Braiding the Strands of Culture: Interweaving Hair and Power in Adichie’s Americanah College
Four braids wrap around the cover of Americanah, binding the stories and experiences of race within. Stories of realising one’s own race and how it changes your mobility in different places. Stories of understanding power. In Americanah, Adichie uses hair as a metaphor for race and the level of power it affords, challenging her intended audience of white, Western liberals’ assumptions about race and the depth at which racial inequality is entrenched within America today.
Americanah, a story of modern conceptions of race, insightfully begins with a journey from Princeton University to a Trenton hair salon, where the playing out of power will occur throughout the narrative. Adichie makes clear the distance, literally and metaphorically, between the “clean streets and stately homes, the delicately overpriced shops, and the quiet, abiding air of earned grace” (3) with very few other black people, and the neighbourhood she can get her hair done. This Adichie describes in stark contrast: “the part of the city that had graffiti, dank buildings, and no white people” (10). Within the first ten pages, Adichie has established opposing worlds of race and correlated power. This is the primary setting where hair, and the power it symbolizes,...
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