During an intense make out session in Nsukka, Obinze suggests they finally have sex. Ifemelu worries about getting pregnant, but Obinze says that if she does get pregnant, they’ll just start their family. A week later Ifemelu gets a stomachache and panics. She tells Obinze and calls Aunty Uju. Obinze’s mother takes Ifemelu to a doctor, who diagnoses her with appendicitis. Obinze’s mother allows for Ifemelu to recuperate from surgery at their house. She later confronts Ifemelu and Obinze and instructs them to use condoms. She warns Ifemelu that she cannot trust any boy to be in charge of his own protection and tells her to purchase her own condoms. Obinze sulks off.

Summary: Chapter 8

The university lecturers now strike so often that many students leave to study abroad. Aunty Uju suggests that Ifemelu come study in America and help babysit Dike. Obinze encourages her, and his knowledge about America leads her to defer to his judgment. Ginika helps Ifemelu apply to schools. Ifemelu begins to imagine a future for herself like she’s seen on American television. Ifemelu is accepted to several colleges and gets her visa on the first try. As she prepares to leave, she lets her friends come over and take what they want from her wardrobe, a bittersweet rite of passage for any friend who leaves Nigeria. Right before she leaves, Obinze’s mother tells Ifemelu and Obinze to make a plan to reunite when they can.

Analysis: Chapters 6–8

Aunty Uju’s relationship with The General demonstrates the way women are willing to demean and infantilize themselves for men in order to maintain their approval. Aunty Uju works as a doctor, and yet she must ask The General for her salary as if she were a child asking for an allowance. She must in turn use some of this “allowance” money for expensive beauty treatments, like lightening creams, in order to please The General, meaning that even the money he grants her must be reinvested into keeping his interest. She also must shave her pubic region because The General is disturbed that adult women naturally grow pubic hair. This part of Aunty Uju’s beauty regime is particularly symbolic because hairlessness is a pre-pubescent trait, and The General requiring Aunty Uju to be hairless can also be read as a requirement to maintain the illusion of childishness. Far from being the mentor Ifemelu’s mother insists he is, The General’s gifts come with the condition of Aunty Uju acting like a teenager with no autonomy. While a mentor offers younger people opportunities to help them grow, The General wants Aunty Uju to actually regress.

Aunty Uju’s story introduces the importance for women to maintain their own autonomy. Aunty Uju must depend on the general entirely for financial security, which means that his death plunges her entire life into chaos. None of the measures that she believes will safeguard her position help her in the end: not the hours she spends remaking herself to his liking, not befriending his driver so that she knows what he thinks about her, not even having his child. Although Aunty Uju has a career as a doctor, because her job exists only through The General, not even her degree and education can protect her. Obinze’s mother echoes this warning about the importance of independence when she tells Ifemelu she must be the one to buy condoms. While her warning against dependence on men refers to sex, this warning can metaphorically apply to protection in general. She wants Ifemelu to know that she should not expect men to have her best interests at heart in any given situation.

Although thus far Ifemelu has shown herself to be stubborn and independent, her immigration happens largely at the behest of other people, especially Obinze, revealing hidden insecurity in herself and their relationship. In Chapter 5, the class differences that allow her schoolmates to dream of the West cause Ifemelu to feel out of place and even jealous. Her decision to go to America at Obinze’s behest therefore takes on a dimension of acquiescence, not entirely unlike the way Aunty Uju subverts herself for The General. Significantly, Ifemelu allows Ginika to handle the application process and help her apply to the same universities she attended. Ginika is the kind of girl other people thought Obinze would like, and so attending the same schools as Ginika would allow Ifemelu to access the kind of American mystique that Ginika has developed. Despite Ifemelu’s strong personality, the value placed on Ginika’s attributes—her American mother, biracial looks, and now American citizenship—has led her to change the course of her life.