Americanah – #newworldnovel

In #newworldnovel, Features, HOME, LITERATURE by Sonia Muhwezi

#newworldnovel is a feature in which we get people to tell us which book they’d choose if they had to leave earth today and go to a brand new world empty of all our literature. Would they choose something to comfort themselves or would they choose something to help whatever may live or come to live in this new world?

Americanah – Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

SnoozeAmericanahI have no specific home, I have moved around all my life; I’ve been to all four corners of Africa, spent six years in the UK and at one period, temporarily made the US my home. Thus, I was greatly moved by Americanah, a book that somehow acknowledged all the highs and lows, frustrations and joys of my being a stranger in whichever country I moved to.

Ever since I was a child, I was a voracious reader. I looked like your typical quiet book-nerd: over-sized glasses, skinny legs and a book permanently in front of my face. Reading was my private joy. Then university hit with its mile-high reading lists – chock-full of dry material – and soon reading was no longer my favourite pastime, but rather something I put aside in favour of episodes of The Vampire Diaries (which required no brainpower at all). Then Americanah popped into my life.

Despite the recent hype, I have known about Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie for quite some time. All of her works are present in the family bookcase; my mother has always been a fan. So I was aware of all the buzz surrounding her newest release; talk that it might be her greatest yet. But it wasn’t until I sat down one day and downloaded it onto my Kindle that I recalled my forgotten joy in reading.

Here was a book that spoke to me (pardon the cliché). It captured all my experiences of being a black African woman; who never had to think about race until I left the continent, who had to deal with ignorant jibes about how I do not fit the African stereotype.

What really got to me was when she started talking about hair, the crowning glory that unites (and often divides) black women. The excerpt where the protagonist of the book, Ifemelu, has her hair braided in a certain side of town that could only cater to kinky African hair, is something I am all-too-familiar with. It was that first chapter that recaptured my joy in reading.

And it is also why I would carry that book with me into the outer nether regions of space. Everyone I have talked to whom has read this book has fallen in love with it. Granted most of these people are not black Nigerians, like Ifemelu, yet they have found a way to relate to Chimamanda’s storytelling of the experience of moving away from your home country and navigating your way through the UK and/or the US.

What it comes down to is that it is one of a very exclusive number of books that I feel captures human emotion – love, sadness, anger – in its rawest form and is unabashed in showing it. Luckily I have it on my Kindle so with my constant movement, I can’t displace misplace it…unless I lose my Kindle of course.

Susan Ssebatindira

Susan has just finished her Msc in Development Studies (aka her Masters in Saving The World). She used to partake in harmless school library theft, but has since graduated onto the occasional clown-porn improv.  She’s already met her soulmate: Sleep. Whenever. Wherever. They’re meant to be together.

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