Friday, April 11, 2014

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie's novel "Americanah": an excerpt

Right now I'm in the midst of reading the novel Americanah  by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. I had listened to her read from a short story in a National Book Awards Author Events podcast, and the quality of her prose plus how charming and smart she was in the interview part really made me want to delve more into her work (all the prizes she's won didn't hurt either). There's also an older interview/reading with her on the BBC's World Book Club podcast site that's well worth listening to (re her previous novel, Half of a Yellow Sun). She hooked me completely with the first paragraph of Americanah:
Princeton, in the summer, smelled of nothing, and although Ifemelu liked the tranquil greenness of the many trees, the clean streets and stately homes, the delicately overpriced shops, and the quiet, abiding air of earned grace, it was this, the lack of a smell, that most appealed to her, perhaps because the other American cities she knew well had all smelled distinctly. Philadelphia had the musty scent of history. New Haven smelled of neglect. Baltimore smelled of brine, and Brooklyn of sun-warmed garbage. But Princeton had no smell. She liked taking deep breaths here. She liked watching the locals who drove with pointed courtesy and parked their latest model cars outside the organic grocery store on Nassau Street or outside the sushi restaurants or outside the ice cream shop that had fifty different flavors including red pepper or outside the post office where effusive staff bounded out to greet them at the entrance. She liked the campus, grave with knowledge, the Gothic buildings with their vine-laced walls, and the way everything transformed, in the half-light of night, into a ghostly scene. She liked, most of all, that in this place of affluent ease, she could pretend to be someone else, someone specially admitted into a hallowed American club, someone adorned with certainty.
I love the "delicately" overpriced shops and the "pointed" courtesy. I'm about a third of the way through, and it's the kind of book you can't wait to get back to in the evening after you've dispatched all the tasks of the day. You can read more from this first chapter here, on NPR's website.

7 comments:

  1. If you haven't already, get to Half of a Yellow Sun after. It's substantially better than Americanah. Read it before you see the movie, so skinny little Thandy Newton doesn't ruin your own image of what Olanna looks like!
    - Allen Craig

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    1. Thanks for the tip! I really look forward to reading Yellow Sun.

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  2. Thank you for posting this! I had heard of this book but don't think I would have read it if you hadn't posted that first paragraph. It just made me smile and now I know this will go on my "to read soon" list. And yes, I love that feeling of getting back to a book as soon as possible.

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    1. I just finished it ... couldn't stop near the end and stayed up to 3 a.m. I definitely want to go back and read her other stuff. She has some potent things to say about race & relationships, for sure!

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    2. She was #1 on the list of women writers to read -- plus she looks gorgeous in a red dress! http://time.com/63548/goldfinch-female-authors-reading/

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  3. Loved this book, I'd say it's the author's best. Young Nigerian woman moves from her comfortable middle-class life in Lagos to America and has to totally rethink her identity as "black" and "African." A love story, an immigration story, and a portrait of race in America. Highly recommended!

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  4. This novel is very meaning I heard that. Hope I will have one copy in future for reading

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