June 2017 - Americanah, by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

bookclub
americanah

(Penny / Literary Hoarders ) #21

Oh nice Jane! I have all 3 of those books on my TBR - sadly all unread so far! I've heard excellent things about The Fisherman!


(Kim@Time2Read) #22

This book is off to a slow start for me. But then, we are only 3 chapters into the book. One of the things holding me back is all of the Nigerian names. I'm working too hard at trying to pronounce them, I think.

I really didn't know much at all about this book except that it was about an African woman who lived in the US for awhile. I knew it was very popular and highly rated, but to be honest, I thought it was nonfiction!

I also know nothing about Nigeria.

I can relate a bit to Ifemelu's unsettled feelings, though not as an immigrant. But there have been times when I've been unsettled and not quite felt like I 'belonged' to either group. One example is when my kids swam for a team in the neighboring community; and ended up competing against our neighbors. I felt like I didn't really fit in with either group of parents. I know it is very different, but it gives me a glimpse of what Ifemelu might feel about not quite belonging.

I don't think Obinze is particularly happy in his marriage. He is content — or at least was until he heard from Ifemelu. He was married with a child in a successful career, and while none of it was horrible, it also did not evoke any passion in him. Now that Ifemelu is back in his thoughts, I'm sure he has been wondering about what might have been.

I have no idea what a 419 is!


(Jane D) #23

The Fisherman is very very good but heartbreaking.


(Jennifer D.) #24

Thank you for this, Jane!! I have not yet read The Fisherman, but I do own it. The other two books you listed are ones I have read too -- I felt they both gave good insights to the people and places in Nigeria.

Do you feel you know get what '419' is all about now, seeing what people have shared/commented about this here in the thread?

I find it so interesting you previously thought the book was a nonfiction read!!


(Jennifer D.) #25

I forgot to ask if you all have read other books by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie?


(Kim@Time2Read) #26

I googled 491 and Nigeria, and now I understand!
I'm not sure why I thought it was nonfiction. I guess I thought it was a memoir about one woman's experience.


(Elizabeth M. Nosal) #27

Oh for Pete's sake. I was so close to deciding I'm reading too many things and too busy to read this now -- and skimming through this thread made me decide I'll have to go pick up a copy this afternoon! (I'm in NYC, and since it's the One Read book, there's no way to get it at the library.) I might get the audio, too, since the names are tricky. When audio book narrators have an accent, that helps put me in the place of the story.

Also, I thought this was a nonfiction read, too, when it first came out. Not sure where I got that idea.

I'm intrigued by the 419 discussion above. In Teju Cole's Every Day is for the Thief, the internet scamming is treated in kind of a humorous way. Nigerian literature is really having a moment, so I'm looking forward to this....


(Jennifer D.) #28

:blush:

I am so happy you'll be joining in after all, @Elizabeth_M_Nosal!! I will be curious to hear how the audiobook edition is, and hope the narrator is fantastic! It's got a rating of 4.6/5 on audible!

in an earlier post, i linked an option for and offer from scribd for free audiobook access... i think it's just for new members, but if you aren't a member, perhaps this will be of interest? the offer is tied to the one book new york project.

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


(Penny / Literary Hoarders ) #29

Oh the audiobook....now that would be great to get my hands on! Hmmmmm - that would definitely help with the names and places. :slight_smile: I'm going to go and see if I can get the audio - if not, I'll be okay because I do have the book with me here.

And yay! Happy you'll be joining us! I'm STILL thinking about this whole stealing time and then having time stop for Hawley and Jove from the Twelve Lives book! So I'm really interested in how we explore Americanah together!


(Elizabeth M. Nosal) #30

I'm happy to report the audio book narrator is really good -- she really rings voices and conversations to life, and it's nice to hear correct pronunciations.

I had skimmed the discussion questions before starting the reading, and one thing that struck me was that Obinze was bothered by how people were sort of swallowed up by their wealth and even the rich weren't very happy. But that foreknowledge doesn't seem to have helped him navigate becoming rich himself.

