Tuesday, 14 May 2013 05:22

Americanah: A Critical Perspective In Ambrose Ehirim

Written by 
Americanah as Published by Random House Americanah as Published by Random House

Americanah, when it was published and launched in April, I face-booked it that anyone in diaspora, including those coming abroad for the first time for diaspora lifestyle should read it. It made eloquent sense as reviewers have come to show. The entire work shows in new ways as captured, imagined and experienced by the author a vivid exploration of being African in America, and indeed, any where else Nigerians and Africans converge with their complex dreams in pursuit of more valued things of life.

Americanah, a novel, is the very most recent entry by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, and it is published by Random House, with a voluminous 477 pages counting and prized at $26.95 for a copy. Ambrose Ehirim contests his passion for this recent novel and other works of the author, Adichie. He paints the picture of a common knowledge and notion immigrants coming from Nigeria carry with them and vigorously discuss them at meeting places and at the same time tend to use explorative chatting expeditions of the "been to" and "checking out" craze to learn and adapt in new areas that they settle down to live a life. 

Ambrose Ehirim highlights that Adichie's "Half of a Yellow Sun" stands out in all her stables as the biggest score in marketing and popularity, including positioning in literature which most prizes had gone to, giving her the brand name to sell any novel with her signature attached to it, whether the book was well written and made sense or not, which seems to be the case in her newest entry "Americanah."

For Ambrose Ehirim in a critical and passionate stand point, Americanah" is not a great tale considering the expectations and the following that shot her second novel to the top. Nigerian authors - home and Diaspora - always have the pleasure to begin the enterprise of their books on the home turf where the turnouts in book launchings are huge, graced by festivities and merry-making, big volume sales and sometimes, ridiculously bankrolled when details of the book has not been known or reviewed.

Reuters photo-journalist Akintunde Akinleye, Associated Press' Sunday Alamba, host of related international press and local Nigerian journalists were handy during Adichie's book launch and signing ceremony Saturday, April 27, 2013, in Lagos. The lukewarm photogenic author sat and stood in front of the cameras posing with her new book, signing autographs along the novel and answering questions from curious readers and the press on the thoughts and writing of "Americanah." Adichie had a new hair-do and fascinated about it all drawing from the books Ifemelu character, multicolored dress and classically figured, except for the not needed heavy make-ups she was wearing obviously displaying she wasn't much comfortble with the excessiveness of painting on her face.

Most folks who explored the United States and elsewhere in the Western Hemisphere during the push factor years, the economic, social, religious and reasons of things like that to why one was compelled to relocate and the aspirations for further academic pursuits is what Adichie is now telling us in the "Americanah" saga, from around which some lost hope but kept sticking around, keeping body and soul one, for opportunities that may knock on their doors as sighs of relief in what had been a stretch, to survive, doing whatever it took out of the very worst situations to overcome their predicaments.

It was common. But, though, some had no difficulties from the goodwill that came from either generated government welfare programs or their respective families who had adequate cash possessions.

Stories so similar and told over and over the years, Adichie goes on to tell us the uncertainties that had clouded the survival instincts and the determination to fulfill what had been ambitiously waited for before departure only to be confronted with what had been totally strange, taking culture into account, and the social aspect of the new world they had come to adopt and call home. The similarities of the long hurdle to adapt to the situations and become normal, and being used to what goes, surviving all odds, fulfilling what had been the dream and, realizing what it had taken and the time spent to be accomplished, which had been desired through diligence, patience, commitment and, eventually, hard work in which there was no substitute, ultimately becoming the pursued ideal, is nothing new to the push factor most Nigerians encountered over the years in their quest for a better life Adichie brought up in her new entry.

