Americanah Irony

Guiding Assembly

Guiding Assembly is a church that Ifemelu's mother joins during Ifemelu's childhood. While this church does not drive Ifemelu's mother to the same extremes as her first conversion at the Revival Saints church, Adichie's description of the church through Ifemelu's childhood scrutiny is undeniably critical of its irony. At this church, congregants demand blessings and prosperity from God but the pastor has clearly bought a big house and multiple cars with the church's donations. As Adichie writes, "Ifemelu did not think that God had given Pastor Gideon the big house and all those cars, he had of course bought them with money from the three collections at each service, and she did not think that God would do for all as He had done for Pastor Gideon, because it was impossible" (53). In the end, Ifemelu says that she did not mind the irony of the people putting money into the church in faith that it would return to them as it had to the pastor because this faith made her mother eat again and returned some light to her eyes.

Bridesmaids in Waiting

When Ifemelu returns to Nigeria, her friend Ranyinudo comes to pick her up in a bridesmaid dress, having driven directly from a wedding. She tells Ifemelu lightly that she met a man at the wedding while waiting outside, and when Ifemelu asks about why she would have been outside during the wedding, she says that all the bridesmaids had to leave for mass because their dresses were "indecent" (477). As Ifemelu contemplates the irony of this push and pull of religious conservatism and global liberalism, of tradition and modernity, she must also wonder whether these changes happened in Lagos or whether she herself has changed so much that she now recognizes the quirks and ironies of everyday Nigerian life.

Celebrities in Africa

When Ifemelu talks to Kimberly's sister Laura, who she does not particularly like, Laura tries to show Ifemelu a magazine she brought with pictures of a celebrity "doing good work" (200) in an African country. The dark humor of the scene is set up by Laura telling Ifemelu, "It isn't Nigeria, but it's close" (200), perhaps meaning more in its exotic shock value than its actual location. Ifemelu responds that the celebrity is "just as skinny as the kids, only her skinniness is by choice and theirs is not by choice" (200). Issues of weight and its culture connotations are discussed throughout the novel, but this instance is particularly ironic for its comparison of the reasons people are made skinny by their society's particular problems.

An Honest Novel About Race

While at a party, Blaine's sister Shan says to the guests, "You can't write an honest novel about race in this country. If you write about how people are really affected by race, it'll be too obvious" (417). Honesty is a major theme in the novel, and this quote brings up the ironic and meta-textual question of whether Americanah itself is an "honest novel." While Shan goes on to single out Ifemelu's blog as successful because she is African rather than African American, the reader must question whether Shan's forceful statement is made ironic by the success of Americanah or whether the statement could be true and the book less "honest" than the reader believes it to be.