Do you have reading goals? My reading goal this year is to read more own voices book. They take me outside my comfort zone and help me gain important perspectives.
by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Recorded Books, 2013, 610 pages or 17 hours and 30 minutes.
Some books beg to be listened to, and Americanah is one of them. Ifemelu and Obinze, young, middle-class Nigerians have dreams beyond the borders of their military-ruled country. They dream of America, where freedom reigns and everyone can further tehir education and live a peaceful life.
Ifemelu heads for America to live with her aunt and cousin, and reality looks nothing like what she dreamed of. After 15 years of clawing her way to success, she questions the reasons that brought her to America in the first place. For the first time, she has to think about the color of her skin.
Obinze hoped to join Ifemelu, but he ends up living undocumented in London instead. Post 9/11 American wants nothing to do with a black man from Nigeria.
The story documents the lives of these two high-school sweethearts who lose themselves to each other and to their adopted countries.
Why You Should Listen to this Book
The narrator, Adjoa Andoh, masterfully takes on the multiple characters, countries, and accents needed to make this book shine. Her voices draw the reader in to the words and experiences of Nigerians in Nigeria, London, and America and make Adichie’s words flow like scenes from a movie.
If you want the true experience of an own voices book, you can’t beat listening to it by an own voices narrator.
About the Book
Although I absolutely love Americanah, I can’t say that I liked it. I bought it during one of Audible’s 3 for 1 sales because when I wrote a post about marginalized multicultural authors, someone recommended it.
I loved the first half of the book, where Ifemelu describes her hometown, school, her family, and local life. The listener comes to love Obinze and his single mother and feels outraged at the higher education system that shuts down at a moment’s notice.
The beauty, heat, cold, and rhythms of daily life and Ifemelu’s overly religious mother make the listener dream of one day visiting Nigeria. At the same time, the listener sees the discrepancies between life in America (based on the listener’s experience) and Nigeria. Clearly, everyone should want to live America and visit Africa. Except.
The immigrant experience turns out differently than the reader or Ifemelu expects. America seems more of a pipe-dream, a construct of what middle-aged, paper-white, privileged Protestants think. For the first time, Ifemelu discovers her blackness. From a disinterested third party, the listener comes to understand that racism today might not include cross burning and men in white hoods, but it rages on, nonetheless.
Obinze fairs little better in England, where he struggles to survive working on someone elses’s identification papers and living on the edge of the law. His university degree doesn’t serve him in a country hostile to immigrants.
When the love of his life, Ifemelu, unexpectedly cuts off all communication with him, he wonders if he’ll ever recover.
Why You Need to Listen to this Book
As a middle-aged, paper-white, privileged Protestant, the book made me uncomfortable. But until we break out of the boxes of our upbringing, we’ll never have the empathy and understanding to reach out in love to our fellow human beings.
More of us need to make space for the uncomfortable and listen, really listen, to the reality of others. We need to read and listen to own voices books and wave our flags less.