Summary: Chapter 20

Ifemelu moves to Baltimore for work. Now that she lives in the same city as Curt, she notices that he is always looking for things to do. She constantly needs to reassure him that she likes him.

Ifemelu’s hair begins to fall out from the chemicals in the relaxer. Wambui encourages her to wear her hair natural, arguing that relaxers are unnatural. Wambui cuts Ifemelu’s hair. Ifemelu hates it. Curt thinks Ifemelu’s hair is brave. Ifemelu calls in sick to work out of embarrassment. Wambui directs Ifemelu to a website about natural black hair. Ifemelu reaches for Curt’s laptop to look up the site. Curt panics when he sees her look at his laptop and tells her that the emails mean nothing. Ifemelu realizes he’s cheating on her. Curt blames the other woman for continuing to email him, and claims he only emailed back when she wouldn’t stop. Ifemelu shouts that Curt’s exes all had long, thick hair and storms out. Curt apologizes with flowers. Ifemelu forgives him because she thinks the other woman only boosted his ego.

When Ifemelu returns to work, her coworkers ask if her hair is a political statement. The natural hair website gives Ifemelu a community of women with hair like hers and vocabulary to talk about it. She likens talking to the women on the website to giving testimony in church, as they reaffirm each other’s beauty. Ifemelu finally loves her hair.

The blog post that ends the chapter discusses how Barack Obama’s marriage to a dark-skinned black woman allows darker-skinned black women to see themselves as desirable.

Summary: Chapter 21

Aunty Uju asks Ifemelu to talk Dike into wearing a nice shirt to church. Aunty Uju keeps trying to make Dike tone himself down because he already stands out. Ifemelu tells Dike he won’t see anyone he knows in church, and promises to talk to Aunty Uju about not making him wear the shirt again.

Curt is charming when he meets Aunty Uju. Ifemelu finds Curt’s performative charm exhausting. Aunty Uju is upset about an essay Dike wrote about not knowing what he is. She blames America’s obsession with identity for his confusion, and won’t talk to him about it.