I just want to be regular.

Dike makes this comment in Chapter 17 when he tells Ifemelu about how his group leader at summer camp did not give him sunscreen. As Aunty Uju and Dike have moved to Warrington where Dike is often the only Black child, African or American, in any group, Dike is constantly singled out. Because of this isolation, he assumes that he is at fault for being different. Because he is growing up away from other people who look like him, he believes that he is abnormal.

Later, as Ifemelu left the meeting, she thought of Dike, wondered which he would go to in college, whether ASA or BSU, and what he would be considered, whether American African or African American.

Ifemelu has these thoughts in Chapter 14 after attending her first meeting of the African Students Association (ASA), where she is regaled with Mwombeki’s speech on the organization’s differences from the Black Student Union (BSU). She recognizes that Dike is in a difficult position because even though he is Nigerian American, he is growing up without being taught a strong sense of Nigerian identity. Therefore, he relies on how others treat him to understand his Blackness, which may pigeonhole him into identifying more as a Black American.

With them, Dike changed; he took on a swagger in his voice and in his gait, his shoulders squared, as though in a high-gear performance, and sprinkled his speech with “ain’t” and “y’all.”

Ifemelu notices these changes in Dike in Chapter 37, when she visits while he’s in high school. Even though Dike appears to be thriving, Ifemelu notices that he has adopted stereotypical Black American mannerisms, including speaking in AAVE even though this is not a dialect he grew up speaking or has ever been surrounded with. The implication is that he behaves this way because it’s expected of him as the Black kid in school. He has taken on a persona to make himself legible to the white Americans around him.

He drove them home, hesitating slightly before he merged onto Osborne Road, and then easing into traffic with more confidence. She knew it meant something to him that she could not name.

This quotation comes from Chapter 50, when Dike drives Ifemelu back to her house after she takes him to see the house in the Dolphin Estate where Aunty Uju used to live. After Dike’s suicide attempt, coming to Nigeria has been a healing experience for him. With all his questions about his family history answered, Dike now feels able to take the wheel, metaphorically signifying that he is ready to decide for himself his own identity instead of allowing others to project onto him how they believe he should be.