And the adventure had popped up with the zeal not to fail when caught up in crossroads in between having to make decisions on two choices as option; the consequences of having made the wrong choice which could turn out disastrous by its nature and what the future might hold; the pains after all attempts with nothing seemingly working out; the high expectations from native-land where all eyes watched for prospects of a promising future, and, what the consequences could be for a life time, if all had failed, including the expectations from a relationship elsewhere on the globe, in the United Kingdom; had not been clear and in limbo  with immigration problems which surely wasn't promising until that stroke of luck unshackled what had been a barrier and an emerged breakthrough that changed everything, and fortune coming his way though not what had been planned and anticipated.

No question, Adichie has catapulted herself to the top, in the ranks of respected Nigerian novelists and inventing "Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie" as a public intellectual on the parallel with most, and somewhere in between Flora Nwapa, Wole Soyinka and Chinua Achebe. In her apparent tribute to the latter who passed away on March 21, 2013 in Boston, Adichie showed appreciation and acknowledgement to the man who had driven the force and how she trooped on from a mark that is now defining her, and owing much to the man's work, and also, much to her own efforts as to how far she came even though in reviewing the man's "There Was A Country", and despite giving credits to the points made in the book as far as the story goes on the said war, she derided the publication as carelessly done with repetitions, wordiness and avoidable mistakes.

"Americanah" is unnecessarily wordy, too. The events that unfolded from the native-land in preparedness to relocate from an unstable country that was full of uncertainties was retold in many instances. The cities - New Haven, Baltimore, Brooklyn, Princeton and Trenton; the Gothic structures; the motorists while she poked around; the niteclubs; visit to her aunt Uju at the Flatlands and several other encounters with people of race, culture - and what that meant to Ifemelu, describing them the way she thought desirable for each like the cities with its distinct kind of smell except Princeton being smell free is pretty much close Adichie was telling her own story and life experiences in a typical relationship with partners attached to each other and denied access to be together in the United States by the unfortunate events of 9/11 and the restrictions on immigration.

There are no expectations of something significantly different from the "Americanah" adventure begun by Ifemelu, from the usual concept of bad regimes typical of Nigeria's dominance by military juntas and situations in that regard which compels one to seek decent life elsewhere that we haven't known or seen practically like the case of Ifemelu who had moved to the shores of the United States commencing an entirely new life with aspirations in a world totally different from where she had escaped.

Enter Obinze, Ifemelu's sweetheart originally established as first lovers from what the story tells us, back in Nigeria as students in a military regime that is not encouraging for one to keep staying in the country which had both lovers become desperate to leave the country. Obinze had problems with the restrictions imposed by the United States on the effects of 9/11 which denied him access, leaving him with an option to go elsewhere besides America. He founds himself in the United Kingdom where the going got tougher, unlike Ifemelu in the US, though tough but better overall, Obinze did what he had to do.  He had cash while Ifemelu blogged successfully. Both made it back home missing each other for 15 years and unsure of how to continue and get along.

"Americanah"  is a typical story told from an immigrant's perspective coupled by the encounters and revelations and the blogging of events as it unfolded in contrast to Obinze's unfavorable engagements in the United Kingdom, though eventually wealthy and all in all, in a journey that had taken 15 years to decide if both were still meant for each other remains a puzzle the author intends to unveil elsewhere, or probably bent on tales of love, distant relationship, misfortunes and both finally accomplished on different platforms and, now hard to reach decisions on whether to continue with a relationship that had been marred by circumstances beyond their control.

From: Adichie's Love Tales And The Push Factor

Scrutinized by Ambrose Ehirim/The Ambrose Ehirim Files 

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Patrick Iroegbu Ph.D

Patrick Iroegbu is a Social and Cultural (Medical) Anthropologist and lectures Anthropology in Canada. He is the author of Marrying Wealth, Marrying Poverty: Gender and Bridewealth Power in a Changing African Society: The Igbo of Nigeria (2007). He equally co-ordinates the Kpim Book Series Project of Father-Prof. Pantaleon Foundation based at Owerri, Nigeria. Research interests include gender and development, migration, race and ethnic relation issues, as well as Igbo Medicine, Social Mental Health and Cultural Studies.

Website: www.igbomedicine.webs.com