Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Americanah



The language was fluent, almost like poetry at times. The content was similar. It's a Nigerian take on Nigeria and on America; a little on England as well but it was constrained to illegal immigration and not cultural observation.
The blatant statements with which the cultural differences are explained, subtly give you more insight into the Nigerian culture and how the political change had unveiled a richness in Nigeria for the public that was so unexpected in their life time.
May be it's too simplistic to say this: but if Lagos was replaced with Mumbai, Abuja with Delhi, Igbo with Gujarati, the political change with the 1991 opening up of the Indian markets, and changed all the names to traditionally common Indian names except Dike which would be a modernised Indian name, the Nigerian culture is not too different. There would be men who made a lot of money on corrupt real estate deals in Mumbai. Most of them would not have ethics and talk like Obinze's friends. And there would be people like Obinze who are so self righteous until they step over their own lines. There would be people like his dutiful wife. Then there would be people like Ifemelu. But then again, may be it's the same in Senegal or Mexico or Indonesia or Poland or Greece or Ireland or England or the United States of America; it's the degree of which that might differ, perhaps mostly based on the degree of implementation of the safety and healthcare.
Ifemelu. That's the story. It's about her middle class upright upbringing in Nigeria and her unexpected move to US. It's about her college sweetheart Obinze and his lost American dream. It's her transformation into a  blogger of her judgemental yet eye-opening blog, following her transformation into a Black person the minute she steps into US (and then again she stops being black once she lands in Lagos later). In the meantime Obinze tries his luck in England instead of being stuck in the comfortable yet depressingly pointless life in Nigeria. And then he comes back to Nigeria and hustles his way to become one among the rich, with a trophy wife that his righteousness almost despises. That's the story.
What binds Ifemelu and Obinze together is their thoughts that question and the tendency not to accept the dictates of a society and a drifting life style, irrespective of the country they live in. The action of course, not always following the thought, leaves sometimes one and most times the other, frustrated with status quo. And that is what the book is about. The frustrations of things that are and things that are newly discovered and things that should have been discovered. The frustrations of what life is and what you desired it to be. Sometimes it can be a bit whiny but very honest nonetheless.
The book ends in a happy tone though it doesn't really matter what the ending is because it was never about a story anyway.
If you are looking for an inside view of Nigeria this book doesn't help much. Neither does it help to look for the point of view of a black person in US or an illegal black immigrant in the UK. But if you are looking for a book where the author connects with you at a very personal level and speaks to you directly in a very matter of fact tone and stating the obvious but in a deeply endearing manner, occasionally lyrical, occasionally annoying, always transparent, this one's for you. And of course, if you are a film maker, this is one is perfect for you.

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