What I’m Reading: Americanah

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Thanks, Erica.

If it weren’t for my friends, I wouldn’t be very well-read.

When I was visiting home last month, my friend Erica stopped by to visit, holding Americanah by Chimamanda Ngoszi Adichie.

“I brought this for you,” she said, “I think you’ll like it.”

“What’s it about? Why do you like it?”

But wanting to catch up on other things, she waved my questions away, “Just read it. I’m not kidding when I say it’s now one of my favorite books of all time. Also, I’m lending it to you. I’m definitely going to get it back from you when I visit New York in December.”

I looked at the worn copy in my hands. In terms of how she handles her books, Erica is probably Tom’s – and to some extent my -worst nightmare: there was water damage, a few mysterious stains, wrinkled pages, a creased cover, and haphazard highlighting throughout, with a thick orange marker. The sort of condition I normally donate my books in, because it lowers the overall aesthetics of my bookshelf.

If she wants this back, I thought, it’s probably not bad.

I stuffed it in my suitcase and brought it back to New York, where I placed it on the edge of our bookshelf in a pile I refer to inwardly as, “To Be Read As Soon as Possible.” But other pursuits got in the way and Erica’s book was left untouched. I figured by the time she had left my house she forgot all about it and the book would pretty much be mine to read whenever. Most likely five, ten years in the future.

Until two mornings ago when I woke to her text:

I had a dream I said this to you in person, but I’m taking Americanah back when I leave NY, so read it!! It’s the BEST (did a lot of book comparisons in my dream too). ONE MONTH!

A deadline! I gulped. At 588 pages Americanah is not a small tome. It also won the National Book Critics Circle Award, usually awarded to books not known for being “easy reads.”

I texted back, Okay okay I will read it. And after much puttering around, started it that morning.

By page four, I was silently thanking Erica for bringing this story to me.

My book reviews mostly consist of mangled plot summaries so I avoid writing them. But the last time I wrote about a book – mostly about me crying – more than a handful of people (a few dudes too!) told me they ended up reading it because of my blog. Accordingly, they bawled their eyes out.

Americanah hasn’t been a tear-jerker. At least not yet – I’m almost done – but I’ll leave you with a passage that I encountered less than twenty-minutes in. It moved me. And it made me revisit my goals as a writer:

She began to plan and to dream, to apply for jobs in Lagos. She did not tell Blaine at first…because she wanted to give herself time to be sure. But as the weeks passed, she knew she would never be sure. So she told him that she was moving back home, and she added, “I have to,” knowing he would hear in her words the sound of an ending. 

“Why?” Blaine asked, almost automatically, stunned by her announcement. There they were, in his living room in New Haven, awash in soft jazz and daylight, and she looked at him, her good bewildered man, and felt the day take on a sad, epic quality. They had lived together for three years, three years free of crease, like a smoothly ironed sheet…and now here she was telling him it was over. “Why?” he asked. He taught ideas of nuance and complexity in his classes and yet was asking her for a single reason, the cause. But she had not had a bold epiphany and there was no cause it was simply that layer after layer of discontentment had settled in her, and formed a mass that now propelled her. 

She did not tell him this, because it would hurt him to know she had felt that way for a while, that her relationship with him was like being content in a house but always sitting by the window and looking out.

Thanks for trusting my taste (and tears). I’m just trying to spread lit love.

Also: How To Paint a Better Villain like Ian Fleming, Graham Greene and Yellow Fever, and Strengthening Your Literary DNA.

One thought on “What I’m Reading: Americanah

  1. My first time reading post haha. My books are WELL LOVED, thank you very much. Also, totally violated that last line with my orange highlighter

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