Author: Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Year of Publication/ Release: May 2013
The story unfolds with Ifemelu travelling a long way to have her hair braided. She describes the state of the salon as dilapidated, crowded whereas the ventilation is nothing but hot and stuffy.
Ifemelu and Obinze fall in love while in Lagos Secondary school.On the first day they made love Ifem describes the climax as looking up at the ceiling and later nicknames Obinze "ceiling". They are bright students who proceed to University but their studies are short lived as a result of Nigeria falling into dictatorship.Like many of their age mates they decide to leave the country in search of better opportunities. Ifem leaves for America however Obinze after struggling to get a visa resorts to go to the UK on a tourist Visa.
Ifem goes through her own struggles in America from having to baby sit her auntie's son, to working using "fellow Nigerians" social security numbers to make some extra money while still going to school. She meets fellow students from Africa who share their experiences. In the process of looking for a job,she is forced to have a one night stand out of desperation.This affects her so much that she cuts off communication with her old flame Obinze. She is forced to take up other odd jobs such as being a nanny where she meets white folks at gatherings who brag about contributions they are making in African countries. Ifem learns the concept of race and skin color in her new world and starts a blog which earns her a huge following and invitations to give talks.Here she is able to buy herself a condo from the money she earns. Ifem gets involved with a young rich white man but he ends the relationship when she gets caught up in a mini affair.She later meets a handsome black professor who she dates until her return home to Nigeria. Meanwhile Ifemelu's parents are caught up in their own struggles, with her father loosing his job because of not calling his boss "mommy" and her mother changing her religious beliefs every now and then including cutting her hair. They are oblivious of Ifem's struggles which she successfully conceals by keeping them happy when she sends dollars home. He mother intentionally picks her calls at the balcony and shouts for the neighbors to hear the "diaspora call".
Obinze is hosted by his cousin in the hope of getting a longer term stay and proper job.He lands a job in cleaning toilets which he generally does not mind till he finds a mess on the floor and resigns moving to a company that was selling fridges.There he forges his documents but eventually the authorities catch up with him and he is deported back home. All the while he tries to stay in touch with Ifem who in the end changes her email address. Back home Obinze struggles to make a living and eventually becomes a wealthy socialite.
The story revolves mainly around Obinze and Ifem who reunite and rekindle their love. Obinze's wife Kosi is described as a beautiful woman always trying to keep people happy and peaceful ,however she is well aware of the affair and questions her husband about it.Later he chooses to separate from her and his daughter in favor of Ifem.
It is a beautiful and emotional story that is an entanglement of love,survival for the fittest,compromise,loneliness,identity,race and ignorance.
Many students(read African) excited about travelling abroad for further studies are rarely prepared for what to expect ahead and have a distorted version of what to find in the diaspora only to go their and get disappointed. On the other hand our friends and citizens of the diaspora have a vague understanding of what Africa is all about and tend to think that all countries in this continent are the same as depicted in the book,a clear sign of ignorance.
Racism is every where, it is sometimes very loud other times silent irrespective of country or people.
In conclusion this is the author's story,it depicts the kind of struggles and perhaps culture shock she went through when she first set foot in the diaspora.
This book is definitely a good read, the ending though,should have been better or less abrasive.
Chimamanda never disappoints.