Books I Love

Americanah July 16 2014, 0 Comments

"But 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 Diaz, 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."

Emily Raboteau in the Washington Post

I could not say it better than that.

The unflinching and refreshing honesty of an outsider's take on American politics, racial tensions, relations between men and women, between women themselves, education, immigration. The all-encompassing empathy of an artist for all human plights, for our idiosyncrasies and failures of the imagination, for our grit and stubbornness in the face of injustice. The sublime sense of humor of a writer in the face of incomprehensible behavior, deep-seated prejudice and warped logic.

There was so much to feel and learn and think about in this dazzling novel that I'm having a hard time gathering my thoughts into one cohesive whole. And maybe that's exactly the point. There is nothing cohesive about life depicted here. The characters are all fleeting constructions of their own imaginations, their own desire for survival, their own need for validation. They are constantly evolving, changing, reassessing, adapting, morphing into the people that they become, always a little short of the people they aspire to be. The world, in all its cruelty and randomness, is constantly forcing them to bend and bend and bend until some break in two and others rebound even more forcefully.

Zadie Smith said that she wanted to write the first Black existential novel with "NW" but I think Chimamanda Ngozie Adichie may have written a much more devastating and illuminating one with "Americanah". If "NW" was existential in its stylistic experimentations, "Americanah" is existential in its very essence.

In the end, it could very well be that love, true passionate love between two people, is the only constant force flowing through the chaos.