First Impression Friday will be a meme where you talk about a book that you JUST STARTED! Maybe you’re only a chapter or two in, maybe a little farther. Based on this sampling of your current read, give a few impressions and predict what you’ll think by the end.
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 life in London. At once powerful and tender, Americanah is a remarkable novel of race, love, and identity by the award-winning writer Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie.
In a couple of days, the Philippines will be celebrating the first year anniversary since the imposition of the various lockdown schemes. One year thence, uncertainty still looms large. As our neighboring nations race towards vaccination of their residents, the Philippines is lagging badly behind. It is even more unfortunate now that cases are on the rise again. I just hope that our country speeds up its own vaccination program; we’ve been relying on donations, so far, to inoculate our health care workers; thankfully my mom has had her first dose. I hope everyone is doing fine and is safe!
The previous weeks have been exasperating, contributing to the sluggishness I feel right now. Nevertheless, I have been picking books written by African writers to keep me company. This past few days, I have been delving in Nigerian writer Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s Americanah. It is a title I have been longing to read, especially after my favorable experience with Half of a Yellow Sun over two years ago. I have also been hearing a lot of good things about Americanah which added to my growing interest in the novel. This March African literature month seemed the perfect time to catch up with another Adichie masterpiece.
As introduced in the synopsis, the narrative charts the story of Ifemelu and Obinze. The story commenced in America, where a grown up Ifemelu was having her hair braided in a Trenton hair salon. This was despite the fact that she was studying in Princeton. Fifteen years ago, she immigrated to the United States, from her native of Nsukka, Nigeria, to pursue her studies which was often disrupted by the endless strikes involving students and universities. During this period, Nigeria had a tumultuous political atmosphere. Ifemelu joined her Aunt Uju who fled Nigeria due to the fear of being captured by the government (this is an abbreviated version of her story, you might want to read the book to know why).
Before moving to the United States, Ifemelu got involved romantically with Obinze, the newly transferred student. Midway through the story, I haven’t had much interaction with Obinze as the narrative is focusing on Ifemelu’s story and experiences. Adichie vividly captured the challenges that Ifemelu had to deal with in her new environment. First, she had to pierce the veil of America beyond what she perceived it to be. To her dismay, the picture before her wasn’t as magnificent as she have imagined. Nevertheless, she buckled up and adapted to her environment. Through Ifemelu’s story, Adichie evocatively explored seminal themes such as depression, racism, and the struggle for identity in a foreign land.
I am enjoying the story so far, for Adichie’s prose has an insightful quality to it which makes me relate and understand the issues and concerns Ifemelu had to deal with. The writing is keen, clear, and assured. Of the Nigerian writers I have read so far (I love many of them), I do find Adichie’s prose shaded with influences of the West. Not that there is anything wrong with it because I love it either way. With my experience so far, I am now looking forward to reading Purple Hibiscus, and more of Adichie’s other works.
I know there are still a lot of events that will take place as Ifemelu suits up to return to her nation of birth to officially settle down there. I do realize that she will try to reestablish connections with Obinze. Speaking of Obinze, I am also curious what happened to him after Ifemelu left him. The adult Obinze is already married and has a daughter. I want to know what happened to the idealistic young man and how has the shifting Nigerian environment altered his dreams and visions. The convergence of Ifemelu’s and Obinze’s paths is keeping me at the edge of my seat. At least, I have something to look forward to over the weekend (although I will still be working, tsk).
In Half of a Yellow Sun, Adichie explored war and history while in Americanah, she is exploring other facets of the Nigerian experience. Despite the disparities between the two books, I can’t help but appreciate the genius behind both books. This disparity also showcases the versality of her prose. How about you fellow reader, what book are you going to read this weekend? I hope it is a book that you’ve been looking forward to and I hope you enjoy it. Keep safe, and happy weekend!