PETRIe Contributor, Catherine Karellis, curates her top five books to add to your reading list this year. Having started with Reading Lolita in Tehran and divulged the beauty of The Art of Travel and discussed coming-of-age in The Cat’s Table. Next on her list is Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie.
Americanah (Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie)
“As they walked out of the store, Ifemelu said, “I was waiting for her to ask ‘Was it the one with two eyes or the one with two legs?’ Why didn’t she just ask ‘Was it the black girl or the white girl?’”
Ginika laughed. “Because this is America. You’re supposed to pretend that you don’t notice certain things.”
On the surface, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s novel is a love story between the free-spirited Ifemelu and the more reserved Obinze. Ifemelu moves to the United States to continue her studies, while a few years later, Obinze moves to Britain.
However, Adichie’s tour-de-force is a lot more than a love story, albeit the elements of this genre are present. It is also about displacement, what it means to leave home behind and, crucially, what it means to return to it.
Adichie has jokingly quipped that this novel is about hair: and in many ways, it is. Black hair becomes an important vehicle through which Adichie addresses racism and sexism - a conversation that is all the more pertinent in light of ‘Don’t Cash Crop My Cornrows’, actress Amandla Stenberg’s recent video about the appropriation of black culture.
Above all, it is a dissection of race and structural inequality, characterised by uncomfortable truths. With an upcoming film adaptation in the works, the timing couldn’t be better to pick up this searing and uncompromising novel.
Words: Catherine Karellis