I find Kosi interesting, too. She's pretty unlikeable, but I hope we eventually get a backstory or a section that reveals her inner thoughts and feelings, so we see a more sympathetic side to her.

Ifemelu seems almost as lost as Obinze (athough her blog sounds hilarious and insightful), but I can't help thinking that the way they both can't let go of the past and their time together makes them unhappier, less satisfied with their lives than they might be otherwise.

Almost done with the second section of reading. Amazed that Ifemelu became as strong and successful as she did, considering how anxious and disappointed her parents often are.


(Jane D) #31

This is my first Adichie read but I do own Half of a Yellow Sun.
So many books!


(Jennifer D.) #32

Happy Sunday, everyone!! :slight_smile:

Up for discussion today, and throughout this coming week, is this section of the novel:

June 4th - 10th: Chapter 4 through end of 15

Please feel free to chat openly about any aspect of the book up to the end of chapter 15.

I am just working on the summary and discussion points, so will be posting those for you all in a bit.

I hope the read is going well -- can't wait to hear your thoughts!!


(Jennifer D.) #33

Welcome to our second week of discussions for Americanah.

On the schedule:
June 4th - 10th: Chapter 4 through end of 15 (pgs. 66 - 195)

SUMMARY

Chapter 4

  • high school years - when Ifemelu and Obinze first meet.
  • initially Ifemelu’s best friend, Ginika, was going to be matched with Obinze at Kayode’s party. Ginika was the ‘prettiest girl’ at the school, and ‘half-caste’
  • Ifemelu and Obinze connect right away and spend the whole party together, talking. Obinze talks about his father, his mother, and clears up the rumour about his mother fighting another professor at Nsukka.
  • they talks about books
  • Obinze had asked Koyode about Ifemelu earlier. Kayode likes Ifemelu, but told Obinze that Ifemelu was “too much trouble. She can argue. She can talk. She never agrees. But Ginika is a sweet girl.” but Obinze was pleased to hear these things about Ifemelu.
  • as they continue to talk at the party, Ifemelu notes the feelings of trust and comfort, even though they just met. They talk Igbo a bit, trading proverbs
  • within a few weeks, they are in love. Obinze is proud of the relationship and likes that Ifemelu is strong

Chapter 5

  • Ginika is a little “stilted” over Obinze -- awkwardness between the friends, but then Ginika’s father tells her the family is moving to America - both parents university professors. Her father comments that “we are not sheep. This regime is treating us like sheep and we are starting to behave like sheep.” (p.77)
  • Ifemlu’s parents think it is very luck Ginika’s parents have this option available to them. Ginika’s father offered a teaching position in Missouri. Ginika’s mother American citizen.
  • “Americanah” mentioned for the first time on page 78
  • the friends are sitting around talking about passports and travel and Ifemelu doesn’t understand
  • Obinze very up on American pop culture, has Manhattan in mind as a goal
  • Ifemelu thinks Ginika and Obinze better suited for each other - parents in same jobs, families at same class level
  • Obinze’s mother wants to meet Ifemelu - she is to come to lunch. Ifemelu thinks this is very odd. Talks to Aunty Uju, who tells her to just be herself.
  • Ifemelu notes the ‘fluuid bantering rapport’ between Obinze and his mother and feel his mother is not like any other mother she has known
  • the visit goes well and Ifemelu ends up visiting their home often
  • Obinze’s mother takes ifemleu aside during one visit and talks to her about love and sex, and suggest waiting before having sex, but to come to her when she feels they want to start
  • Ifemelu tells Obinze about his mother’s talk with her

