Author: Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Genre: Contemporary, Fiction, Literary Fiction
What do I think?
Let me say something before I continue with the book rant, I have been neglecting the blog for quite some time. To be fair, I am teetering between being super busy and being super lazy. Nothing new, eh? Honestly though, I was quite busy, what with the preparation for Indonesia’s General Election that occurred on 17 April 2019 (back in Indonesia) and 13 April 2019 (for Indonesians living in Colombia). So, do allow me to be a tad bit neglectful of the blog and of doing the book review.
That being said, this was a special book for me and I really didn’t want to do the review whilst I’m swamped by work. I want to actually taking a good chunk of my day and make the effort to best explain how I really felt about this book. RAM got me a copy of this book whilst he was in Abuja, Nigeria, and I so wanted to read this book, if not for some memory of being in Nigeria for a month, then for the shared memories between RAM and I. But I was daunted when I saw how thick this book was; granted I have read thicker book before but still I was worried would I be able to finish or enjoy a book so thick, what with struggling with work and my own surprise anxiety attack.
Spoiler alert: I finished the book, and I actually enjoy the book! I mean, I still hate that the words are so freakishly small for someone with bad eyesight like me, but hey, I read it anyway, right?
Here’s one thing I would like to say about the book; the next time someone came up to me and said something that goes along the line of, “oh you live abroad, that must be so cool,” I would ask them to please read this book. This book shows the other side of what living abroad (and alone); the facade, the loneliness, the doubts and the depression were laid bare for the reader to feel. Most people back home portrays living abroad to be the ultimate success in your adult life because for some reason they just hate living in Indonesia so much, that they forgot moving into a foreign land as a foreigner is not always lollipops and rainbows. Seeing how Ifemelu and Obinze struggled whilst living outside of Nigeria validates the struggle I felt whilst I was living in Seoul and Bogota.
Both of their experiences resonates with my own experience living abroad, at two different stage of my life, as a foreign student and as a foreigner working abroad. But it’s not just about that, the many things mentioned in the book felt really close to me, from the comments from Obinze’s mum to Ifemelu about being a woman, and about being poor and rich, about the struggles of trying to find the smallest of chances when everything seem bleak. This to me felt like an essay about many things, wrapped in wrapper about romance between our star crossed lover, but at bottom of it all, this was never about romance.
Speaking of romance, I really enjoyed how raw the romances in the book were written. It’s not always knock you off your feet romance, sometimes it’s just is. It feels so real that I didn’t even realise we were even reading about the romance part. That being said, I could not bring myself to give this book a 5 star, though I did enjoy the book.
Ifemelu made it difficult for me to completely enjoy and immerse in the book. She was an annoying character and I hate how the author tries to justify her negative traits by redeeming her in the next chapter; writing about how much she cares about the less fortunate, or about her seemingly critical observation of races in America or in Nigeria. Ifemelu came across as a hypocrite who thinks too highly of herself, judging others and thinking she was better, either because she was educated (when she saw other African immigrants who are clearly far less educated than her), or because she felt better for caring more about the important stuffs apart from fashion (ffs, Ifemelu, you work in a fashion magazine, what do you expect?)
I hate how she seems to bring others down because she thinks or feels that she was better. It wasn’t something I want to see in a character that I felt started really strong when the book first started, only to have her character’s development wnt down as the story progresses. Things got even worse when I noticed that the author tend to redeem Ifemelu by writing about how she meant well, how she’s actually not all bad, how she didn’t meant to insult others, it’s just writing about fashion is not important and Ifemelu starting her own blog about life in Nigeria in which, again, she talks shit about other people as if she’s not like that is just freaking annoying. More than once would we see how Ifemelu tend to say the opposite of what others are saying just so she could look different from the others, even though we knew Ifemelu actually agrees with the things being said by others. It annoys me, okay? And I can’t get over it!
But, other than that, still love the book. Still would recommend it!
What’s the book about?
Taken from Goodreads
Ifemelu and Obinze are young and in love when they depart military-ruled Nigeria for the West. Beautiful, self-assured Ifemelu heads for America, where despite her academic success, she is forced to grapple with what it means to be black for the first time. Quiet, thoughtful Obinze had hoped to join her, but with post-9/11 America closed to him, he instead plunges into a dangerous, undocumented life in London. Fifteen years later, they reunite in a newly democratic Nigeria, and reignite their passion—for each other and for their homeland.
There are many different ways to be poor in the world but increasingly there seems to be one single way to be rich.
Americanah – Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie