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Americanah cover art

Americanah

By: Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Narrated by: Adjoa Andoh
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Summary

Shortlisted for the Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction 2014.

From the award-winning author of Half of a Yellow Sun, a powerful story of love, race and identity. 

As teenagers in Lagos, Ifemelu and Obinze fall in love. Their Nigeria is under military dictatorship, and people are fleeing the country if they can. The self-assured Ifemelu departs for America. There she suffers defeats and triumphs, finds and loses relationships, all the while feeling the weight of something she never thought of back home: race. Obinze had hoped to join her, but post-9/11 America will not let him in, and he plunges into a dangerous, undocumented life in London. Thirteen years later, Obinze is a wealthy man in a newly democratic Nigeria, while Ifemelu has achieved success as a blogger. But after so long apart and so many changes, will they find the courage to meet again, face to face?

Fearless, gripping, spanning three continents and numerous lives, the National Book Critics Circle Award-winning Americanah is a richly told story of love and expectation set in today’s globalised world.

©2013 Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (P)2013 W F Howes Ltd

Critic reviews

“Actress Adjoa Andoh brings to life Adichie’s complex, beautifully wrought novel – which is both a love story and a nuanced analysis of political topics including systemic racism in America; immigration in the UK; and the class system in Nigeria.” (Vogue)

"One of the previous decade’s landmark novels [...] Andoh is a skilled, exciting narrator." (The Times)

"Andoh's rich voice and distinct characters and rhythm keep the listener engrossed.... Andoh has fun adopting a mocking lilt for Ifemelu's snarky blog entries.... [and] a more serious tone brings authenticity to the heartbreak of Obinze's London experience." ( AudioFile

What listeners say about Americanah

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Life-changing

This was well-near perfect. The narration was fantastic and had me speaking in a Nigerian accent to myself and saying the names to myself because the sounds that made them up were so beautiful. The story was powerful, authentic, moving and challenging. As a white person who grew up in South Africa during apartheid and then moved to England, I felt heartbroken at some of the experiences that are portrayed in this book. The author has written a sensitive, deeply moving story about what it means to be a black person in the modern world. Ifemelu is a wonderful heroine - she has her faults but she grows through the experiences that happen to her and we really come to love her as she comes to love and accept herself. I cannot recommend this book highly enough. Half of a yellow sun was fantastic, but Americanah is faultless.

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70 people found this helpful

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The Best Read Book from Audible

The reader of this compelling story was better than anyone I have ever heard.
She juggled American, British, Nigerian, Senegalese and other accents so masterfully. I was mesmerised.

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51 people found this helpful

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Surprisingly boring

I normally like Adichie’s style and stories, but this book felt different. The protagonists' story is engaging at the start, but then the narration turns into a lecture about racism. It felt as if the author wanted to make a point, and then bang it over your head again and again, and then some more. I don’t disagree with the points she’s trying to make, but rather with the delivery- if I’d wanted to be lectured about how white folks don’t realize they’re being racist, I would’ve read an essay. All the secondary characters seem to be exactly the same- arrogant, pretentious and unaware of their racism and ignorance about Africa, whether they are in the London or the US. One would expect more subtlety and skill from an author of this magnitude.
All in all, this novel is not remotely as engaging or insightful as Half of a Yellow Sun or The Purple Ibiscus and the tonal repetitions of similar episodes make the reading quite dull. I wish it had been much shorter or edited better, perhaps then I would’ve enjoyed it more. Still, not an entirely terrible listen, particularly thanks to the ability of the narrator, who displays a vast array of accents.

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21 people found this helpful

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Entertaining and poignant

What made the experience of listening to Americanah the most enjoyable?

The narrator was excellent, bringing alive the different cultures and circumstances of the main characters

Who was your favorite character and why?

Efamala, by far the most interesting, her take on cultural differences and norms were so well observed

Which scene did you most enjoy?

Probably the hairdressing scene, where she is making a major change because she can as she is successful, whereas the hairdresser is stuck in an underworld with no choices and no hope. Life chances, choice and individual determination are all thrown into the pot in this scene. Very memorable

Did you have an emotional reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

It made me sad in so many ways. Migrants hardship, very day battles coping with different and alien circumstances, while facing hostility and prejudice are all dealt with, however not really with any sense of being a victim

Any additional comments?

The real triumph of this book is that the two main characters find success in their homeland, hardship, misery and success overseas brings fresh insights and resolution. It's really well read, I Could actually feel the crowds and the heat of Nigeria as well as picture the warehouse scene in London with clarity.
I would definitely read more from this author

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A superb achievement

I loved this book. The story is convincing, I cared about the main characters, I was kept guessing, and I was drawn completely into their world.

Ifemelu's journey – from an outsider to whom everything is new and unexpectedly strange, to confident resident alien in the USA – was one I could relate to from personal experience. Like her, I was eventually pulled back home, never entirely feeling a sense of belonging, yet recognising the positive aspects of American life and values that are often overlooked by the country's critics (many of them from a point of ignorance).

The descriptions of American society and the minefield of cultural groupings and sensitivities that take so long to navigate are right on the mark here. Yet the narrative flows naturally, the characters have depth (even when they're apparently there to represent stereotypes!), and the social observation blends seamlessly with the story itself: Ifemelu's account of how her life unfolds, and to a lesser extent Obinze's story in England, too. Most of all, the love story is powerful and completely credible. It's a masterpiece of storytelling.

The narration is virtually flawless and I enjoyed having this story read to me. I'll probably go back to the beginning and listen to it all again!

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13 people found this helpful

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If only it had been shorter!

The parts of the story set in Nigeria are really engaging and interesting, but the dominant section in the USA is far too long and the plot is a thin vehicle for the author's preoccupations. The English section cliched. It takes considerable commitment to soldier through to the end despite the wholly excellent narrator, who is the real star of the story.

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Culture shock

A story of love that endures, but most of all about the dream of America, and the harsh reality of immigrant/ expat life. This story brought back memories of my high school year in the US, ages ago, and of Janet from Kenya and Elizabeth from Sierra Leone who befriended and overwhelmed me with their warm, open and slightly scary otherness. I found this story at times uncomfortable and slightly nauseating. Maybe the long stretches of description of adapting to life in the US were a little too efficient in conveying the feelings of the protagonist. At other times I felt the narrative was overly talkative and eager to convince, but preaching to the converted in my case. It may have been the audio book format that got to me, as it forces the listener to swallow every word, instead of being able to skim the less interesting bits. I enjoyed the parts of the narrative set in Nigeria, purely because it describes a different, and therefore interesting place, and the way of thinking, the difference, but also the sheer humanity of people living there. Though I could personally relate to the protagonist's critical attitude and feeling of superiority, she sometimes annoyed me. I felt that in fighting prejudice, the narrator did not always see her own prejudice.
All in all a book I am glad to have read.

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For those of us in diaspora

Would you consider the audio edition of Americanah to be better than the print version?

Yes because of the various accents, which brings the story home

What was one of the most memorable moments of Americanah?

Most memorable part was Obinze's plight in London, I can relate to that on so many levels.

What about Adjoa Andoh’s performance did you like?

Okay but I would recommend getting coaching on pronouncing the Igbo words properly so it doesn't lose it's mean..

Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

Very much so

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Simply Wonderful

What made the experience of listening to Americanah the most enjoyable?

this book had me from the first chapter right to the end. It was such an engrossing story and I was so sad when I realised I was reaching the end.

What does Adjoa Andoh bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you had only read the book?

Adjoa Andoh is s brilliant narrator, she navigates all the accents and even the mixed accents and really does a great job bringing it to life.

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Another great story from Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

This book got me hooked. Not immediately, but within maybe 1 hour of listening I couldnt stop and during the weeks I listened to it, I lived for my car journeys and time spent with my earphones in.

Americanah is the story of Ifemelu, a girl who leaves Nigeria for America to study. She isn't hugely academic but follows a fairly academic life course, exploring issues of race from within America from an outsiders perspective. Alongside this, her relationships past and present are explored, up to the point when she returns to Nigeria (an 'Americanah') and confronts her past.

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie is in my opinion one of today's most talented writers. Alongside Purple Hibiscus and Half of a Yellow Sun it is an incredible story which is captivating, wonderfully written, and truly takes the reader (or in my case, Listener) on a journey.

I will probably buy this book in print despite having listened to it as an audiobook first, because I do want to read bits again and have a physical copy - it's that enjoyable.

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