Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie – Summary

Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie is a love story showing the difficult situations that the state of the Nigerian educational system can cause to arise for students and the attending challenges faced by those who seek for a better chance in foreign countries like the USA.

Americanah

Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie – Summary

Americanah is Chimamanda Ngọzi Adichie’s third novel, published in 2013. Adichie is a Nigerian-American novelist whose notable novels include: Purple Hibiscus, Half Of A Yellow Sun, and Americanah.

Overview

Americanah is settings in Nigeria and America, where the protagonist – Ifemelu, has lived at some point in her life. Ifemelu is a Nigerian who grew up in Nigeria, a West African country where she completed her high school education and enrolled in a university. In her high school days, known as “secondary school” in British-colonized Nigeria, she met the intelligent and handsome Obinze. They both loved each other and graduated from high school together in a strong relationship, which continued into the university. 

The university lecturers being underpaid embarked on strike always, slowing down the academic calendar and prolonging years of study for students. Ifemelu, who was an undergraduate grew tired of the incessant strikes and decided to leave Nigeria to continue her studies in the United States. Obinze and Ifemelu hoped to reunite someday in the United States.

 

Plot Summary

The novel begins with Ifemelu taking a train from Princeton, New Jersey — the university campus where she lives as a famous blogger— to Trenton, still in the same state. Although Trenton lacks many things in Princeton, she goes to Trenton to make her hair in an African salon as she prepares to travel to Nigeria after spending 13 years on American soil.

In the salon, her mind takes her back to her long-ago memories in Nigeria about its culture, food, and her high school love, Obinze. While she braids her hair, she reminisces how she met Obinze at a party where a girl named Ginika had arranged another girl for him, but Obinze couldn’t turn his eyes away from her. They meet and date throughout their high school days and into their few years at the university. 

Ifemelu applied for an American Visa after incessant strikes disrupted her studies in Nigeria. In America, she lived with Uju, a sister to her unemployed father who had pursued a relationship with an army general, who died mysteriously, resulting in death threats toward Uju. Out of fear, she ran to America for safety.

Obinze and Ifemelu agreed to reunite in America. Unfortunately, her student visa doesn’t permit her to apply for jobs. Since her scholarship did not cover all her expenses, she had to find a way to make ends meet. To cope with her financial difficulty, she devised other dubious means to earn an income: she used a friend’s security number to get a job; which also failed her. She eventually agreed to work as a masseuse to a tennis coach who tried to exploit her sexually on her first day of work. Hence she refused to show up there again.

Fortunately, Ifemelu ran into a Nigerian, Ginika, who linked her to a woman in dire need of a nurse. Kimberly is a compassionate white woman who employed Ifemelu as a nanny and gave her time to study. Ifemelu met Kimberley’s wealthy brother, Curt, who fell in love with her. They date, and although Curt doesn’t pay much attention to Ifemelu’s complaints about racial discrimination against black people in America, Ifemelu cheats on him. When she finally graduated, Curts helped her secure a job that enabled her to get American Green Card.

Her experiences traumatized and cost her communication with Obinze, whom she had maintained communication with since she arrived in America. She felt ashamed of herself and perplexed about how to go about telling Obinze about her awful experience at the hands of her employer; as a result, she cut communication with him.

Meanwhile, Obinze had relocated to the United Kingdom, where he lived as an illegal migrant in London. Since he had no legal documents that would enable him to stay in the UK, he, like Ifemelu, desperately looked for a shortcut to get papers to work. He’s eased when a fellow Nigerian connected him to a guy named Vincent, who agreed to allow him to use his documents and secure a job at a cost. Obinze accepted to give him a definite percentage of his salary but stopped as Vincent changed and demanded a higher percentage. 

Angered by Obinze’s refusal to meet his high demand, Vincent reported Obinze to his employer. Obi didn’t give up on his job hunt. He met someone who helped him arrange a fake marriage with a citizen of the UK in the hope that would earn him a residential status. The wedding was successfully arranged, but he was surprised to meet the police waiting for him on the court premises on the wedding day. He was arrested and deported to Nigeria.

As someone who grew up in Nigeria, Ifemelu hadn’t ever experienced racial discrimination until she arrived in the US. She began to feel what is like to be a black person and woman in the United States. This spurred her to create a niche blog about racism. She complained of Curt’s failure to understand the racial injustice in America to Wambui, who advised her to channel her frustration about racism into a blog. She named her blog “Racetenth” – where she wrote about her racial experiences in America as a non-American black woman. The blog soon attracted national attention and connected her with other prominent black people. 

At a conference of minority bloggers, she met Blaine— a professor at Yale University— whom she once met on a train a long time ago. They date and lived together. Their relationship got stained by Ifemelu’s absence in a protest against the racial-induced profiling of black workers at Yale, but Obama’s election campaign of 2008 brought them together.

At the salon, Ifemelu received a call from UJu, informing her about Dike’s suicide attempt. She postponed her homegoing to stay with Dike. When she eventually traveled back to Nigeria, she rented an apartment in a rich neighborhood in Lagos and worked for women’s Magazine. She had already emailed Obinze about her plans to come home but hadn’t told him she was now living somewhere in Lagos. 

Obinze had become wealthy, married Kosi, and had a daughter. Obinze met Chief after being deported to Nigeria from the United Kingdom. Chief is a wealthy man who also made Obinze wealthy. After weighing whether to reach Obinze or not, Ifemelu decided to call him. They agree to meet and resurrect their old inactive relationship. Obinze didn’t hide his marital status from Ifemelu; she became jealous of Obinze’s marriage. She often persuaded Obinze to divorce his wife. That didn’t go well with Obinze. He dismissed her request with his responsibility to let his daughter grow into a family with him and her mother. Ifemelu thought of him as a coward and decided to stay away from him since she didn’t want to be his mistress. After seven months of not communicating, Obinze came to Ifemelu to tell her he was no longer staying with his wife, Kosi.

 

Read also:

Americanah – Characters Analysis

Second-Class Citizen – Summary and Themes

 

Setting

The novel is set in Nigeria and America. Ifemelu grew up in Nigeria, where she spent her high school days and part of her university days before strikes by the lecturers pushed her to apply for an American Visa.

 

How did Americanah end?

Ifemelu returned to Nigeria after growing tired of her racial experience in America. She remembered her lovely days at home in Nigeria with her childhood love, Obinze, and the culture and food, which her thirteen years of living in America had made her miss. These made her crave home. So she emailed Obinze about her homecoming. When she returned, she found out that Obinze was married and had a daughter. She persuaded him to divorce his wife, but Obinze initially disagreed, making her cancel every form of communication with him. A few months later, Obinze decided to heed her advice. They fell back on their love trail.

 

Comments (1)

  1. […] Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie – Summary […]

    January 30, 2024 at 10:17 am

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