Americanah

Introduction

Americanah is a 2013 novel by the Nigerian author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, for which Adichie won the 2013 National Book Critics Circle Fiction award. Americanah tells the story of a young Nigerian woman, Ifemelu, who emigrates to the United States to attend university. The novel traces Ifemelu's life in both countries, threaded by her love story with high school classmate Obinze. A film adaptation has been announced, to star Lupita Nyong'o and David Oyelowo as the romantic leads.

Publication

Americanah was Adichie's third novel, published on May 14, 2013 by Alfred A. Knopf.

Plot

As teenagers in a Lagos secondary school, Ifemelu and Obinze fall in love. Nigeria at the time is under military dictatorship, and people are seeking to leave the country. Ifemelu departs for the United States to study. Through her experiences in relationships and studies, she struggles with the experience of racism in American culture, and the many varieties of racial distinctions.[1] Obinze, son of a professor, had hoped to join her in the US but he is denied a visa after 9/11. He goes to London, eventually becoming an undocumented immigrant after his visa expires.[2][3]

Years later, Obinze returns to Nigeria and becomes a wealthy man as a property developer in the newly democratic country. Ifemelu gains success in the United States, where she becomes known for her blog about race in America, entitled “Raceteenth or Various Observations About American Blacks (Those Formerly Known as Negroes) by a Non-American Black.”[3] When Ifemelu returns to Nigeria, the two consider the viability of reviving a relationship in light of their diverging experiences during their many years apart.

Reception

Reviews

Critics praised the novel, especially noting its range across different societies and reflection of global tensions. Writing for The New York Times, Mike Peed said, "'Americanah' examines blackness in America, Nigeriaand Britain, but it’s also a steady-handed dissection of the universal human experience—a platitude made fresh by the accuracy of Adichie’s observations."[3] Peed concluded, “'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."[3] Reviewing the novel for The Washington Post, Emily Raboteau called Adichie "a hawkeyed observer of manners and distinctions in class," and said Adichie brings a "ruthless honesty about the ugly and beautiful sides of both" the United States and Nigeria.[4] In the Chicago Tribune, Laura Pearson said, "Sprawling, ambitious and gorgeously written, 'Americanah' covers race, identity, relationships, community, politics, privilege, language, hair, ethnocentrism, migration, intimacy, estrangement, blogging, books and Barack Obama. It covers three continents, spans decades, leaps gracefully, from chapter to chapter, to different cities and other lives...[Adichie] weaves them assuredly into a thoughtfully structured epic. The result is a timeless love story steeped in our times."[5]

Awards

The book was selected as one of the 10 Best Books of 2013 by the editors of the New York Times Book Review.[6] It won the 2013 National Book Critics Circle Award (Fiction),[7] and was shortlisted for the 2014 Baileys Women's Prize for Fiction[8] of the United Kingdom. The Chicago Tribune awarded Adichie its 2013 Heartland Award for Fiction, "recogniz[ing Americanah as] a novel that engages with important ideas about race, and does so with style, wit and insight."[9]

In March 2017, Americanah was picked as the winner for the "One Book, One New York" program,[10][11] part of a community reading initiative encouraging all city residents to read the same book.[12]

Sales

Americanah spent 78 weeks on NPR's Paperback Best-Seller list.[13] Days after The New York Times named Americanah to its best books of 2013 list, Beyoncé also signaled her admiration of Adichie, sampling Adichie's TED Talk "We should all be feminists" on the song "***Flawless"; sales of Americanah soared and as of December 23, 2013, the book climbed to the number 179 spot on Amazon.com's list of its 10,000 best-selling books.[14]

Film adaptation

In 2014, it was announced that David Oyelowo and Lupita Nyong’o would star in a film adaptation of the novel,[15] to be produced by Brad Pitt and his production company Plan B.[16] Pitt and Nyong'o previously collaborated on 12 Years A Slave, for which Nyong'o won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress and Pitt, as a producer, Best Picture. Pitt also served as an executive producer on Selma, where Oyelowo had a breakout role playing Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Oyelowo won an NAACP Image Award as well as Best Actor nominations at the Golden Globes and Independent Spirit Awards.

References
  1. ^ Stefanie Anna Reuter: "Becoming a Subject: Developing a Critical Consciousness and Coming to Voice in Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s Americanah”, in: Anja Oed (Hg.): Reviewing the Past, Negotiating the Future: The African Bildungsroman (forthcoming).
  2. ^ Navaratnam, Subashini (9 August 2013). "Race-in-America Is a Central Character in 'Americanah'". PopMatters
  3. ^ a b c d Peed, Mike (June 7, 2013). "Realities of Race ‘Americanah,’ by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie". The New York Times
  4. ^ Raboteau, Emily (10 June 2013). "Book review: ‘Americanah’ by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie". The Washington Post. Retrieved 14 August 2016. 
  5. ^ Pearson, Laura (June 28, 2013). "Review: 'Americanah' by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie". The Chicago Tribune. Retrieved 14 August 2016. 
  6. ^ New York Times (December 4, 2013). "The 10 Best Books of 2013". The New York Times. Archived from the original on December 6, 2013. Retrieved 7 December 2013. 
  7. ^ "National Book Critics Circle Announces Award Winners for Publishing Year 2013". National Book Critics Circle. March 13, 2014. Retrieved March 13, 2014. 
  8. ^ Mark Brown (7 April 2014). "Donna Tartt heads Baileys women's prize for fiction 2014 shortlist". The Guardian. Retrieved April 11, 2014. 
  9. ^ Taylor, Elizabeth (November 3, 2013). "Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie's 'Americanah' awarded fiction Heartland Prize". The Chicago Tribune. Retrieved 14 August 2016. 
  10. ^ Chris Weller, "New Yorkers just selected a book for the entire city to read in America's biggest book club", Business Insider, 16 March 2017.
  11. ^ "One Book, One New York | And the winner is...", NYC.
  12. ^ John Williams, "One Book for Five Boroughs", The New York Times, 31 January 2017.
  13. ^ "Americanah". NPR. Retrieved 14 August 2016. 
  14. ^ Meyer, Robinson (December 23, 2016). "When Beyoncé Samples Your TED Talk, This Is What Happens to Your Book". The Atlantic. Retrieved 14 August 2016. 
  15. ^ Mandell, Andrea (January 4, 2015). "You're really going to want to see Lupita's next movie". USAToday. Retrieved 15 August 2016. 
  16. ^ Kroll, Justin (15 December 2014). "David Oyelowo to Star With Lupita Nyong’o in ‘Americanah’ (EXCLUSIVE)". Variety. Retrieved 14 August 2016. 
External links
  • Americanah at Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie's site

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