Chapter 6

  • Aunty Uju works all week then often spends weekend waiting for The General -- who is usually away or busy with his wife and children
  • through The General, uju is building wealth, now has a home in the Dolphin Estate. Ifemelu wants to live there with her, but her father says no -- though Ifemelu may visit after school and weekends
  • Uju gives Ifemelu’s family a new TV she claims was extra, and not needed in her home
  • landlord wants two years of rent from Ifemelu’s father
  • Aunty Uju will ask The General for the money, and Ifemelu is shocked to learn Uju has no money of her own. Uju is attracted to The General’s power
  • Uju advises Ifemelu against what she (Uju) is doing
  • The General thinks Uju is different from most women. When he went to London, she requested one perfume and 4 books. He bought her 20 books.
  • day of the coup (p. 97) Uju didn’t know where The General was; worry escalates into asthma attack. He finally calls and is fine - coup a failure
  • The General breaks plans to spend a Muslim holiday with Uju - Uju is enraged and hits Ifemelu after Ifemelu comments Uju should not be taking out her anger on the housekeeper. Friends arrive for a visit. Afterwards, Uju sort of offers an apology
  • Uju is pregnant - Ifemelu feels pregnancy is symbolic “It marked beginning of the end…” (p. 102)
  • The General wants Uju to deliver abroad - she chooses America so her child will be an automatic citizen
  • The General’s wife hears about the pregnancy and is furious
  • Uju gets to America and has a baby boy - names him Dike, after her father. Give Dike her own last name
  • Uju returns to Nigeria, and Ifemelu’s mother goes to live with Uju for a bit to help with the baby
  • Dike’s first birthday is celebrated
  • The General dies one week later, in a plane crash - questionable as to whether murdered
  • some of The General’s family members arrive at Uju’s house and try to take possession and kick her out. She manages to buy a small bit of time - calls for help from friends. Van arrives and she quickly packs what she can and leaves her home

Chapter 7

  • Ifemleu and Obinze are deciding to which universities they will apply
  • Obinze’s mother collapses in the library - doctor says this will continue to happen. Obinze and his mother will be returning to Nsukka.
  • Ifemelu decides she will change around her applications and also to go Nsukka - 7 hours away
  • sees Obinze’s home in Nsukka for the first time
  • Ifemelu has good roommates for school; notices a guy named Odein and is attracted to him. She and Obinze join in on demonstrations at the school
  • University goes on strike; Ifemelu returns home until strike ends. Sees Odein in Lagos. Obinze hears about this and asks about it
  • strike ends and Ifemelu returns to Nsukka - she and Obinze have sex
  • 1 week later, Ifemelu has sharp pains and vomits - convinced she’s pregnant. She calls Uju. it happens a second time. Ifemelu confesses to Obinze’s mother. A doctor discovers Ifemelu’s appendix is the culprit and surgery required.
  • Ifemelu’s parents come and stay with Obinze’s mother -- they all get on very well
  • After a few days of recuperation, Obinze’s mother talks to both ‘kids’ about safe sex

Chapter 8

  • strikes now very common at campuses in Nigeria
  • Uju (now in Brooklyn) encourages Ifemelu to take SATs, and apply for scholarships to US schools
  • Obinze agrees, and argues that Ifemelu has nothing to lose
  • Ginika in the US applying to schools on behalf of Ifemelu, focusing on the Philadelphia area
  • Ifemelu receives acceptance letters and scholarship offers at Uju’s address (75% scholarship)
  • Ifemelu is able to easily get a Visa and passport
  • Obinze’s mother tells Ifemelu to “make sure you and Obinze have a plan”
  • the plan is for Obinze to come to the US when he graduates university

Chapter 9

  • back in the hair salon, heat wave - it’s reminding Ifemelu of her first summer in America
  • Uju studying for exams. Saying her name “Yoo-joo” instead of the correct “Oo-joo” - when Ifemelu asks if she changed the pronunciation, Uju notes “It’s what they call me.”
  • Dike is 6yo and has a sunny precociousness
  • Alma, the babysitter is Hispanic and Ifemelu learns about white v. Hispanic in the US - Alma would have been considered white in Nigeria
  • Uju wants Ifemelu to take care of Dike for the summer. Uju is working 3 jobs
  • has social security card for her friend Ngozi Okonkwo - who has returned to Nigeria for a while. Has agreed to let Ifemelu work under her name/SSN
  • grocery store outing -- buy what is on sale and need that v. buying what is needed
  • Uju doesn’t want Ifemelu to speak Igbo to Dike, says two languages would be confusing. This puzzles Ifemelu since they grew up with two languages. Uju tells her it’s different in America
  • Uju fails last exam - so tired. Thought she would be further ahead and things would be better by now.
  • Friends sent furnishing, clothes and other things for Uju’s home
  • Ifemelu feels America has subdued Uju

