Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie's 'Americanah' Celebrates the Dynamic African Identity

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It was unveiled last week at Stylist Magazine‘s Stylist Book Club Inaugural Session that the fabulous actor Lupita Nyong’o secured the film rights to Americanah written by award-winning author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. Lupita’s acting abilities mixed with Adichie’s literary vision will make for a spectacular film. As we wait for announcements about cast members and the director, allow me to praise Adichie for Americanah, a literary work that stands on its own.

“We teach girls to shrink themselves--to make themselves smaller. We say to girls‘You can have ambition, but not too much.” Adichie uttered this phrase ever so eloquently. This magnanimous : woman raises questions about the visibility of women in an academic and social context that resonates with those willing to listen. In a few succinct lines, she explains that women are unfortunately raised as competitors and as beings lacking sexual drive.

The greater insistence upon marriage in the lives women of is troubling for her. Her words debunk myths and work to elevate women. She provides a framework to reevaluate how we treat one another and ourselves. Americanah, her third novel, is no exception.

Americanah, her third book, depicts the life of Ifemelu as she makes a transition from the United States back to Nigeria. Ifemelu analyzes her experiences in the context of race in America. Rather than lamenting strife with vivid imagery of huts and starvation, Adichie opts for a contemporary picture of Africa. One that melds Nigerian proverbs with hip-hop culture. Her insistence upon a text that does not pity the African continent is refreshing.

Her text is both truthful and insightful in its distinctions between Africans born in Africa and Africans raised in the United States. All the while, Ifemelu, both intelligent and candid, grapples with finding her own identity.

Her character resonates with me because I coped with finding my identity as a proclaimed African African-American. My father is Senegalese and my mother is African American. This is why I call myself African African-American. Struggling to find a sense of self in both worlds grew difficult when I went to Senegal.

Much like Ifemelu, I travelled to a new place. I was charged with understanding my race in a new context. The term “black” did not exist in Senegal when it existed in my years living in the United States. My Senegalese family thought I was too Americanized while my friends in the United States thought I was “too African” (whatever that means). They often asked me to pick one when I make introductions.

At first, I agreed without much thought because I am not one for conflict. Then I concluded that I will acknowledge both of my parents in every introduction. Neglecting to mention one of my upbringings is an insult to the culture, history, and beliefs of the other upbringing.

Adichie‘s text expresses my concerns, frustrations, and triumphs by interpreting society through the lens of an African woman. Ifemelu’s character combats identity, love, and the repercussions of inequalities between men and women.

One of the more vivid moments in the novel is the braiding salon Ifemelu visits. In that moment, I could smell the burnt hair, the loud talking, and the mixing of beautiful African languages.

Through the imagery used to describe love’s growth through Ifemelu’s relationship with Obinze, her first love, we are reminded of love’s potential.

I look forward to seeing the film adaptation of Americanah and reading more of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s beautiful works. I wonder who will be cast as Obinze?

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Kadijah Ndoye is a writer and natural hair enthusiast with a love for poetry, literature and pop culture critiques
Twitter: @WominesTumber - Instagram:@spelmanmeetsbarnard - E-mail:

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