June 2017 - Americanah, by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

bookclub
americanah

(Jennifer D.) #1

We are so excited to be featuring Americanah, by Chimamanda Ngozie Adichie, as our June book club selection!

The reading and discussion will kickoff on June 1st -- we hope you will join us for a month of great reading and conversation!

Each week, I will post new questions to help along with the conversation. But do know my questions or prompts are not to act in any restrictive way -- everyone is free to comment or ask questions at any time. In fact, the more people who actively participate, the better the Book Club will be for all participants. :blush:

We hope the read and conversation will be very interesting, and that you will be keen to join in with us.

If you have any questions at all, please ask!!

Here is the reading schedule for the novel:

June 1st - 3rd: Chapter 1 through end of 3 (pgs. 3-65)
June 4th - 10th: Chapter 4 through end of 15 (pgs. 66 - 195)
June 11th - 17th: Chapter 16 through end of 28 (pgs. 196 - 324)
June 18th - 24th: Chapter 29 through end of 42 (pgs. 325 - 465)
June 25th - 30th: Chapter 43 through end of 55 (pgs. 469 - 588)

Pages noted are from the trade paperback edition, ISBN 9780307397928
There will be some variation by edition, but the chapter numbers will all be consistent.

Each Sunday during June, I will post a brief summary of the week's reading, discussion points, and questions -- please know these are only offered to help prompt conversation. I hope none of you will feel limited by this commentary in any way -- and that you will offer up your own questions and comments as you have them!! You certainly do not have to wait until Sundays to add your thoughts or comments. As this is the first time we are running a book club, we are completely open to input and feedback about the process. We hope this will be a fun and engaging experience for everyone who participates.

I would like to request that we all be respectful of spoiler information. If you would like to discuss and aspect of the novel that is beyond the schedule, please use the "hide details" function. If you click on the wheel icon in the formatting bar, you should see this option. It will cause any selected portion of a comment to look like this:

Summary

nothing to see here, just testing!

One tip: in order for the 'hide details' to work properly, the text you wish to protect should be on its own line and not within other text.

I am so excited about reading this as our second book club selection! I read this book when it was first published, and thought it terrific. I am looking forward to re-reading it as there are so many great subjects to explore and discuss!

Please let me know if you have any questions or comments.

Happy reading!! :blush:


#FridayReads
(Jennifer D.) #2

Dont miss the giveaway link (to the Rafflecopter entry form) in the first post for this thread!! You could win a copy of Americanah!! :grin:


(Elyse LeMieux) #3

So excited for this!


(Jennifer D.) #4

That's great @Elyse_LeMieux!! So happy you will be joining us -- should be an excellent month!! :blush:


(MaryEve) #5

One book that I've really been looking forward to. Hoping to add to shelf soon.


(Kim@Time2Read) #6

I'm ready to get started! I got my copy from the library last night.


(Jennifer D.) #7

I have added in the reading schedule to the first post in this thread, for easy reference throughout the month.

Here are the details:

Here is the reading schedule for the novel:

June 1st - 3rd: Chapter 1 through end of 3 (pgs. 3-65)
June 4th - 10th: Chapter 4 through end of 15 (pgs. 66 - 195)
June 11th - 17th: Chapter 16 through end of 28 (pgs. 196 - 324)
June 18th - 24th: Chapter 29 through end of 42 (pgs. 325 - 465)
June 25th - 30th: Chapter 43 through end of 55 (pgs. 469 - 588)

Pages noted are from the trade paperback edition, ISBN 9780307397928
There will be some variation by edition, but the chapter numbers will all be consistent.

Each Sunday during June, I will post a brief summary of the week's reading, discussion points, and questions -- please know these are only offered to help prompt conversation. I hope none of you will feel limited by this commentary in any way -- and that you will offer up your own questions and comments as you have them!! You certainly do not have to wait until Sundays to add your thoughts or comments. As this is only the second time we are running a book club, we are completely open to input and feedback about the process. We hope this will be a fun and engaging experience for everyone who participates.

