I believe that my heart’s default setting is to love. Regardless the object of my affection, my entire being feels more complete when I am in the throws of a crush, in love, or falling for someone. Rarely, I also fall in love with objects, places, films, or pieces of literature. It takes something truly spectacular but once in a while I feel completely captivated to the degree that I can actually say, “I’m in love with this ____”. Most recently, I fell in love with a book called “Americanah”.
Written by female Nigerian author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, whose novel “Half of a yellow sun” I devoured almost a decade ago, Americanah came into my life by chance and before I’d even finished the first page I knew it was love at first sight.
Watch this video to understand the brilliance of this author:
How do I start to tell you about why I loved this book so much? My feelings for it surely equate to more than the sum of its parts. There is romance, intrigue, and adventure. There is superbly phenomenal writing. There is the author, a brilliant and beautiful woman, a feminist, and a role model for all girls everywhere. But more than all of that, there is the wonderful mix of truth and discovery.
In the intricacies of her narratives, her razor sharp observations, and the depth of her characters, Adichie tells a story that is both familiar and foreign. She connotes something, actually many things, about “how life is” that feel so intimately known, so fundamentally human and universal. And yet, almost concurrently, she invites you into the unknown. In a near-anthropological manner, she brings you into contact with otherness and difference. This story, which includes more than one character’s perspective, traverses the lesser-seen parts of ours and others’ inner worlds. It awakens you to knowledge of self and other. And for that it is brilliant. And addictive. And hard to come back from.
But beyond the narratives of human connection, fragility, and redemption. Beyond the precise and lucid observations about relationships, trust, loyalty and freedom. Beyond the excellent writing and fascinating story-telling…is a meta-narrative around race.
Race is at the core of the book, and also at its periphery. Race shows up in the most obvious and most surprising ways, just like in real life. And that is what makes this book stand out in my opinion. It articulates race in a way no text (academic or fictional) has ever done for me before. And that is, in a way that reflects the lived experience of race, and racism.
Coming from South Africa, I have had many conversations with people about race and racism. I have (like many white people) been wholly naïve to the lived experiences of black people and the degree to which race and racism affects their daily lives. But I have listened and have tried to understand. And I would say I have gotten closer to a real sense of it. But for some reason this book, this narrative struck a chord. Maybe this is the greatness of great story-telling, that the reader feels more intimately connected to the characters, to history, to the world as it is. I certainly think so. It felt like all those conversations and all that I’ve read about race was expressed more succinctly and more empathically in this one book than I’ve experienced before.
So, if you consider yourself someone who is interested in great literature, if you are fascinated by the human condition, if you are intrigued by the intricacies of human relationships, or if you’re an observer of race, race relations and the ways in which racism articulates itself both politically and interpersonally, then what can I tell you? YOU HAVE TO READ AMERICANAH!!!!