Here are the summary and discussion questions for the reading which finished up yesterday!
June 11th - 17th: Chapter 16 through end of 28 (pgs. 196 - 324)
- Ifemelu begins to work for Kimberley and Don - kids, Morgan and Taylor
- Ifemelu puts off contacting Obinze; sets aside letter from him, unread
- Kimberley’s sister, Laura, continues to be insensitive; Kimberley apologizes for Laura
- Kimberley offers Ifemelu chance to live-in with them. Ifemelu declines, so Kimberley then gives Ifemelu use of their car. Ifemelu relates experience of her driving instructor correcting students’ answers on their tests, so all pass. Ifemelu hadn’t thought Americans cheated
- Laura calls Ifemelu a “privileged Nigerian”
- party at Kimberley and Don’s
- Dike has changed since move to Mass. - not so transparent. Uju has changed too, and tells Ifemelu it’s “very white” where they now live
* Ifemelu stops faking American accent, prompted by a telemarketer. Ifemelu questions “Why was it a compliment, an accomplishment to sound American?” (p. 215) Notes that ‘she’d won’ over Cristina Tomas… but didn’t feel very good about it
* Ifemelu meets Blaine while on the train to visit Uju and Dike
* Arrives at Uju’s -- Uju nurses her dissatisfactions then spills them out to Ifemelu
* Ifemelu surprised Uju still with Bartholomew - Uju wants a second child
* Dike going to summer camp - group leader gives all the kids sunscreen except for Dike. She tells him he doesn’t need it. Dike a little sad, just wants to be ‘regular’
* Blog post: American Tribalism
* @ hair salon another customer comes in - she is South African, and has poor impression of Nigerians
* Another new customer comes in -- white woman wants braids. Preparing for trip to several African countries, so reading books. Ifemelu challenges her interpretations of the books
* Ifemelu thinks back to Curt - Kimberley’s cousin from Maryland - “His optimism blinded her.” (p. 242) His lifestyle is completely different to Ifemelu’s
* Curt takes Ifemelu to meet his mother
* Ifemelu and Curt have Morgan for the weekend, while rest of family goes to Florida
* Curt gives Ifemelu the gift of contentment, of ease (p. 246) and she quickly becomes used to this life
* Ifemelu is sending money home to her parents; would like them to move to a safer flat in a better neighbourhood
* Ifemelu a communications major wasn’t having luck finding a job until Curt arranges one for her with a PR firm in Baltimore
* Ruth advises Ifemelu lose her braids and straighten her hair before interview - the relaxers burn her head and Curt is horrified.
* Ifemelu gets the job and is told she’s a “wonderful fit” with the company
* Blog post: What do WASPs Aspire To?
* In Baltimore - Ifemelu has her own apartment, though spends much time at Curt’s place
* After hearing Curt use the word ‘blowhard’ in conversation with a friend, Ifemelu realizes, on some level, Curt would never be fully knowable to her
* Curt needed constant assurances “lighter than ego, but darker than insecurity”
* Ifemelu’s hair starts to fall out from all the chemical relaxers
* Wambui cuts off Ifemelu’s hair -- Ifemelu gets upset by her appearance; only 2 inches of new growth on her head
* Curt has been exchanging emails with a woman he met at a conference in Delaware - says nothing happened. Ifemelu leaves. But then forgives him when he shows up with flowers.
* Stays home from work for 3 days -- when returns, asked if hair is some sort of political statement
* Begins visiting websites that promote the beauty of natural hair
* Blog post: Why Dark-Skinned Black Woman Love Barack Obama
* Ifemelu takes Curt to meet Uju and Dike
* Uju doesn’t like the “scruffy and untidy” natural hair
* Uju is not having it with Bartholomew -- he wants her to give him her salary
* Uju leaves Bartholomew
* Blog post: In America You Are Black, Baby
* Ifemelu runs into Kayode at a mall… he’s living in D.C.
