Serendip is an independent site partnering with faculty at multiple colleges and universities around the world. Happy exploring!

You are here

Reflection on Americanah

The Unknown's picture

            Ifemelu associates smells with places she’s visited. As Ifemeleu questions United States’ sayings, she reveals how bizarre they are. Ifemelu comments on the different connotations of words. Ifemelu learns about how controlling language can be and how certain words, ideas, or phrases that one hears or sees should not be repeated. Ifemelu is constantly being pulled between two places and times: Nigeria and the USA. Ifemelu finds strength and power in independence. Ifemelu describes a feeling of discomfort while riding in a taxi with a Nigerian driver. Ifemelu has to go to a black neighborhood to get her hair braided. Adiche describes the expectation that people speak “American.”  Ifemelu sees a great deal of violence on the television screen at the salon that Ifemelu goes to, to get her hair braided. Halima, one of the braiders smiles at Ifemelu in “warm knowingness” because they find a connection in both being from Africa. Ifemelu sees the merits in black womyn wearing their hair natural; she appreciates the way she looks whereas Aisha, one of the hairdressers thinks that Black womyn should put relaxer in their hair to make it easier to comb. When a Nigerian womyn appears on the screen, Aisha assumes Ifemelu should know her because Ifemelu is Nigerian. Aisha has become accustomed to life in the United States and she is worried about “fitting in” in Nigeria. Aisha asks Ifemelu many personal questions. Ifemelu’s father is fired for not calling an older white womyn, “Mummy” (56). Ifemelu’s father uses his “mannered English” to make up for/ mask his lack of education. Ifemelu sees her own mother in Sister Ibanabo. Ifemelu is rebellious. Ifemelu reproduces and calls attention to gender roles while playing with Ginika, Mills, and Boon; they “act out” the activity of having sex. Obinze is interested in US literature and Ifemelu questions and is not fond of the poetry she reads in school with Obinze. “I was eight months old when my parents took me to America. I kept telling my mom that she should have gone earlier and had me there!” (79). Ifemelu was one of the most intelligent people in her class in high school. “She would not be here if she had not done so well on the entrance examination, if her father had not been determined that she would go to ‘a school that builds both character and career” (80). Obinze has a good rapport with his mother, while at the same time ashamed of the way she pronounces certain words like, “schedule” (86). Obinze’s mother asks Ifemelu to love her son “without making love” (87). Obinze’s mother describes the responsibility that comes with sex to Ifemelu. At the end of the chapter, Ifemelu claims her power and control over her body, “But who told you we are ever going to start anything?” (88). Ifemelu’s father cannot afford to pay his landlord rent even though he’s a doctor. “Ifemelu watched, fascinated. It was here, at a Lagos salon, that the different ranks of imperial femaleness were best understood” (93). Aunty Uju had a sexual relationship with and cares deeply for the General. Aunty Uju defends The General’s actions in-front of Ifemelu. “I don’t want to meet anybody, Aunty Uju said, and there was quiet, as though each of them had to catch their breath, Aunty Uju’s words a gale that tore through their assumptions” (100).

            Ifemelu was met with resistance for outing people that share many of her identities in her blog. When is it acceptable to criticize people of one’s own race/ nationality/ background? When Ifemelu writes about the Nigerpolitan Club, why does she out successful people?