Feminism, Popular Culture
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Race, Hair, Feminism and Norms: A Review of Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

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This is a book review that is a part of my goal for 2016 – to read twelve books by twelve female authors, one book for every month. 

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s assertiveness to culture clashes, social norms, and relationships spellbinds the reader of Americanah – a love story infused by comedy and drama, focusing on a young Nigerian woman’s perspective of the world around her.

Americanah is not only a great book and a fascinating story, it is an important read that dissects modern culture and unveils layers of racism, and sexism. It is through the main character Ifemelu, a bright and outspoken young woman from Nigeria, who has the chance to study in the United States, that the reader is made aware of societal norms that inhibits the lives of young women, and particularly African American or Non-American Black women in the United States.

In ways, I familiarize myself with Ifemelu, who moves to a new country, and experiences cultural differences that can be both amusing and daunting. She challenges norms around her, but also adapts to her new surroundings, an adaptation that she questions and challenges.

However, Americanah has also opened my eyes to issues that I have only thought to have comprehended at the surface – issues of race, issues that affect the daily lives of young black women in the United States (and Nigeria). I especially appreciated the parts of the book about hair – more specifically, about the war on black women’s hair – the expectation of women to not wear their hair naturally, but to straighten (relax) their hair with toxic chemicals, in order to not only fit the white ideal, but to be taken seriously at job interviews or as a professionals in the workplace.

The book reminds us of the misrepresentation of women and the skewed representation of black women – the need for us to continue to raise each other’s voices and know when it is time for us (as white, as European, as American) to just listen, to ask and to understand.

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s writing is infused by descriptive and smart observations of characters and places, which generates laughter at times and provokes thought throughout. Americanah is a love story that one wants to savour and devour at the same time.

Cover Photo Credit: Howard County Library System’s Miller Branch (Flickr/Creative Commons)

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