Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie – Americanah
“ – but she talked and talked, perhaps because of the newness of her own voice” (p. 177), or
Why I chose Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie to lead off my blog.
I didn’t plan to use Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s Americanah as my first blog post, but there is something prophetic about how this tome kept falling in and out of my hands.
When I came upon the centrality to the novel of the blog of her main character Ifemelu, I knew with a writer’s uncanny discernment for the gift that comes at right moment out of nowhere, that I should sit up and take some lessons. But there are good lessons and bad lessons, for Ifemelu, like the rest of us, is no saint.
From Adichie’s Ifemelu, here’s what I’ll take:
I’ll take the vigor of the speaking voice, the welcome of challenge to tackle hard but interesting subjects. I’ll take the urge to spontaneous response that knows that sometimes the only choice left is tough – you have to get in there and do the job, even though you’re likely to emerge with battered self-esteem and sticky hands. I’ll take the astuteness and good eye for the contemporary, the breadth of reading on and the analysis of human endeavour. The intelligence, the depth of introspection and the electrifying no-holes-barred confrontation with honesty, these, too, I’ll take.
For although Ifemelu’s blog is fictive, it is palpably real; I want that high bar for my blog.
But from Adichie’s Ifemelu, here is what I will not take:
I promise this blog will not be used to dissemble and disguise rant, to rationalise failings, or to bully the reader into accepting self-righteous morality.
But what I’ll certainly emulate is the spunk and the aura of possibility that make Ifemelu, the blogger, a credible character – a seeker, a watcher, a learner, and a go-getter, a person who would rather go silent than settle for convenient chatter.
Still the blog lessons are not the only reason that I’ve chosen Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie to lead off this blog.
The novel’s debt to the hair braiding salon, the invisible powerhouse behind the blog, is just as large.
Don’t take for granted this house of mirrors.
The blog arises here – in the shedding and the cleansing and the weaving and the letting down of hair. The process is a long patient, talking-through of crafting towards renewal. A fresh, tight, but comfortable face emerges to front decisions made.
This is why I could never forgive Ifemelu’s betrayal of Aisha. And please don’t tell me that after 6 hours of letting down her hair and having it all done up again in a do that gives her a brave face to meet the world, all Ifemelu can leave Aisha are tears of defeatism and a 20$ tip. I know this is not a fairy tale. More to the point, her nephew Dike is not a plot-plausible excuse. Not good enough!
Go read Americanah and you’ll see what I’m talking about.