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How does Ifemelu’s relationship with Obinze differ from her relationships with Curt and Blaine?
Unlike her other boyfriends, Obinze does not attempt to change Ifemelu or her priorities. Curt is happy to make Ifemelu’s life easy and luxurious as long as she allows him to control the narrative of their relationship. For example, when talking about their courtship, Curt fabricates a story about Ifemelu not wanting to date a white man, rewriting their story to paint him as an open-minded white man who won over a distrusting Black woman. Blaine attempts to improve Ifemelu by discouraging what he perceives as her “laziness.” What he views as her putting insufficient effort into dismantling racist assumptions in her blog, Ifemelu sees as trying to write as her authentic Nigerian self who does not have an innate understanding of American racial issues. In contrast with Curt and Blaine, Obinze accepts and makes Ifemelu like herself just as she is. She does not need to alter her priorities for Obinze, nor must she allow him to dictate her reality. This ease and honesty, above all, distinguishes their relationship.
What is the importance of Ifemelu’s blog?
Ifemelu’s blog allows her to profit and live by the same outspokenness that got her into trouble as a girl. Ifemelu grew up with the message that her desire to be honest was a detriment to her life. In the incident at church, Ifemelu is punished for telling the truth, and admonished by Aunty Uju that she does not have to say what she thinks. The other students assume Obinze would want a nice girl like Ginika, whereas Ifemelu’s argumentative nature makes her too much of an effort to date. However, by blogging, Ifemelu monetizes her expression of uncomfortable truths and feelings. Commenters consider her insights important and thought-provoking, enough for advertisers to find her site profitable and for her to be invited to conferences and gain media coverage. Ifemelu’s ability to make a living from blogging proves that Ifemelu can live as her true self, outspoken and prickly, and others will value her insights and truth telling. At the end, her decision to create a new Lagos blog highlights her growing into her authentic self because she trusts that she can profit from her honesty in the country where she feels the most herself.
The novel’s title, Americanah, is a term for a Nigerian who has returned from America with American affectations. At the end of the novel, has Ifemelu truly become an Americanah? Why or why not?
While living in America has changed Ifemelu, she does not truly embody the idea of an Americanah because she doesn’t base her identity on being a returnee from America. Ifemelu’s growth throughout the novel has been toward embracing her authentic self, highlighted by her embracing her Nigerian accent and natural hair, and then finally returning to Nigeria. While she does find comfort at the Nigerpolitan Club, she also finds their rejection of Nigeria to be performative. For example, when Ifemelu and Fred talk, she notes the number of unnecessary references they use in conversation to make themselves seem more impressive and educated. She notes in her blog post on the Nigerpolitan Club that attempting to change Lagos is futile because Lagos will always be its eclectic self, which sounds similar to Ifemelu’s own journey. All attempts to change or improve Ifemelu—such as Aunty Uju’s warnings not to speak her mind or Blaine’s organic foods—ultimately fail. She describes Lagos as being “assorted,” full of many different aspects, just as Ifemelu has been shaped by her Nigerian identity as well as her American experiences. Instead of an Americanah who borrows a persona, Ifemelu is herself, as multifaceted as the city she loves.
Ace your assignments with our guide to Americanah!