Americanah Summary & Study Guide

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
This Study Guide consists of approximately 96 pages of chapter summaries, quotes, character analysis, themes, and more - everything you need to sharpen your knowledge of Americanah.
This section contains 904 words
(approx. 3 pages at 400 words per page)
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Americanah Summary & Study Guide Description

Americanah Summary & Study Guide includes comprehensive information and analysis to help you understand the book. This study guide contains the following sections:

This detailed literature summary also contains Quotes and a Free Quiz on Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie.

Americanah, by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, is the story of young lovers Ifemelu and Obinze who meet as teenagers growing up in Nigeria. They form an instant bond, but when Ifemelu moves to America, Obinze is unable to go with her. He eventually moves to England where he stays as an illegal immigrant. The two are separated by distance, time, and Ifemelu’s silence due to a traumatic experience. While their lives are separate, they face many of the same hardships as they encounter issues of race for the first time and seek to find their identities.

As the novel begins, Ifemelu is in America and preparing to return to Nigeria after 15 years. She is having her hair braided at Mariama African Hair Braiding in preparation for her trip. While she is there, Ifemelu’s story is told in a series of flashbacks.

Ifemelu grows up in Nigeria with her mother and father. Her mother is a religious woman and her father is an intelligent man who regrets never having had the opportunity to pursue an education. Also in Ifemelu’s life as a girl is her Aunty Uju, an intelligent woman who dreams of being a doctor, but chooses instead to be the mistress of a wealthy man called The General who pays for Uju’s elaborate lifestyle leaving her completely dependent on him.

While in high school, Ifemelu meets Obinze and the two begin dating. They decide to attend the same college in Nigeria, but when constant faculty strikes threaten Ifemelu’s educational future, she decides to move to America where Aunty Uju and her son Dike fled to after The General’s death. Obinze plans to go to America when he finishes college, but is unable to because of travel restrictions due to terrorism.

Ifemelu lives with Aunty Uju during her first summer in America and forms a close bond with Dike. That summer she begins to see how different America is from Nigeria and from what she had expected from watching American television shows.

When Ifemelu leaves for college Aunty Uju arranges for her to use the identity of a friend so that she can find work since she is not able to legally work under her student visa. Ifemelu applies for many different kinds of jobs, but is unable to find work. Finally, when she is running out of money, she takes a job that requires her to degrade herself. Afterward, she is so ashamed that she is unable to talk to Obinze and the two lose contact.

Ifemelu is eventually hired to be a nanny for Kimberly, a wealthy white woman. Ifemelu meets Kimberly’s brother, Curt, and they begin a romantic relationship. She is happy with Curt and he treats her well, but it is during this time that she begins to encounter challenges due to her race and immigrant status. For a time, Ifemelu tries to blend in by taking on an American accent.

Meanwhile, Aunty Uju has graduated from college and is now a doctor. She marries Bartholomew who is lazy and indifferent toward Dike. Dike struggles with his identity and is one of the only black students in his school, making him feel singled out. Uju does not tell Dike about his true heritage, instead telling him that he has her last name because she was a second wife. She does not want him to identify with Black American teenagers.

Curt helps Ifemelu to get a job in communications when she graduates from college and the company she works for helps her to get her citizenship papers. When she begins the interview process for the job, Ifemelu relaxes her hair to increase her chances of getting the job. This eventually leads to her cutting off her damaged hair and reclaiming her natural hair and is the start of her desire to write her own blog about her observations on race in America.

While Ifemelu is in America, Obinze travels to England with his mother and stays there illegally. He, too, is forced to take on another identity to get a job there. He pays to have a marriage to a citizen arranged so that he can obtain his papers, but is deported before the marriage can take place. When he returns to Nigera, he begins working for a Chief and becomes a wealthy businessman.

Back in America, Ifemelu breaks up with Curt and begins dating Blaine who is a Black American. Blaine holds himself to a high standard and expects the same from Ifemelu. The two break up for a time when she fails to attend a protest he has arranged. When they reconcile, the only thing they have in common is the desire to see Obama elected president. The relationship ends for good when Ifemelu returns to Nigeria.

Ifemelu emails Obinze and tells him she is returning to Nigeria, but Dike’s suicide attempt delays her return. When she finally gets there, she takes a job at a magazine, but isn’t happy there. This leads her to start a new blog about the important issues she sees around her in Nigeria.

Ifemelu and Obinze reunite and Obinze must make a decision about whether or not to leave his wife, Kosi, and his daughter to be with Ifemelu. He finally decides to end his marriage and the novel ends with Obinze arriving at Ifemelu’s apartment to tell her this.

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This section contains 904 words
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