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Americanah: Powerful, Tender and Award-Winning

Nigerian author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie seems to be everywhere these days – both in high brow literary circles and in the heat of popular culture.  Her TED Talk “The Danger of a Single Story” has millions of views.  She’s featured in Beyonce’s recently released music video ‘Flawless”.  And if her long list of prestigious awards weren’t enough (including a MacArthur Foundation “Genius” Grant), she’s just received the National Book Critics Circle fiction prize for her epic novel Americanah

I loved this novel for so many reasons.  The first thing that drew me is that the people in Adiche’s novels are so vivid.  The complex and strong-willed woman at the center of the story, Ifemelu, is raised in a middle class Nigerian family; I was so moved and engaged watching her strict upbringing, her difficult and disorienting experience immigrating to the US, and the vibrant portrayal of her love life and friendships. 

In due course, Ifemelu begins writing a blog about the experience of being a Black African in America.  Her observations about racial/class/gender dynamics are sharp, at times hilarious, and, for me, sometimes embarrassingly or frustratingly familiar. 

Finally, Adiche’s writing is incredible!  What a gift she has for using the whole range of the language to express experience and character so precisely.

It’s a big sweeping, thought-provoking novel. As the New York Times review put it:  Americanah is witheringly trenchant and hugely empathetic, both worldly and geographically precise, a novel that holds the discomfiting realities of our times fearlessly before us. It never feels false."

This interview with Adiche, done by the amazing Zadie Smith is well worth the watch.  If you've read the book, you'll learn more.  If you haven't picked it up yet, you won't be able to resist.

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