I had no preconception going into it as it was recommended to me by a lovely woman who encouraged me to read it while her husband shook his head in stark disinterest. That was six months ago. Then I stumbled across it in one of my many notebooks, its name boxed in and written over to the extent I’m pretty sure even drunk me knew that I’d never get around to reading it unless it looked like something a methhead had scratched into my notebook on one of my trips to the bathroom. Anyway, bottom line I tracked down a copy and I read it. I read the piss out of it.
This book is a bit out of my comfort zone. At least I thought it was. I thought this book was a love story. It turns out that is the very least of what this book is. This book is only slightly more a love story than it is an action adventure epic. There is romance. There is love. But its star-crossed love story feels more like an attempt to cohere an ending than anything legitimately romantic . What this novel is, and it is a great many things, is a pontification of culture, race, country, and family. It is a story of two people moving to two different countries and having vastly different experiences.
I enjoyed reading it. What the story lacks in supporting characters it makes up in the strength of its two main characters. Race is a hefty subject and Adichie handles it in the best way possible: with a sledgehammer forged of enough brevity and wit to sink an island. There are phrases, keywords that we often use to diffuse elephants in the room. Adichie understands that most important conversations, the most fruitful conversations, are made of honesty.
It may sound trite, and perhaps it is, but in a world that describes itself as ‘post-racial’ books like this are imperative in keeping us from breaking our arms as we try to pat ourselves on the back.
“If you’re telling a non-black person about something racist that happened to you, make sure you are not bitter. Don’t complain. Be forgiving. If possible, make it funny. Most of all, do not be angry. Black people are not supposed to be angry about racism. Otherwise you get no sympathy. This applies only for white liberals, by the way. Don’t even bother telling a white conservative about anything racist that happened to you. Because the conservative will tell you that YOU are the real racist and your mouth will hang open in confusion.” – Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Americanah