I would like to request that we all be respectful of spoiler information. If you would like to discuss and aspect of the novel that is beyond the schedule, please use the "hide details" function. If you click on the wheel icon in the formatting bar, you should see this option. It will cause any selected portion of a comment to look like this:

Summary

nothing to see here, just testing!

One tip: in order for the 'hide details' to work properly, the text you wish to protect should be on its own line and not within other text.

I am so excited about reading this as our second book club selection! I read this book when it was first published, and thought it terrific. I am looking forward to re-reading it as there are so many great subjects to explore and discuss!

Please let me know if you have any questions or comments.

Happy reading!! :blush:


(Jennifer D.) #8

Welcome, June 1st!! :blush:

I am so looking forward to our book club discussion this month! Who is joining in with us?


(Kim@Time2Read) #9

I've already started reading!


(Jane D) #10

I picked up my library copy yesterday and have read the first reading section.:blush:


(Jennifer D.) #11

YAY!! You guys make me so happy! :blush:

I have my copy sitting here, right beside me. It will be a re-read for me, as I read it when it first came out. Though I rarely re-read, I am really looking forward to this one. I loved it the first time and hoping that holds true through second reading. And that I may even get more out of it this time... well, I know I will because this forum and hearing all your thoughts will definitely add to the book!!


(MaryEve) #12

I can't wait to get my copy and jump right in!! So excited to win this book, a wishlist book on the TBR. AMERICANAH. Check. Look forward to joining the discussion. Thanks again for the giveaway.


(Jennifer D.) #13

Awesome!! Congratulations on being one of our giveaway winners, @MaryEve!! The books were sent out to each of the winners, so with hope you receive yours in a couple of days. Really looking forward to having you join in on our reading and discussion!! :blush:


(Jennifer D.) #14

Welcome to the first bit of our discussions for Americanah. Please feel free to chat openly about the first section of our reading, which takes us to the end of chapter 3.

I am just finishing up the summary and discussion questions for this part of the book, so will have that to share with you in a bit.

There is SO much to dig into with this novel.

:slight_smile:


(Jennifer D.) #15

Week 1 - Summary and Discussion Points

Today we are covering:

June 1st - 3rd: Chapter 1 through end of Chapter 3
(pgs. 3-65 PB; ISBN 9780307397928)

Summary

Chapter 1

  • we meet Ifemelu - she is living in Princeton
  • she notes how each US city she knows well has its own distinct smell
  • on her way to Trenton to get her hair braided… annoyed that she has to travel so far for this
  • Ifemelu did write a “lifestyle blog” called “Raceteenth or Various Observations About American Blacks (Those Formerly Known As Negroes) by a Non-American Black”
  • Ifemelu began to feel like a vulture for finding her blog ideas in people’s stories - the more she wrote, the less sure she became
  • Ifemelu made an observation about her transit travel in NYC: slim white people got off at Manhattan stops, but the further into Brooklyn they went it was “mostly black and fat people” (versus “big”, “curvy”, or “big-boned”)
  • Ifemelu is feeling a “cement in her soul… an early morning disease of fatigue, a bleakness and borderlessness.” (p. 7)
  • Ifemelu longs for Nigeria (home)
  • She ends her relationship with Blaine and decides to go back to Lagos - people surprised she would leave America to go back to Nigeria
  • Ifemelu recalls her first love, Obinze
  • arrives for braids; negotiates price. 2 women there from Mali; Aisha is from Senegal
  • Ifemelu is Igbo. Aisha’s two men both Igbo. Aisha wants to marry one, but they both say family only want them to marry Igbo. Aisha wants Ifemelu to talk to them both, that it’s okay to marry non-Igbo
  • Ifemelu lies to her family and says Blaine will follow her over after a few weeks
  • listening to Aisha makes Ifemelu think up an idea for her blog, if she was still publishing: Pressures of Immigrant Life Can Make You Act Crazy.”

