There is a heat wave when Ifemelu reaches America. The heat, along with the poverty of Aunty Uju’s Brooklyn neighborhood, shocks her; it is nothing like the America Ifemelu imagined from television.
Aunty Uju asks Ifemelu to move in and spend the summer babysitting Dike and then find a job when she goes to Philadelphia for university. Because Ifemelu needs tuition money—and her student visa does not allow her to work—Aunty Uju asks her friend Ngozi to lend Ifemelu her social security card. Ifemelu will have to pretend to be Ngozi.
Aunty Uju has grown tired and prickly over time. She uses a different accent when speaking to white Americans, allows them to mispronounce her name, and acts apologetic toward them. She will not allow Ifemelu to speak Igbo to Dike, warning that it will confuse him.
Working three jobs while caring for Dike has caused Aunty Uju to fail her medical licensing exam. Ifemelu thought Aunty Uju’s American life was better than this because she never mentioned these issues in her phone calls.
Ifemelu spends her summer in Brooklyn believing that she will discover the “real America” at university. She bonds with a neighboring Grenadian couple, Jane and Marlon, whose children play with Dike. Jane says they want to move to the suburbs because they are worried their children will start acting like black Americans. Ifemelu doesn’t understand what this means.
Television commercials fascinate Ifemelu because they depict the shiny and clean America she longs to know. The news frightens her because of all the crime being reported. Aunty Uju reassures Ifemelu that America only appears more dangerous because Nigerian television does not report crime.