Going Back to Your Roots Without Reconnecting to Them

In Chapter 44 of Americanah, readers finally (!) get to revisit Lagos from Ifemelu’s perspective. Her experience is a lot different than when she lived there for two specific reasons: her age (obviously) and her newly ingrained attitudes from American influence.  I found it a bit odd and surprising, reading her new opinions on her homeland, at how much more hostile and unforgiving she is about the land she grew up in. Ifemelu harshly critiques a tile installer for his shoddy work and threatens to run him out of a job if he doesn’t fix the floor. It’s almost scary at how American she sounds (honestly, if you’re American, you can vouch that a lot of people are critical of smelly streets like in New York and the work people put into their jobs).

It makes me wonder if immigrants–who go back to their home country–carry new beliefs and almost forget that they grew up in their home country. My father is a first generation immigrant from Lebanon and has since visited once. He was two when his family came to the U.S. so his only Lebanese influence was from his parents, but he wasn’t uppity and stingy about the condition of Lebanon’s cityscape and work ethic in comparison to America’s when he visited. He’s proud of his heritage and tends to overlook the flaws in his native country, but he also doesn’t speak for all immigrants.

America’s heavy emphasis on a capitalist society with all parts functioning and needing to do their part in order to succeed has bled into the minds of its citizens. Ableism can in part be attributed to this mindset since people with capitalist values would tend to be prejudiced towards those who aren’t able to fully partake in “contributing to society.” Ifemelu’s quick lashing out to the man’s poor job at assembling the tiles could be one of two things: he chose not to do a very good job/was poorly trained, or her inner American, capitalist-influenced mind came out. Either way, she’s changed and it can be argued either way, good or bad.

Personally, I believe it’s a bad change. The outburst just added to her already critical view of Lagos and portrayed her as out of touch with her homeland–I guess you kind of are out of touch with your roots if you’ve been gone for a decade. People should always be grounded and realize where they’ve come from. Although it’s hard, the best way to stay in touch with your true self–especially when coming back to your motherland–is to acclimate yourself as soon as possible. You may have had to act a certain way in order to survive in one country, but you don’t need to carry those negative attitudes to the next.