Americanah Summary and Analysis of Part 4


The narration returns to Ifemelu, who is thinking now of the end of her relationship with Curt. She cheated on Curt with a neighbor she didn't care much about. She says that "she was curious" but by the second time she went to the other man's apartment, she felt "a great torpor" (356) and went directly to Curt's apartment to confess. Curt was very angry, cursing at her and even calling her "Bitch" (357) and their relationship ended promptly, though Ifemelu says that she spent weeks calling Curt and visiting his apartment building. When she finally decided that things must really be over, she became angry at herself: "There was something wrong with her. A hunger, a restlessness. An incomplete knowledge of herself" (358).

Ifemelu mentally skips to a later point in her life, the day after Barack Obama was elected president. At a dinner party in Manhattan, she told another black woman that saying "race was never an issue" (359) in a relationship between a black person and a white person in the United States will always be a lie. When the poet she said this to in front of a party of people was angered and incredulous at this statement, Ifemelu told them about how in her and Curt's relationship race was never avoided but always talked about in a way that was too light or distant in tone, leaving Ifemelu "with a small and numb discomfort that she never admitted" (360). For example, Curt once got very angry that a salon refused to do Ifemelu's eyebrows and made them comply. Another time, Ifemelu spent a whole party growing exhausted at the questioning looks she and Curt got for being together. Again, with Curt's mother and aunt, Ifemelu confronted statements about how "color-blind" (363) America was and even grappled with statements that try to be accepting but instead are patronizing. The final example Ifemelu gives moves her problems with Curt from microaggressions from those around him to a direct disconnect between the realities of the two in the couple. In this memory, Curt called the magazine Essence "racially skewed" (364) for featuring only black women, so Ifemelu took him to the bookstore to show him how few black models, especially dark black women, are featured in other magazines. When she emailed Wambui with the story that night, she suggested that Ifemelu start a blog.

With this, Ifemelu signed up for a blog through WordPress - a blog that would later be named "Raceteenth or Curious Observations by a Non-America Black on the Subject of Blackness in America." Though she was scared of pageviews at first, she craved an audience for her experiences. The chapter ends with a later blog post by Ifemelu about Michelle Obama and the ways black hair is (and is seen to be) political. Though Ifemelu's relationship with Curt was flawed, she grappled with the breakup for weeks, "trying to remember the person she was before Curt" (370). She spent time in Willow with Dike and Aunty Uju, who had a new partner named Kweku, a doctor from Ghana. When she talked to her parents on the phone she still did not tell them about Curt, but instead they started to plan a trip for her parents to America. Within a paragraph, her parents came and went, leaving Ifemelu crying in exhaustion and with the final message that she should be looking for a husband. Soon after, Ifemelu quit her job in Baltimore. The chapter ends with a snippet of blog post about race and genetics.

It was not long before Ifemelu's blog garnered thousands of views and emails from people who wanted to support her or put ads on the site. She even received emails from people asking her to lead diversity workshops, though she quickly realized that "the point of diversity workshops, or multicultural talks, was not to inspire any real change but to leave people feeling good about themselves" (377). She blogged anonymously from home under the name "The Blogger" (376) but still dressed up in dress pants and lipstick to take calls. Soon, Ifemelu was able to buy a condo for herself. She felt uncomfortable at times with how much her blog took over her life and her persona. Chapter 33 ends with another blog post, this one an open thread providing a safe space for "Zipped-Up Negroes" (380).

Ifemelu visited a "Blogging While Brown convention" (381) where she saw Blaine for the first time since their encounter on the train. At first she thought he didn't remember her, but a comment about malls showed that he remembered their conversation well. They hit it off again at the convention and by that winter they were flirting over texts and blog comments, having homemade dinner and sex, and moving in together. Specifically, Ifemelu moved to New Haven and started to share Blaine's life of organic food, flossing, and intellectual friends. Ifemelu first met Araminta, Blaine's best friend who was a female black architect and also made fun of his intellectual friends; Araminta foreshadows Ifemelu's later relationship with Blaine's sister Shan who we find out now is "an interesting character" (386). Aside from the health food, Ifemelu was also uncomfortable with the way Blaine was making suggestions about her blog posts that caused her to edit some parts and even take whole posts down because of sounding too intellectual or judgmental. In the face of Ifemelu's complaints about wanting her blog to be one of observations, Blaine called her "lazy" (387). Blaine also attempted to educate Ifemelu in abstract art, John Coltrane, and literature that "push[es] boundaries" (387). Unlike in her relationship with Curt, Ifemelu told her parents that she was dating Blaine and that she was moving to New Haven to live with him. Her phone call with her parents was generally positive, but her father's use of the word "Negro" (389) prompted her to change the name of her blog to "Raceteenth or Various Observations About American Blacks (Those Formerly Known as Negroes) by a Non-American Black" (389). In a blog post excerpt, Ifemelu suggests that for America to accept that people are still racists, or still think and behave in racist ways, there may need to be a re-branding of racism as a psychological disorder.

