Americanah: A Novel by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Lagos-Renee Boss

After running a popular and anonymous blog about observations on race, culture, immigration, and class. Nigerian born Ifemelu leaves America to return to her roots in Lagos. When she steps off the plane Ifemelu, the protagonist of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s novel Americanah, breathes the dense hot air and knows she is home.

Often when we read stories of immigration from Africa, we learn of refugees fleeing to escape war or poverty, but not in Americanah. Instead, Adichie writes about middle-class people seeking choice and status they believe they will find in America or England. Two such middle-class individuals, Ifemelu and Obinze, fall in love in Nigeria. Both hope to live in America–a land of opportunity. Though Ifemelu arrives on partial scholarship and Obinze plans to follow, the story of two young people in love takes many twists and turns as both characters strive for upward mobility and stability.

Obinze never makes it to America and instead lands briefly in England under a false name. Ifemelu travels to America and makes desperate choices in the early months as she works to survive the despair and loneliness she encounters.

Over a decade after her arrival in America, “her blog was doing well, with thousands of visitors each month, and she was earning good speaking fees, and she had a fellowship at Princeton and a relationship with Blaine….” However, it wasn’t enough; the life she longed for did not exist in America after all.

Even with sensory reminders such as jollof rice and fried plantain, Ifemelu’s successful life in America could not replace the “amorphous longings, shapeless desires, and brief imaginary glints of other lives she could be living.”

The life Ifemelu could be living is in Lagos, and if you enjoy reading this work of fiction as much as I did, you can follow more stories on Adichie’s blog The Small Redemptions of Lagos.


Renee believes we all have a story and advocates continuously for sharing & improving these stories. An educator and activist for eradicating inequities in our world, Renee believes access to quality education is a right for everyone. On the C&W blog Renee explores her creative side by offering thoughts on a variety of books from her book a week reading list.

Renee lives in Lexington, Kentucky with her husband and two sons.

Twitter: @renee_boss