* Obinze had asked Kayode to find Ifemelu and make sure she is alright
* Obinze is in England
* Later that day, Ifemelu sends Obinze an email, addressed to “Ceiling”
* Curt senses Ifemelu is upset after seeing Kayode. Curt wants to be the love of Ifemelu’s life
* London -- Obinze
* Obinze has paid some Angolan men £2000 to arrange a marriage for him
* Meets Cleotilde - black, Angolan father, white, Portuguese mother. She received only £500 for the £2000
* Obinze had tried 4 times to get to America -- visa application continually rejected at Embassy in Lagos
* Trouble finding work in Nigeria; living with mother - she gets invited to a conference in London so manages a 6-month visa for Obinze as her research assistant
* His mother lies for him and he feels like a failure - didn’t contact his mother for months afterwards
* Obinze has a job in London cleaning toilets
* One night, someone had left poop on the toilet lid and Obinze takes it as a personal affront and leaves work
* Receives Ifemelu’s email… deletes it and empties the trash
* Cousin Nicholas in London with wife, Ojiugo, son Nna, and daughter Nne. advises Obinze to get NI number so he can work, take all the jobs he can, spend nothing, marry an EU citizen
* Ojiugo doing everything for the kids, so they can have better education and better opportunities
* Obinze puzzled that Ojiugo not mourning for all the things she could have been
* Obinze wonders if it is a quality of women, or a learned trait to shield their personal regrets, suspend their lives, subsume themselves with childcare?
* Emenike was first person Obinze called when he landed in ENgland - travels a lot and very busy
* Obinze calls his cousin Iloba for help getting an NI # - two weeks later a man named Vincent Obi agrees to let Obinze use his NI # for 35% of Obinze’s wages
* Obinze goes through a few temp jobs until he lands at Roy Snell’s delivery warehouse
* He’s partnered with Nigel, who splits tips evenly with Obinze, unlike some of the other drivers
* Obinze gives Nigel advice on his love life
* Obinze’s weekly treat to himself is a visit to a bookstore where he has an expensive coffee and reads all her can - to feel like himself again, and not Vincent (Vinny)
* Obinze is very lonely
* Obinze’s boss and coworkers surprise him with birthday muffins and cokes (Vincent’s birthdate)
* Obinize feels ‘safe’ (p. 323)
* Vincent decides he wants 45% of Obinze’s wages, but obinze doesn’t increase his deposit to Vincent’s account. 1 week later, Roy receives an anonymous call so asks to see Obinze’s/Vincent’s passport
* Obinze leaves, sad and wishing he would have told Roy and Nigel his real name
* Years later, he calls Nigel from Nigeria with a job offer -- after “Chief” advises he needs a white man to front as a GM
- How do the lives of Ifemelu and Obinze compare during this section of the reading? Do they seem to be experiencing similar situations or feelings, or are their circumstances beyond comparable?
- How do Uju and Dike seem to be faring? Do Ifemelu’s relationships with her aunt and cousin seem strong to you?
- Are Curt and Ifemelu well-suited for one another? What kind of life does Adichie paint for us by introducing Curt into the storyline?
- Is working for Kimberley and Don and good situation for Ifemelu? Is Laura really that dense and insensitive? Is she serving a specific purpose for Adichie?
- When we catch up with Obinze in England, how did you feel while reading about his life?
- Why does Ifemelu reach out to Obinze by email at the time she chooses to do so? Is it important that her email is addressed to “Ceiling”?
- Was there any moment or quote in this section of our reading that really stood out to you, or surprised you?
- Are you liking the way Adichie has included blog posts for Ifemelu within the text? Are you finding the blog posts interesting?
Please - do remember that the questions posted are merely to serve as prompts or starting points! I hope you will not feel limited in any way by these questions and that you will feel free to raise you own discussion points, or ask questions you are wondering about!
Can't wait to hear your thoughts on this section of the novel!!