Chapter 2

  • we meet Obinze in Lagos
  • he’s married to Kosi, and has one daughter, Buchi
  • he’s successful, but “feels bloated from all he has acquired.” (p. 26)
  • received and email from Ifemelu about her return to Lagos - she used “Ceiling” to address him, a former intimate term of endearment
  • Obinze has googled Blaine
  • going to party at “Chief’s” - Chief, via his cousin Nneoma, helped Obinze establish himself (some sort of real estate wrangling) after he returned to Nigeria from England
  • noted a couple of times that Nigeria is all about the hustle/hustling
  • at the party Obinze is distracted, thinking about email he might send to Ifemelu (they have a friend in common, Ranyinudo)
  • Kosi insecure, or untrusting, of women/single women being around Obinze
  • Obinze sends email to Ifemelu when he gets home after the party

Chapter 3

  • back at the salon, Aisha still wanting Ifemelu to talk to her two men
  • story goes back to Ifemelu’s childhood at age 10
  • Ifemelu’s mother cuts of her own ‘glorious’ hair after having been ‘saved’. She has a couple of visions of an angel holding a book trimmed in red thread, who tells her to change churches
  • Initially very rigid, but by third church, “Guiding Assembly”, more hopeful and genial. Ifemlu’s mother begins to grow her hair back, fasts much less, wears jewellry again, and enjoys a Guinness. This new church “absorbed her but did not destroy her.” They do pray every morning at home.
  • “The General” comes into their lives -- he is Aunty Uju’s mentor (Uju is a doctor who has long dreamed of having her own clinic on The Island)
  • Ifemelu’s father fired for refusing to call new boss “Mummy”
  • Ifemelu’s father has longed for more education than he could get - he had to go to work to support siblings
  • he became quieter after losing his job, and a thin wall went up between him and the world
  • he begins to pray with the family in the mornings
  • 3 months behind on rent
  • “Sunday Work” with Sister Ibinabo, who is very powerful in the church
  • Ifemelu takes offense at having to make decorations for Chief Omenka, who is a “419”
  • Sister Ibinabo sends Ifemelu home
  • Ifemelu’s mother is upset. Her father reminds Ifemelu to not be so provocative
  • Aunty Uju comes over - Ifemelu is very close with Uju - and she talks to Ifemlu

Discussion Questions

  1. Before you began reading this novel, did you know much about this story, or have any expectations going into the book?
  2. Do you have much knowledge about the people and geography of Nigeria?
  3. Can you relate to Ifemelu’s unsettled feelings as an immigrant in the United States?
  4. Does it seem like Obinze is happy in his marriage and work?
  5. Do you know what a “419” is?

I am so looking forward to reading your thoughts on what we have read so far... how the reading mood has been set by Adichie's early storytelling, and whether you are engaged with this book already and curious about what's to come!

:blush:


(Penny / Literary Hoarders ) #16

Okay, I've just read up to page 65 for this first section of discussion.

1.) I bought this book when it was first published. It was an everywhere book, and a lot of chatter and promotion about it - but funny thing is I don't really know what it is about - then or even now really. I'm kind of just going into it fairly blind as it be.

2.) My former boss was Nigerian. He was the most wonderful man ever, he had the most amazing stories, he was incredibly inspiring! He gave a lesson on spotting a Nigerian name. He talked a lot about the state of politics in Nigeria - it was under British rule for so long that Nigerians did not trust them so they didn't really pay attention to government - were corrupt about it (I can't really paraphrase his discussion on it very well. He did a much better job!) So when it came time for the Nigerians to run their own government they only knew how to do it through corruption. It's a sad cycle that continues today. So when we got to Obinze's part I enjoyed reading it because it sounded familiar to what Alfa used to tell us about Nigeria. His wife is from Edmonton, and he thought her a little crazy for wanting to travel to Nigeria to have their children! :slight_smile:

3.) I can't relate because I'm not an immigrant - but I do sense her unsettledness because she's almost getting flack for not really being African anymore by the African women because she's been in the US for so long. But she's also not seen as an American. It has to be a frustrating experience?

