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Americanah

Cover of Americanah

Americanah

One of The New York Times's Ten Best Books of the Year

Winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award for Fiction

An NPR "Great Reads" Book, a Chicago Tribune Best Book, a Washington Post Notable Book, a Seattle Times Best Book, an Entertainment Weekly Top Fiction Book, a Newsday Top 10 Book, and a Goodreads Best of the Year pick.

A powerful, tender story of race and identity by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, the award-winning author of Half of a Yellow Sun.

Ifemelu and Obinze are young and in love when they depart military-ruled Nigeria for the West. Beautiful, self-assured Ifemelu heads for America, where despite her academic success, she is forced to grapple with what it means to be black for the first time. Quiet, thoughtful Obinze had hoped to join her, but with post-9/11 America closed to him, he instead plunges into a dangerous, undocumented life in London. Fifteen years later, they reunite in a newly democratic Nigeria, and reignite their passion--for each other and for their homeland.



From the Trade Paperback edition.

One of The New York Times's Ten Best Books of the Year

Winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award for Fiction

An NPR "Great Reads" Book, a Chicago Tribune Best Book, a Washington Post Notable Book, a Seattle Times Best Book, an Entertainment Weekly Top Fiction Book, a Newsday Top 10 Book, and a Goodreads Best of the Year pick.

A powerful, tender story of race and identity by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, the award-winning author of Half of a Yellow Sun.

Ifemelu and Obinze are young and in love when they depart military-ruled Nigeria for the West. Beautiful, self-assured Ifemelu heads for America, where despite her academic success, she is forced to grapple with what it means to be black for the first time. Quiet, thoughtful Obinze had hoped to join her, but with post-9/11 America closed to him, he instead plunges into a dangerous, undocumented life in London. Fifteen years later, they reunite in a newly democratic Nigeria, and reignite their passion--for each other and for their homeland.



From the Trade Paperback edition.
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Excerpts-
  • Chapter One

    Princeton, in the summer, smelled of nothing, and although Ifemelu liked the tranquil greenness of the many trees, the clean streets and stately homes, the delicately overpriced shops, and the quiet, abiding air of earned grace, it was this, the lack of a smell, that most appealed to her, perhaps because the other American cities she knew well had all smelled distinctly. Philadelphia had the musty scent of history. New Haven smelled of neglect. Baltimore smelled of brine, and Brooklyn of sun-warmed garbage. But Princeton had no smell. She liked taking deep breaths here. She liked watching the locals who drove with pointed courtesy and parked their latest model cars outside the organic grocery store on Nassau Street or outside the sushi restaurants or outside the ice cream shop that had fifty different flavors including red pepper or outside the post office where effusive staff bounded out to greet them at the entrance. She liked the campus, grave with knowledge, the Gothic buildings with their vine-laced walls, and the way everything transformed, in the half-light of night, into a ghostly scene. She liked, most of all, that in this place of affluent ease, she could pretend to be someone else, someone specially admitted into a hallowed American club, someone adorned with certainty.

    But she did not like that she had to go to Trenton to braid her hair. It was unreasonable to expect a braiding salon in Princeton—the few black locals she had seen were so light-skinned and lank-haired she could not imagine them wearing braids—and yet as she waited at Princeton Junction station for the train, on an afternoon ablaze with heat, she wondered why there was no place where she could braid her hair. The chocolate bar in her handbag had melted. A few other people were waiting on the platform, all of them white and lean, in short, flimsy clothes. The man standing closest to her was eating an ice cream cone; she had always found it a little irresponsible, the eating of ice cream cones by grown-up American men, especially the eating of ice cream cones by grown-up American men in public. He turned to her and said, "About time," when the train finally creaked in, with the familiarity strangers adopt with each other after sharing in the disappointment of a public service. She smiled at him. The graying hair on the back of his head was swept forward, a comical arrangement to disguise his bald spot. He had to be an academic, but not in the humanities or he would be more self-conscious. A firm science like chemistry, maybe. Before, she would have said, "I know," that peculiar American expression that professed agreement rather than knowledge, and then she would have started a conversation with him, to see if he would say something she could use in her blog. People were flattered to be asked about themselves and if she said nothing after they spoke, it made them say more. They were conditioned to fill silences. If they asked what she did, she would say vaguely, "I write a lifestyle blog," because saying "I write an anonymous blog called Raceteenth or Various Observations About American Blacks (Those Formerly Known as Negroes) by a Non-American Black" would make them uncomfortable. She had said it, though, a few times. Once to a dreadlocked white man who sat next to her on the train, his hair like old twine ropes that ended in a blond fuzz, his tattered shirt worn with enough piety to convince her that he was a social warrior and might make a good guest blogger. "Race is totally overhyped these days, black people need to get over themselves, it's all about class now, the haves and the have-nots," he told her evenly, and she used it as the opening sentence of a post...