Chapter 10

  • Ifemelu’s first summer in America is a summer of waiting; the “real” America is right around the corner
  • Ifemelu and Dike become very close. Ifemelu writes long letters to Obinze, has Dike play with children next door, gets to know their mother, Jane - from Grenada
  • Jane warns “If you are not careful in this country, your children become something you don’t know.” (p. 137)
  • Jane’s husband, Marlon, hits on Ifemelu - she then begins to avoid Jane and Marlon
  • Ifemelu tutors Dike
  • This first summer is also the summer of eating - Ifemelu trying new foods
  • Ifemelu watches TV and aches for the lives in the TV shows, like Fresh Prince of Bel Air, A Different World, and Friends. Images on the news worry Ifemelu -- Uju notes that Nigeria has crime too, but it isn’t reported like in America

Chapter 11

  • Uju tells Ifemelu about Bartholomew - divorced accountant who wants to settle down; originally from Eziowelle. He visits from Massachusetts
  • Ifemelu feels irritated that Bartholomew not interested in Dike, or even pretending to be
  • Bartholomew feels American has no moral compass - Ifemelu speaks up and makes comments about Nigerian morality. He then ignores Ifemelu for rest of visit
  • Ifemelu imagines the consolation of the online Nigerian groups - lives deadened by work, nursing savings, “home now a blurred place between here and there” (p.144)
  • Uju passes her medical boards
  • Ifemelu takes Dike to Coney Island
  • Uju gives Ifemelu Ngozi’s i.d. - they look nothing alike. Uju tells Ifemelu that to white people “all of us look alike.” (p. 148)
  • Ifemelu gets on the bus for Philadelphia

Chapter 12

  • Ginika meets Ifemelu at the bus terminal
  • Ifemelu will be at the Wellson campus in University City, Ginika lives in the suburbs
  • Ifemelu notices that Ginika is very thin -- Ginika tells Ifemelu about the diferences between weight and slimness in American v. Nigeria
  • Ifemelu meets some of Ginika’s friends.
  • Ginika had come to America with “the flexibility and fluidness of youth”
  • Ginika is interning with lawyers
  • Ifemelu is terrified to spend money - has so little
  • at a clothing store with Ginika, two sales women - one black, one white. In trying to ensure commission goes to right person, cashier doesn’t note skin colour to distinguish, length of hair, colour of hair. Ifemelu wonders about this.
  • Ifemelu rents a room in a 4BR apartment with 3 other women
  • Ifemelu noticing the differences in how these young women live
  • Goes on first interview and forgets to use Ngozi’s name
  • Ifemelu feels she isn’t adapting quickly enough
  • Ifemelu is applying to all kinds of jobs, with no success. Overdue notice for tuition, continual money worries
  • Ifemelu calls Obinze frequently; talks to Dike and misses him too
  • Ifemelu receives a preapproved credit card in the mail and it makes her feel less invisible, that somebody knows her

