It took me a long time to read this book. This was not due to this novel, but due to many other activities I was involved in. So this reading journey became a kind of hurdle jump with me falling in between the hurdles.
This novel by the acclaimed author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie is woven with many threads. Colours and textures of hair-do’s, threads of love and rejection and colour, patterns of longing and discovery, race in context and out of context.
Ifemelu is a young woman who loves to sit at the hairdresser’s. Her father is unemployed and her mother is vice-principal at a school. Her auntie Uju plays an important role in her life. She is a woman who can relate to Ifemelu and she tries to find her own way in life, being a woman on the side for a topnotch general.
Obinze is a young man who is transferred from a secondary school at Nsukka. His mother is a university professor at Nsukka. His girl friend Ginika is best female friend to Ifemelu. In this way a relationship starts between Ifemelu and Obinze. This relationship brings them close together and wide apart.
Ifemelu succeeds in getting permission to study in the United States of America. She follows in the footsteps of her auntie Uju who has moved there with her son Dike. Obinze has planned to follow Ifemelu in due time.
In the United States we follow the love life of aunt Uju and the lovelife of Ifemelu, who has distanced herself from Obinze by finally not replying to his letters and phone calls. Ifemelu has a hard time in surviving the States, finding jobs, living on a small income. Aunt Uju is important in keeping her sane and she enjoys the company of Dike. In the end she manages to find a place at a university to fulfill her dream of studying in the States. In the meantime she runs a weblog in which she voices her ideas about a non-American black living in the United States.
Obinze does not get the opportunity to follow Ifemelu to the States. He travels to the United Kingdom, disappears into the illegality and is deported to back to Nigeria in the end. In Nigeria he rebuilds his life, making money, getting married.
In the end Ifemelu returns to Nigeria, but she notices that she has changed and Nigeria has changed. It is difficult for her to fit in in this new situation, especially as a unmarried woman. She starts work at a Nigerian Magazine, but leaves again. She revives her blog and expands it.
The issues on her blog still contain the topic of being an outsider and of race. In the States shed noticed the issue of race. She was different in a society in which race is an important issue. Ifemelu shows this importance of race through her visits to the hairdresser’s. Your hair and your hairdo is a message. On which side are you standing and living? Are you the odd girl out or the common girl in? ‘Your hair rules you.’ Language and pronounciation is another token of inside or outside.
Where does one feel at home? In a place where you are being judged all the time as an outsider? But even when Ifemelu returns to Nigeria she is an outsider, a been-to, who can mingle with other been-to’s at parties and other social events. The otherness is being continued. Nothing has changed. She has entered a race of in-betweens. Where is home when you need one for your stability, for your peace of mind, for your future? Is your only home still the place where your roots are?
I enjoyed reading this well written book. Eventhough the socalled weblog sessions distracted me and look more like a political and/or social comment on the content of the boom itself. book. I think the book could do without these insertions, for it is strong and clear in itself.
Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie – Americanah – 2013