One night, Ifemelu woke up and heard Blaine on the phone talking to his sister. He asked Ifemelu to go with him to the city to visit her because she's having "another small meltdown" (391) due to problems with a book she's trying to publish. The narration skips to their visit - the first time that Ifemelu met Shan. She was completely entrancing to all around her, and once she deigned to talk to Ifemelu after greetings with her brother, Ifemelu found herself saying things that surprised herself. Blaine acted differently in front of his sister, drawing out the pronunciations of French words and not critiquing the sweeping generalizations Shan sometimes made about race and society. In the end, Ifemelu invited Shan to be a guest blogger on her blog. The chapter ends with a blog post excerpt about Obama as a "Magic Negro" (398).

By Chapter 36, Ifemelu and Blaine have been dating for a year. They were at a birthday party with lots of Blaine's friends - Marcia, Benny, Michael, and Paula, Blaine's ex-girlfriend, who ended their relationship by cheating on him with another woman named Paula, now called Pee since they began dating seriously. They ate soul food, which Ifemelu did not like, and chatted back and forth with Ifemelu staying quiet. Paula told Ifemelu that she had her students reading Ifemelu's blog and they talked about her post "Friendly Tips for the American Non-Black: How to React to an American Black Talking About Blackness" (403), which encourages non-blacks to listen rather than compare or explain away black experiences. On TV, they watched Barack Obama who was announcing his candidacy for president to the hope and criticism of those at the party. When they got home, Ifemelu told Blaine that she was jealous of what she saw between him and Paula at the party, especially the way they shared culture through food. This chapter ends with a blog post about "Traveling While Black" (410), a book about someone's experiences as an American black traveling the world and being stared at with intentions ranging from curiosity to hostility.

Chapter 37 opens with a little on Dike, both Ifemelu's continued relationship with him and his individual growth and identity. Dike grew into a high school student at the center of a group of white friends. The narrative then skips back again to Ifemelu's relationships with Blaine and Shan, showing Ifemelu's first time at Shan's "salon" (413). Ifemelu met more trendy, highly-educated people - Grace, Omar, Maribelle, Joan, Bill, and Ashanti - and talked about Shan's book and the notes her editor kept trying to give about the way black people talk. The group talked about the possibility of any black author writing an "honest novel about race" (418) and Shan noted that Ifemelu's blog was only successful because she's African, not African American. The blog post that ends this chapter discusses whether Obama is "anything but black" (419) since he has a white mother, concluding that he would always be labeled a black man because race depends not on biology but on how others perceive you.

In the next chapter, Ifemelu discusses meeting a Senegalese professor named Boubacar who she became friends with and who suggested that she apply to Princeton's fellowship, though Blaine did not like the man, perhaps because of "something primally African from which he felt excluded" (421). While she was talking to Boubacar one day after observing his class, an assistant professor named Kavanagh came in to invite them to a lunch the next day; at the same time, Ifemelu received a text from Blaine about how an old black security guard at the university library, Mr. White, was questioned by the police because someone saw him giving car keys to a friend and thought they were exchanging drugs. Blaine arranged a protest for the next day, feverishly making calls and plans, and he expected Ifemelu to come. However, Ifemelu did not go, and instead attended the Kavanagh's lunch and then went home, telling Blaine that she had accidentally napped too long. The next day, Blaine found out that she had lied and he was very angry; he lectured her, saying she couldn't keep a blog about race and then not take racial matters like the protest seriously. She called Araminta, his old friend, to talk about how to deal with it, but a cold silence between them lasted for three days before Ifemelu packed a small bag and went to Willow. The chapter ends with a blog post about white privilege and the fact that it persists even deeper than the divisions of wealth and social class.