Chapter 14

  • at registration, Ifemelu meets Cristina Tomas -- she talks slowly and judges Ifemelu as less capable because she is an international student - questions Ifemelu’s abilities with English. Ifemelu cowered and shrank. Begins practicing American accent.
  • school in America is easy. Students taught to say something, and never “I don’t know.”
  • becomes friends with Samantha, and older student in the communications program - she lets Ifemelu borrow her books sometimes as Ifemelu can’t afford them
  • Obinze helping by email - provides a list of American books to read to help her adapt/adjust/fit in
  • Ifemelu loves the library - as she reads more, American mythologies and tribalism - race, religion, ideology - become more clear and Ifemelu feels consoled by her new knowledge
  • in a history class, the professor shows parts of Roots. A debate on the use of the N-word follows, and then a discussion about how history has been sacrificed for entertainment
  • A strong-voiced student stood out during the debates, and Ifemelu meets her after class -- Wambui
  • Wambui is president of the African Students Association. She tells everyone Ifemelu is looking for work
  • Differences between American-African, and African-American explained to Ifemelu. African students part of ASA, African-American students part of the Black Student Union
  • Ifemelu wonders where Dike would fit?
  • Uju calls -- tells Ifemelu she has decided to move to Massachusetts. Dike was caught with a grade three girl in the closet. They were showing each other their private parts. Uju is going to marry Bartholomew
  • Ifemelu goes to see about a job advertised in the paper -- $100/day for “massage” (tennis coach)
  • Ifemelu has applied for so many jobs without success
  • Obinze sends her some money
  • Ginika gets Ifemelu an interview for a babysitting job with Kimberly - Kimberly runs a charity. 2 kids - Morgan and Taylor. Husband, Don, had been a consultant at an international development agency.
  • doesn’t get this job
  • behind on rent, tension with roommates - Elana’s dog eats a piece of Ifemelu’s bacon
  • Ifemelu calls tennis coach to see if she can take the job - he asks her to come right over
  • Ifemelu tells him she can’t have sex with him - he says that’s fine. They lie in bed together and he puts Ifemelu’s hands on his body
  • afterwards he pays her $100 and wants her to visit 2x/week
  • Ifemelu is disgusted with herself; briefly talks to Uju - no details. Messages from her mother and Obinze. Ifemelu takes to her bed, misses classes, won’t take any calls
  • Ifemelu thinks about killing the tennis coach
  • sinks into a deep sadness, a “soup of nothingness” and “utter helplessness” (p. 192). “Self -loathing hardening inside her.” (p. 195)
  • Ginika finally reaches Ifemelu through roommate Allison - Kimberly wants to offer her the babysitting job after all.
  • Ginika picks her up the next day, and tells Ifemlu she thinks she is suffering from depression.
  • Ifemelu thanks Ginika and cries.

Discussion Questions

  1. This section of reading begins to give us a very close look at the immigration experiences of Ginika, Uju, and Ifemelu. Are any of their experiences relatable for you? If this is a new perspective for you, did you think it would be so very hard for a person newly arrived to America? (Or for any immigrant newly arrived to any country that is not their original home.)
  2. What sort of picture is Adichie painting with per portrayals of both America and Nigeria?
  3. Do you agree with Ifemelu’s thought that Obinze and Ginika are better suited for one another, or do you think Ifemelu and Obinze are a good couple?
  4. Why does Obinze’s mother seem so different to Ifemelu, and compared to other mothers Ifemelu has known?
  5. Do you agree that Uju’s attraction to The General was as simple as her attraction to his power?
  6. Has Uju changed during her time in America?
  7. Does the situation with Cristina Tomas seem accurate? Are people from elsewhere often underestimated, judged, treated poorly/treated as lesser than?
  8. Satire can be very tricky in fiction -- do you feel the portrayal of Kimberley and Don, and Laura are satirical?
  9. Does Adichie do a good job portraying Ifemelu’s desperation in not being able to find a job, and her worry over money?
  10. Was there any one moment that stood out for you in this section of reading?

So looking forward to your thoughts -- and please remember that the questions I offer are only prompts to help us along. If you have other questions you would like to discuss, please do not hesitate in sharing them here!!

:blush:


(Penny / Literary Hoarders ) #34

Audio would be so great -- sadly none of my library spots are carrying the audiobook. But I'm into the groove with reading it now so I'm good. I've liked this second section! :slight_smile:


(Penny / Literary Hoarders ) #35

I enjoyed reading this section. It was quite a sad section though, and there were times (more at the beginning of this section) when I wondered if Adichie was being condescending in her writing? There was just little feelings of it here and there (for me, in my thinking.) That being said though, I think she's done a fantastic job of relating immigration experiences, portrayals of America and Nigeria.

Condescension aside, the satire or sarcasm is coming through very well! That whole part exchange between Kimberley, Don and Laura was snarky and amusing to read. The parts where Uju is talking about child-rearing and discipline differences from home and the US had me thinking about an article I read recently about a Syrian refugee giving birth to her child in Canada. Her other children were born in Syria. She mentioned that in Canada, everyone seems to drop whatever they are doing when the baby cries and tends to the children immediately. In Syria she said that you finish what you were doing first, and then go and tend to a child crying, or attending to what it is they needed. She notes that the children come first above all else which is a difference from how it was handled in Syria. Uju notes similar differences between Nigeria and the US - the parts about "beating" and being good parents because they spank their children, but also the children in the US being so cheeky to call the police.