About the Author-
  • Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie grew up in Nigeria. Her work has been translated into thirty languages and has appeared in various publications, including The New Yorker, Granta, The O. Henry Prize Stories, the Financial Times, and Zoetrope: All-Story. She is the author of the novels Purple Hibiscus, which won the Commonwealth Writers' Prize and the Hurston/Wright Legacy Award, and Half of a Yellow Sun, which won the Orange Prize and was a National Book Critics Circle Award Finalist, a New York Times Notable Book, and a People and Black Issues Book Review Best Book of the Year; and, most recently, the story collection The Thing Around Your Neck. A recipient of a MacArthur Fellowship, she divides her time between the United States and Nigeria.



Reviews-
  • Emily Raboteau, The Washington Post "What's as American as the invention of race? Self-invention. So we are reminded by Adichie's engaging third novel . . . Adichie is uniquely positioned to compare racial hierarchies in the United States to social striving in her native Nigeria. She does so in this new work with a ruthless honesty about the ugly and beautiful sides of both nations. Americanah is social satire masquerading as romantic comedy. . . . Beyond race, the book is about the immigrant's quest: self-invention, which is the American subject. Americanah is unique among the booming canon of immigrant literature of the last generation (including writers Junot Díaz, Jhumpa Lahiri, Gary Shteyngart, Chang-rae Lee, Dinaw Mengestu and Susan Choi). Its ultimate concern isn't the challenge of becoming American or the hyphenation that requires, but the challenge of going back home. . . . Affecting."
  • John Timpane, Philadelphia Inquirer "Adichie's brave, sprawling novel tackles the U.S. race complex with a directness and brio no U.S. writer of any color would risk. . . . There's no question on this or any novel's resolving [our] race sickness. If it's so hard to say or do the right thing, what is to be done? [But] Americanah brings a cleansing frankness to a scab on the face of the Republic."
  • Ruth Franklin, Bookforum "Big, moving, deeply provocative . . . A tiny pinprick in the giant balloon of hot air that has swollen around the subject of race in post-civil-rights-era America. Adichie's finely observed new book, which combines perfectly calibrated social satire and heartfelt emotion, stands with Invisible Man and The Bluest Eye as a defining work about the experience of being black in America. More than race, Americanah is about all the ways people form their identities: what we put on and what we take off, the things we accumulate and those we discard along the way. . . . Adichie is as precise on the details of contemporary American life as Updike or Franzen . . . [Her] remarkable powers of observation drive this novel. Every detail feels relevant, because they all work as markers of what the novel calls 'costume': the mannerisms and affectations that we use to create an image of ourselves in the eyes of others, and even ourselves. . . . Americanah shrugs off pretense and speaks the truth about how hard it is to live a life divided, whether between two people or two countries. . . . It is rare to come upon a novel that genuinely alters one's view of the world. For me, Americanah was one of those books, because it forced me to confront so many things that I myself have glossed over or pretended not to notice. I understand Obinze's story, and others in this book, through the force of Adichie's talent."
  • Michael Shank, Baltimore City Paper "[Americanah] is propelled by Adichie's clean, attractive prose. . . . An epic love story . . . A book full of passion."
  • Carolyn Kellogg, Los Angeles Times "Adichie's new novel is part love story, part social critique, and one of the best you'll read this year. These characters are richly drawn, as are even those who make fleeting appearances, from the ladies at Ifemelu's braid shop to Obinze's boss in England. . . . Adichie digs in deeply, finding a way to make them fresh."
  • Tyrone Beason, The Seattle Times "Epic . . . A near-flawless novel--one whose language beautifully captures the surreal experience of an African becoming an American . . . Americanah is both intellectually expansive and urgently intimate, a story about the crushing experience of finding your way in a new land--and the physical and emotional lengths one goes to to feel whole again. Ifemelu--smart, pretty, brutally honest, often hilariously so--will steal your heart."
  • Parul Sehgal, Tin House "A thrilling and risky piece of writing that takes on taboos, shatters pieties, and combines forthright prose, subversive humor, and a ripping good story. . . . Americanah feels ruthlessly of this moment . . . [It] homes in on and complicates the single story of the immigrant."
  • Mike Peed, The New York Times Book Review "Adichie is an extraordinarily self-aware thinker and writer . . . Americanah [is] a
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