Rebecca Watson reviews Adiche’s highly topical novel on race and the modern Western World
The issue of race is as prevalent as ever in the Western world. Unarmed black teenagers are killed by police and scaremongering politicians place all of Britain’s problems on the shoulders of immigrants. It is as important as ever to discuss the notion of racism and there is no better way to be inspired to do so than by reading Americanah.
Chimamanda Ngozi Adiche’s 2013 novel is superficially a romance. It follows Nigerian teenagers Ifemelu and her sweetheart Obinze as they leave home for a new life in the post-9/11 West. Ifemelu continues to study in America, encountering depression and the still present segregation of races. Meanwhile, denied an American visa, Obinze moves to England as an illegal immigrant, without a social security number and therefore without an identity.
Yes, Adiche’s novel is, on one hand, a romantic story. But, more importantly, it is a study of race and class in the modern Western world. Adiche eloquently and emotively covers everything, from mixed race relationships and the fetishisation of other races to Barack Obama and the politics of immigration, legal or otherwise.
You may recognise some of your own thoughts and behaviours in the vast cast of Adiche’s characters and this may make you uncomfortable. Good – keep reading. Race is not always a comfortable topic to discuss or read about, but then it is not ‘comfortable’ to be on the receiving end of racism. Having said that, Adiche’s book is brilliantly written and a thoroughly enjoyable and fascinating read. The cliché of a ‘page turner’ is shockingly overused in book reviews, but, believe me, it is entirely applicable here.
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