What I really loved was when Adichie wrote this"Mythologies of home". This "misplaced" if that's the appropriate word for it - nostalgia for something that's not necessarily truth - but the thinking that it's better back "home". It just really spoke to me - because you really heard this mythology from Bartholomew. Ifemelu tried to call him out on some of it.

And I think Adichie really nailed the disappointment. There is a great amount of disappointment coming through don't you think? Uju and Ifemelu.... There is this sadness and anxiety to Uju - Ifemelu says something along the lines that the "light has gone out of her". And then Ifemelu falling into depression because of the struggles to find a job, pay the bills. So, what Cristina Tomas says is very accurate - how many times was Ifemelu passed over for a job?

I did find it interesting that Ifemelu ended up in the US before Obinze. We read about how much he wanted to go, so it was interesting to see that Ifemelu jumped on it before he did - but he isn't making any effort to come over yet? There doesn't seem to be any urgency to that eh?
So it will be good to read more and see where this goes - why and when did Obinze decide to marry someone else. In all the 15 years that Ifemelu was in the US - why is she going back to Nigeria now? Why didn't Obinze come? Did he? Looking forward to finding out!


(Jennifer D.) #36

i am very curious about this bit too -- given his love for all things american, and his fixation on manhattan. i guess the responsibility towards his mother, or worry he feels for her (we aren't told the cause of her collapse, are we), could be the primary issue. i did like that he was so encouraging of ifemelu to take the opportunity and try!! i really appreciate that obinze's character seems to like ifemelu's strengths and outspokenness.

i found this section of reading pretty sad/heavy too -- not in anyway off-putting, because adichie's writing is terrific!

like you, @Penny_Kollar, i was wondering about the presence of satire (or is it condescension, or judgment??). i'm not sure what adichie is up to just yet, but i am highly tuned in to the portrayal of kimberley and don. and laura, though she continues to be dismissed by her sister, eh?

i suspect these characters will serve as the embodiment of those with white saviour complex. writer teju cole has built upon this subject with 'white saviour industrial complex', which was tied to the KONY2012 campaign... remember that?!?
:scream:

here's cole's piece as it appeared in the atlantic 21 march 2012:

But I disagree with the approach taken by Invisible Children in particular, and by the White Savior Industrial Complex in general, because there is much more to doing good work than "making a difference." There is the principle of first do no harm. There is the idea that those who are being helped ought to be consulted over the matters that concern them.... But beyond the immediate attention that he rightly pays hungry mouths, child soldiers, or raped civilians, there are more complex and more widespread problems. There are serious problems of governance, of infrastructure, of democracy, and of law and order. These problems are neither simple in themselves nor are they reducible to slogans. Such problems are both intricate and intensely local.


(Jennifer D.) #37

isn't this so true? ifemelu really has a strength of character within her and i keep wondering if it is all internally motivated? uju's early companionship?? have we missed some info with more of her family's focus coming after ifemelu's father loses his job, and her mother has become more devout? i feel like there was a radical difference in their lives as a family after these events/periods of time - the money piece of things aside.

i totally agree -- ifemelu's blog sounds amazing. and something that would be a huge hit right now.

(tangent: in coincidental timing, my other read right now, the monsters of templeton, also features a mother who finds religion midlife. hmmmm!)


(Penny / Literary Hoarders ) #38

Huh. Yes. Interesting and I'm chuckling about it - let's see where this goes! :blush:


(Jennifer D.) #39

Hi @MaryEve! I just wanted to check in with you to see if your book arrived to you? I hope so!! :blush:


(Jane D) #40

I finally have the time to devote to writing up my thoughts...this is something I have to do in the morning when my brain is 'refreshed'!! I finished this section of reading a week ago so I hope that everything comes back to me (Jennifer, your summary is so helpful !!)

