When The Writer’s Block Hits In the Finale

Ahh! Americanah was an excellent book, for the most part, but I feel I can say that any reader is relieved (or feelings a sense of accomplishment) after finishing a book. I do appreciate and enjoyed the major motifs/social situations brought up in the book, but I cannot say the same for the ending. It was a trope. The ending was so disappointing that I completely forgot this book was supposed to be centered around the issue of race.

First of all, what was that, Adichie? Americanah’s ending was so predictable that I screamed in anguish after putting down the book. Viewers, please don’t argue that it was a great ending just because the “OG couple” got back together. Yes, Kosi was superficial and confrontationally-challenged about her marriage, but that didn’t give Adichie the right to try to paint her as a villain so that readers could sympathize with Obinze leaving his wife. Can you really blame someone for wanting nice things? If you’re a capitalist, you sure can’t.

I think Adichie always loved Ifemelu and Obzine together and hated writing her characters with other partners. Why else would she actually include chapters dedicated to Obinze’s life after college? Adichie needed a scapegoat and found Kosi’s flaws as a way to ensure the two got back together while facing complications, in order to add more juiciness to the story. I mean, come on! Kosi wasn’t a serial killer nor committed any heinous acts, so why can’t readers sympathize with her? She’s left with a child and a failed marriage that never should’ve happened, even if her now ex-husband was “in a bad place” when he married her.

I am in no way saying that couples shouldn’t be able to divorce, only be cautious of when you decide to marry someone. Don’t marry someone because you’ve lost hope of getting back together with your past love and because you’re finally in a new–yet unhappy–relationship. You (cough, Obinze, cough) are only hurting yourself and your partner who you don’t actually love, yet is led to believe that you love them.

As for Ifemelu, what were you thinking?! You knew Obinze was married, so how could you get mad at him for being troubled on figuring out what to do with you and his marriage? Don’t expect him to drop everything and come back to you just because you’ve returned to Nigeria. God, it’s such a cliché when two lovers are separated by distance and time, and then they meet again years later only to be with someone else (try every Nicholas Sparks book ever).

I feel that there could’ve been many better ways to handle the ending while giving Ifemelu and Obinze their happy ending, and without leaving readers thinking that it’s okay to acquit cheaters (“but they were past lovers, they’re meant to be!”).

I shouldn’t be so critical of the book; it’s just hard when the ending is only the final pages you’re left with to read and make sense of the book as a whole, yet that’s where it upsets you the most!!! I will say, Americanah did leave me “enlightened” and I shouldn’t harshly judge the novel, as it didn’t entirely revolve around Ifemelu’s relationship with Obinze. Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, if you’re reading this, did you ever get back together with your college love?

Christianity and The Quest for Converts

During chapter three, the heavy Christain motif shines through as a remnant of Nigeria’s past under British imperialism. Ifemelu’s mother is so consumed with religion that she converts to three different sects when the previous fails to uphold God’s promise of solving her family’s struggles. Of course, Adichie bridges African and Western culture in “Americanah” by mentioning the heavy role Christianity/religion has by looming over citizens in any society. This book strongly resonates with me as I can relate to Ifemelu in the terms of her position on religion and family.

With a mother who is a devout Lutheran and a father who is a little-to-nonreligious Catholic, it used to suck being agnostic-turned-atheist. Similarly to Ifemelu, I questioned the presence of a God and wondered if it was all just a concept. After multiple refusals to participate in church services and many arguments, my mother eventually learned to look past the fact that she was losing all four of her kids to science. I don’t want to totally denounce religion, if people want to believe in an ultimate controller of the universe then that’s fine, but I just don’t buy it.

In the wise words of Ricky Gervais, “If we take something like any fiction, any holy book, and destroyed it, in a thousand years’ time that wouldn’t come back just as it was. Whereas if we took every science book and every fact and destroyed them all, in a thousand years they’d all be back, because all the same tests would be the same result.”

I’ve personally come to believe that differing religions in a society are debilitating and can create tension. Anyone can see that, as people still do not know the difference between a Sikh and a Muslim. Historically, factory owners purposely hired Catholics and other Christian denominations, because they knew the factory workers wouldn’t form labor unions with Catholics, thus no union. Obviously, you can’t make people not believe in order for everyone to have the same views, but people need to learn that not everyone’s going to agree (Google search “secularism”).

As with any family, religion can be a touchy subject especially when each member has differing views. It’s easy for moms and dads to think that they’ve failed as parents if they can’t get their child to believe in their god, but it’s universal for younger generations to drift away from more traditional stances.

There isn’t anything wrong per se with raising your kids to believe a certain ideology, but, parents, please don’t expect your children to conform to your belief system just because they’ve been brought up that way. I’m no parent and I don’t pretend to know what it’s like raising a child, but if you really want your child to believe then don’t ingrain your opinions into their head. Most kids–specifically teenagers–don’t do well to imposition and especially won’t listen to authoritative figures.

Forget Foreign Opportunities, Home is Where the Heart Is

Most readers expect stories involving immigrants to center around their struggles in their new country. It’s archetypal for authors to build a heartwarming story off the backs of foreigner protagonists who attempt to speak a new language and balance three jobs while still squeezing in time for love. Upon first glance, the blurb of Americanah makes it seem as though this will tell the tale of two lovers who part ways when emigrating from Nigeria to other parts of the world. Adichie’s novel steers readers into a different direction by introducing Ifemelu as a fluent English speaker, 13 year resident of the U.S., and a girl who has just broken up with her boyfriend as she plans on returning to her home country.

When observing Americanah through a postcolonial lens, the novel takes an unconventional twist in the way the protagonist is presented: Ifemelu has left postcolonial Nigeria for ex-imperializing powerhouse America. She represents the diffusion of two cultures as she finishes her fellowship at Princeton and avoids taboo American words like “fat,” while getting her hair braided at African salons every few months. Despite deciding to move back to Nigeria, it’s apparent that other African immigrants–more specifically, Aisha–disapprove of her decision without any plausible reason, i.e. marriage. Aisha’s distaste for life in African homeland epitomizes the stereotypical immigrant, one who leaves their past life to settle into a newer, more opportune country. Ifemelu defies immigrant expectations by coming to a new country to create a new and successful life for herself up before returning to her home country.

Similarly, Obinze leaves Nigeria for Britain and comes back with a high-class education. He uses his knowledge and agreeable attitude to climb up the social ladder and becomes a rich man. Despite the growing capitalism-based society in Nigeria–thanks to British imperialism–Obinze knows that the large house and beautiful wife does not complete his life. He longs for something more in life, past all of the material wealth and superficial people: Ifemelu.