Back in Willow, Ifemelu watched Aunty Uju do yoga while binging on chocolate bars. Aunty Uju and Dike told Ifemelu about his being accused of hacking the school's computers though he knew nothing about hacking. Dike also told her about other ways he was treated differently; the pastor's wife tried to be cool by saying "What's up, bro?" (433) to him, and his friends asked him jokingly "Got some weed?" (433). Blaine did not return Ifemelu's calls for nine days, but finally he consented to let her come home and cook with him. As they made coconut rice together, Ifemelu tried to hug Blaine, but he shrugged away. The short chapter ends with a blog post on "Understanding America... What Things Really Mean" (435), going over words like "diversity" (435) and "culture" (436).

Though they did not break up at this point, Ifemelu and Blaine's relationship changed; the passion between them ebbed. They kept together so long because of one thing: Barack Obama's 2008 campaign for presidency. Ifemelu first supported Hillary Clinton, but after reading Obama's book Dreams from My Father, she came to believe in him. From then on, Ifemelu and Blaine worried together every day about the election, keeping up with every tiny scandal and bit of news, even checking feverishly every morning to make sure Obama was still alive. During this time, Ifemelu was accepted to the competitive fellowship at Princeton. She told Blaine but vowed not to move until after the election. They had sex on the day that Obama became the Democratic Party nominee and discussed the real possibility of Obama's election, as well as his various political moves with regard to race and gender with their friends often. On election day, Obama won Pennsylvania, Ohio, and then finally the toss-up state, Virginia. Everyone cried, and Ifemelu got a text from Dike saying that he couldn't believe his president is black like him. The chapter ends with a blog post about "the Special White Friend" (448).

The narration returns to the hair salon for Chapter 41, where Ifemelu and Aisha talk about how to get "papers" (450). When Aisha starts to cry, Ifemelu begins to sympathize with her and and promises that she will talk to the Igbo man Chijioke about marrying her. As she leaves, Ifemelu gets a call from Aunty Uju saying that Dike has attempted suicide by taking pills but that he is in the hospital now. Part 4 ends with Ifemelu telling Aunty Uju that she will go to Willow to be with them tomorrow and wondering what she was doing as Dike swallowed the pills.


When Ifemelu reflects upon her past boyfriends, a parallel emerges between Obinze and Blaine who both try to force her to read and enjoy books that they enjoy and think are worthy of interest, both of them suggesting books that she sees as dry or overly intellectual. Ifemelu fights back the most when Obinze tells her to read Huckleberry Finn, a book that epitomizes his love of American culture without true understanding of its current state, which she gives back to him only having read a small portion. In contrast, by the time she dates Blaine she is more accepting of his suggestions, and feels guilty when she does not see the riches that he does in his books as well as his preferred art and music, all of which demonstrate his high level of education and his immersion in the American black culture she observes but is not truly a part of.

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 does go on to single out Ifemelu's blog as successful because she is African rather than an African American, the reader is led to question whether Shan's forceful statement is ironic due to the success of Americanah or whether the statement could be true and the book less "honest" than the reader believes it to be.

As Ifemelu and Blaine's relationship starts to falter, it seems that the similarities in their experiences and goals, as dictated in large part by their race, keeps them together, and the differences in these two experiences seems to push them apart. This is symbolized by the major fight at the end of their relationship, a rift that they never really recover from, when Ifemelu does not go to Blaine's protest and then lies to him about the reason why. While this event demonstrates Ifemelu's disconnect to black American issues, Ifemelu and Blaine are kept together by Barack Obama's presidential campaign, which causes them to feel mutually hopeful and terrified, showing that this issue goes beyond Ifemelu's nationality.

One moment of particular interest is when Ifemelu's father uses the word "Negro" (389) while on the phone with her, which prompts her to change the name of her blog to "Raceteenth or Various Observations About American Blacks (Those Formerly Known as Negroes) by a Non-American Black" (389). She does not mention any response, either positive or negative, to this change within the book, but the name undoubtedly pushes boundaries by using the word "Negro" while acknowledging that she does not identify with this word.

Back to back with this moment is a blog post in which Ifemelu suggests that for America to accept that people are still racists, or still think and behave in racist ways, there may need to be a re-branding of racism as a psychological disorder. Ifemelu has already noted the way in which Americans are much more willing than Nigerians to acknowledge mental illness like depression, and this tongue-in-cheek suggestion resonates strongly with America's paired issues of the over-diagnosis of some psychological disorders and the racial tensions of the 2000s.