There were several heart tugging situations in this section of reading. Learning that Uju was destitute after the General's sudden death was heartbreaking to me. I also do not have a good feeling about Bartholomew, her new beau in the US. Ifemelu's struggles to find a job and housing are equally as heartbreaking. When she felt desperate enough to take the tennis coach up on his job proposition, I was just gutted but I know she was desperate.

1.This section of reading begins to give us a very close look at the immigration experiences of Ginika, Uju, and Ifemelu. Are any of their experiences relatable for you? If this is a new perspective for you, did you think it would be so very hard for a person newly arrived to America? (Or for any immigrant newly arrived to any country that is not their original home.)

I know that immigration is a very difficult and fraught with stress. I am actually an immigrant to Canada from the US! For me there was not any financial difficulty as my husband came to Canada for a job. Also, we did not have a language barrier to overcome. But there is always lingo and slang that one has to learn. As well as becoming accustomed to the way things are done (Taking off out door shoes at the front door was new to me.) But I am fully aware that immigration to another country without the benefit of knowing the language or having a job or even the fact that the North American countries can be so much more expensive is a huge stressor! Coming to live in one of North America's big urban centres is a giant shock to the pocket book. (This was something we experienced moving to the Vancouver area). I work in a school district that is full of immigrants from a variety of countries. I see children who come from families that appear to be financially comfortable while others it is obvious that the family is struggling with communication and sometimes, heartbreakingly, financially. It is a huge leap of faith or act of desperation for some of these families to move to North America. Many with 'the grass is always greener' perspectives that does not mesh with reality of life here.

5.Do you agree that Uju’s attraction to The General was as simple as her attraction to his power?
6.Has Uju changed during her time in America?

Uju is an interesting character and I am eager to see how she makes it in the US as a doctor. I think that her attraction to The General is his power and wealth that afforded her to live in the gated community. She also relished the status that being his mistress gave her in Nigeria. She lived a comfortable albeit controlled life with him. Her downfall was that she had no financial title to where she lived and no money of her own when the General died. She was fortunate that she still had the ability to locate to the US.
When Ifemelu arrived in the US initially and lived with Uju it strikes me that Uju continues to be strategic. She knows how to work the system (fake SS and name) and does not want Dike to speak Igbo. From her perspective grappling with dual languages would hold him back. It is also her strategy to find a husband stateside. As I stated above I see 'danger danger' around Bartholomew.

7. Does the situation with Cristina Tomas seem accurate? Are people from elsewhere often underestimated, judged, treated poorly/treated as lesser than?

It is horrible but I do think that in some cases it is true that those from abroad - especially those with language barriers - can be underestimated for their intellect and ability. This results in them being treated poorly and often seen as of lesser intellectual ability.

8. Satire can be very tricky in fiction -- do you feel the portrayal of Kimberley and Don, and Laura are satirical?

Yes, I do think that Adichie was working in satire when she introduced these three to us. It will be interesting to see how Ifemelu and Kimberly's relationship is developed by Adichie. Will the character of Kimberly and her husband Don be developed beyond that?

9. Does Adichie do a good job portraying Ifemelu’s desperation in not being able to find a job, and her worry over money?
I think that Adichie does and excellent job in writing of Ifemelu's growing desperation to find work and her financial woes. I found this most heartbreaking.


Jennifer, I appreciate you linking to the 'white saviour complex' article. I read it last night with great interest. I do think that those of us in counties of wealth often do not see the complex and often longstanding political and social issues that are in play in global situations (I am not talking about natural disaster relief here) brought to our attention. We often think that simply giving money, sending books or clothes or helping build new schools for a week is enough. Our intentions are well meant and we truely do want to help however there is usually so much more at play...historical/political/economic factors...that mere 'bandaids' can't fix. It is not that we shouldn't do these things. I just think we need to be aware that fixing things for others does not give them agency of their own.

This translates to assisting immigrants find their footing in North America. It recalls to mind something happening here in Vancouver with some of the Syrian refugee women that have recently moved here. They have been supported in starting pop-up dinner parties and they have been amazingly successful.