The main narrator of Americanah. Ifemelu is a young woman from Nigeria who travels to the United States to work and study. While there, she is made acutely aware of her race and of the importance of race to American life and relationships. Ifemelu is smart, outspoken, and passionate.
Blaine is Ifemelu's "black American boyfriend" late in her travels in the United States. He is a professor at Yale and has a group of intellectual friends who Ifemelu clashes with at times. He idolizes his sister Shan and is very passionate about the election of Barack Obama in 2008.
Obinze is Ifemelu's first love whom she falls back in love with after returning to Nigeria. Ifemelu often calls him "Ceiling" which is a code word she devised when they were first becoming physically intimate. The narration of Americanah sometimes switches to Obinze's life and thoughts, especially his difficult life working illegally in London before returning to Nigeria to become a rich family man.
Aunt Uju (Obianuju)
Aunty Uju is a complex character. She is Ifemelu's wife and mother of Dike, Ifemelu's cousin. Aunty Uju is in a relationship with "The General" early in the story, but it seems that she is his mistress which allows her money but not status. Following his death, she flees with Dike to America where she must work tirelessly to become a doctor and support her son, all the while grappling with how to assimilate into America.
Dike is Ifemelu's cousin who grows up largely in the United States. He is cheerful as a child but must deal with his racial identity more as a young teen. He attempts to take his own life, an event which is very important to Ifemelu.
Curt is Ifemelu's boyfriend for a couple of years in the United States. He is white and rich, and though well-meaning, he and his friends often make Ifemelu uncomfortable. He meets Ifemelu through his cousin Kimberly, who employs Ifemelu as a babysitter.
Ranyinudo is Ifemelu's friend from Nigeria who Ifemelu keeps in touch with the most. Ranyinudo keeps Ifemelu updated on Obinze's life when the two are out of touch and welcomes Ifemelu back when she returns to Nigeria.
Kimberly employs Ifemelu as a babysitter in the United States. She is a rich white woman and, while she attempts to be charitable and kind, often says things that are incredibly privileged and even racist. However, she and Ifemelu come to truly care about one another.
Kosi is Obinze's wife, a very attractive but vapid woman. Obinze is most shocked by the fact that Kosi seems disappointed not to have given him a male child because this is the traditional way to feel and act, even though they both love their daughter Buchi.
Buchi is Obinze's daughter with Kosi. He cares deeply about her, and while she is too young to interact much with others in the novel, her presence has important implications for Obinze and Ifemelu's relationship when she returns to Nigeria.
Aisha is Ifemelu's hair braider before Ifemelu returns to Nigeria. Though Ifemelu is annoyed by her at first, especially Aisha's insistence that Ifemelu talk to her two boyfriends in Igbo and convince them to marry her, by the end of their encounter Ifemelu cares quite a bit about Aisha's happiness.
Chief is a wealthy and pompous man in Nigeria who helps Obinze become rich.
The General (Oga)
The General is a wealthy man in Nigeria's government who takes Aunty Uju on as some kind of mistress. He is father to Dike but dies when the child is only one, perhaps in an assassination.
Ifemelu's Mother and Father
We hear the most about Ifemelu's mother and father through flashbacks, as she does not talk to them or see them much once she leaves United States or even seemingly when she returns to Nigeria. Ifemelu's mother's intense relationship with religion is described through her hair, which is beautiful at first and then goes through many brutal and sudden transformations as she grapples with the demands of different preachers. Ifemelu's father is an intelligent man who seems constantly aware of his lack of higher education, causing him to use overly large words frequently.
Blaine's sister, she has an aura about her that draws people, including Ifemelu, to her, but is also very emotionally unstable.
Ginika is one of Ifemelu's friends during her youth in Nigeria. Ginika moves to the United States quite a few years before Ifemelu and helps her get acclimated once there, even helping her find a job and get out of her period of depression.
Americanah Questions and Answers
The Question and Answer section for Americanah is a great
resource to ask questions, find answers, and discuss the novel.