiences living in Lagos.
After a long period of hesitance, she finally calls Obinze, and they arrange to meet up.He asks her why she ignored his messages, and she tearfully reveals her experience with the tennis coach. The two fondly remember their connection and begin to see each other every day, rekindling their relationship for a few weeks.Obinze, however, is reluctant to divorce his wife, upsetting Ifemelu, who calls him a coward.In the face of this accusation, Obinze asks Kosi for a divorce, to which she objects, claiming that he has a duty to his family; however, Obinze does not want to live in dishonesty and create a false narrative for his daughter.
A while later, Obinze shows up on Ifemelu’s doorstep to tell her that he is divorcing Kosi whilst still maintaining a relationship with his daughter and that he wants to commit to a relationship with her.She invites him in, and the novel ends.