Full title Americanah

Author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Type of work Novel

Genre Socio-political fiction

Language English

Time and place written 2011–2012; Cambridge, Massachusetts

Date of first publication May 2013

Publisher Alfred A. Knopf

Narrator An anonymous third-person narrator.

Point of view The narrator speaks in the third person and follows Ifemelu for most of the chapters, but sometimes follows Obinze. The narrator offers no insight of their own, but allows Ifemelu or Obinze’s thoughts and feelings to comment on the events around them. Some of the chapters include Ifemelu’s blog posts, which she writes in first person, and are subjective, based on her own observations of and opinions on race in America.

Tone Ifemelu and Obinze’s observations of other characters’ hypocrisies and blind spots often lends the novel a satirical tone. Ifemelu’s blog posts are witty and funny, but also bitingly satirical.

Tense Past tense

Setting (time) The present time that frames the novel is around 2009. Ifemelu’s flashback sections begin in the early 1990s, and Obinze’s London section takes place around 2002, not long after the September 11, 2001 attacks.

Setting (place) Lagos and Nssuka, Nigeria; various cities on the east coast of the United States; and London, England.

Protagonist Ifemelu and Obinze

Major conflict After Ifemelu leaves her childhood sweetheart, Obinze, in Nigeria to immigrate to America, she must navigate the difficulties of immigrant life in order to forge her own identity.

Rising action Ifemelu leaves Nigeria to study in America, and cuts off contact with Obinze after being sexually assaulted; in America, Ifemelu experiences what it’s like to be labeled as “Black” for the first time, and grapples with her identity.

Climax Back in Nigeria, Ifemelu tells Obinze the truth of why she cut off contact, and Obinze reacts with care and acceptance; it becomes clear that the honesty and sense of ease that has underpinned their love from the beginning has survived their long separation.

Falling action Ifemelu and Obinze carry on an affair, but Ifemelu gets angry at Obinze for not being honest with his feelings and staying with Kosi. Obinze leaves Kosi and tells Ifemelu that he wants to be with her.

Themes The importance of authenticity; Race and racism

Motifs Reading and Novels; Lies

Symbols Barack Obama; Hair; The Male Peacock