4.) I think Obinze was somewhat content with his life, or maybe just resigned to it being how it is done in Nigeria before he heard that Ifemelu was moving back. Now he seems to be examining his life more critically? He's definitely looking at his wife with more critical eyes I feel!

5.) Oh! Huh. I don't really know what a 419 is - but ha - there is that book that won the Giller Prize in 2012 - I haven't read it, but it has to do with internet scamming doesn't it? Why do they refer to some of the men as 419 men? Because they are involved in criminal activity?

Just some other thoughts for right now, even though it is early on - I find some of Ifemelu's parts to be scattered and all over the map? Just a little thing for me right now.


(Jennifer D.) #17

yes! people working 419 scams are considered thieves and criminals - and they make their money via 419 scams. I am glad you linked Ferguson's novel. I was going to mention it as a fictional reference to the 419 scams, in case people were interested. I disliked that novel quite a bit. Heh. Ferguson is more known for his comic writing, and I didn't feel he transitioned well to this serious subject. I also felt I would have preferred to read a novel written by a Nigerian, and have that perspective. I felt uncomfortable while reading Ferguson's book... though given the acclaim it received, i am on the wrong side on this one. :joy:

i wonder if your feelings about Ifemelu being scattered and all over the map (no pun intended, heh?) speak to Adichie's writing? at this early part in the story, Ifemelu seems to be feeling those things, with a foot in two countries and not feeling very settled or sure about herself/her future.


(Penny / Literary Hoarders ) #18

This could be true! It's early days yet and I do really like Adichie's writing!

(I don't think you're alone in your thoughts on Ferguson's 419. There seems to be many others that didn't like it, and the Giller win was surprising given the other books in that shortlist that year!) :confused:


(Jennifer D.) #19

in case there is interest:

Americanah was chosen as the first 'One Book New York' read. The finale is tonight, and the event will be livestreamed. (I suspect there will be spoilers, so keep that in mind.)

You can watch here: https://livestream.com/nypl/events/7343440

I just noticed there is an offer for new members to have access to the novel, through Scribd, for 90 days: https://www.scribd.com/OneBookNY


(Jane D) #20

Before you began reading this novel, did you know much about this story, or have any expectations going into the book?
I did know that the book was about a Nigerian woman who had lived in the US for a while and some kind of love interest. But other than that I didn't know anything. I have been so wanting to read Adichie for a long time and have watched a couple of her interviews online.

Do you have much knowledge about the people and geography of Nigeria?
I know it was one of the countries the British colonized and I know that they have suffered from political strife and a civil war, I think in the late 1960s??
I know they currently have a booming film industry (Nollywood) because I recently saw an episode of Vice on HBO that highlighted it. And Nigeria has really large vibrant old literary tradition. But I have read very little of that literature.
(A Blog on History of Nigerian literature for those interested.)

So as I read this first section I started to recall other novels that I have read about Nigeria by Nigerian authours. I came up with the following short list:



On a personal level, there is a school principal at one of the school where I have worked who is a Nigerian immigrant to Canada. He is a lovely man. So kind and understanding. He has a wonderful laugh and sense of humour.
And my new medical doctor is from Nigeria! She is great!

Does it seem like Obinze is happy in his marriage and work?
I think that he is comfortable in his marriage. I don't think it is a relationship of passion. The text message from Ifemelu seems to have thrown him quite a bit.

Do you know what a “419” is?
Yes, I have read Will Ferguson's novel so I was aware of the term when it came up in Americanah The book was somewhat interesting in revealing the way the email scam works on the Nigerian end and why people get drawn into it. But overall I found 419 scattered and it didn't work too well for me. I also didn't find the writing that strong. I believe that "419" is a term in the Nigerian criminal code for any kind of fraud/scam.