I read Chimamanda’s book in the wake of the Black Lives Matter campaign, during the period when the world was chanting for ‘Justice for George Floyd’, after the African American was killed by the police. The author had taken to her social media page to do a book reading of portions of the book and I kept anticipating when I could get my own copy to read.
Eventually, I got a copy of the book and I started reading. Book club was just around the corner and it was my turn to suggest a book for our next meeting. “What perfect timing”, I thought to myself. Obviously, I suggested that we read the book, Americanah. All the other members were keen on reading it too. And so Viola! I started Chapter One.
The book spoke about a lot more things than racism, for example, it discussed love, family, friendship, religion and spirituality, gender, and sex, among others. It was excellent at distinguishing between African Americans and Non-American Black. Chimamanda narrated the story so well that every aspect of life was covered to the full. I kept smiling through as polished words were used as cover ups to replace vulgar words or obscene events. “Ceiling” for instance, referred to Ifem’s boyfriend Obinze, who embraced the name so calmly without a fight after the couple’s first sexual encounter. On spirituality, the author narrates how the characters behaved towards gods and their diety, while using fasting, hair shaving, cladding in white clothing and singing praises and hymns, to depict how spiritual, and to some extent, religious people behave contrary to other beliefs.
Chimamanda adopts an easy and relaxed tone in her writing. She borrows her native language when she must, and uses humor to keep the reader hooked to the pages. For once, I kept reading close to 15 pages per day and never wanting to put the book down. The narration of events were so real and the tone set the pace for anticipation of the next big announcements in the coming pages. Her conversations with the characters were so relatable making it easy for any young person to enact and play the events in their minds.
Each scene was set in a plot which was easily identifiable in any location one finds him or herself. For instance, I need not be in the USA to understand some of the pictures that the story created in its reader’s mind. She made each scene so real and very interesting to engage with. Her university days, her time with Aunt Uju, her relationship with Curt, the white guy, her travels on the train, her return to Lagos, and everything else, were set in the right scenes at exactly the appropriate times.
The book, for me, spoke a lot about how women transition from young, feeble and vulnerable girls into courageous and bold adults who have the full responsibility to either turn their lives around or tear it down by drastic decisions. It touched on male and female relationships and the varying factors of gender disparities at various levels of life. It spoke about how race could be played to one’s advantage or disadvantage. It explains the fact that race in itself is a phenomenon that the few privileged understand, while the majority struggle to live by its rules.
Chimamanda has carved a great niche for herself, and as a writer, it may take a while to really understand her mood and thought process when she is writing her novels. What really matters to me now is that I’m grateful to the universe for giving her out as a gift to humanity. Through her writing and speeches, many lives have been touched.