Americanah and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Rushing from one meeting to another yesterday, I had just an hour – but during that hour, Terry Gross was interviewing one of my favorite authors, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie does GREAT interviews. She is funny, and educated and insightful; she can talk about painful topics and make you laugh and cry with her. That interview was a blessing on my day.
I started reading Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie when I was in Kuwait. A good friend approached me and asked me to form a book club. LOL. This is a friend I can’t say no to. Every introverted bone in my body was screaming “NO! NO!” and I smiled at her and said “Yes.”
God is good. He laughed when I said “yes” and through the book club, introduced me to authors I might never otherwise read. The club was made up of many nationalities, and we read books from everywhere, unforgettable books. We read Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie “Half of a Yellow Sun.” Once you read Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, there is no going back. I wonder if I will be able to hold out on Americanah until it comes out in paperback?
This is from the National Public Radio website, so you can actually listen to the interview yourself, should you want to get to know this delightful author a little better.
‘Americanah’ Author Explains ‘Learning’ To Be Black In The U.S.
When the novelist Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie was growing up in Nigeria she was not used to being identified by the color of her skin. That changed when she arrived in the United States for college. As a black African in America, Adichie was suddenly confronted with what it meant to be a person of color in the United States. Race as an idea became something that she had to navigate and learn.
The learning process took some time and was episodic. Adichie recalls, for example, an undergraduate class in which the subject of watermelon came up. A student had said something about watermelon to an African-American classmate, who was offended by the comment.
“I remember sitting there thinking, ‘But what’s so bad about watermelons? Because I quite like watermelons,’ ” Adichie tells Fresh Air‘s Terry Gross.
She felt that her African-American classmate was annoyed with her because Adichie didn’t share her anger — but she didn’t have the context to understand why. The history of the trans-Atlantic slave trade was not taught to students in Nigeria. Adichie had yet to learn fully about the history of slavery — and its continuing reverberations — in the U.S.
“Race is such a strange construct,” says Adichie, “because you have to learn what it means to be black in America. So you have to learn that watermelon is supposed to be offensive.”
Adichie is a MacArthur Fellowship winner and author of the novels Purple Hibiscusand Half of A Yellow Sun. Her new novel, Americanah, explores this question of what it means to be black in the U.S., and tells the story of a young Nigerian couple, one of whom leaves for England and the other of whom leaves for America.
The title, she says, is a Nigerian word for those who have been to the U.S. and return with American affectations.
“It’s often used,” she says, “in the context of a kind of gentle mockery.”