Thank you Chimamanda for Americanah!
I remember that the first time I heard about Americanah was in 2015.
So I sent a WhatsApp message to Vezua who was (and still is) living in New York, and asked her if she could please buy the book for me and send it over to Luanda with the first person that she could find.
I received the book on the fourth of November of that year. And I was supposed to start reading it then, but that was not a very good time for me. I had just turned 31 on the 2nd and I was not feeling particularly good about much of anything (birthdays for me, are always very complicated).
So I let the book sit there amongst my things. I put it aside like I often do with many of the books that I buy, but not so far that I would forget about it. It would sit on my bedside table or close to my bag so that every now and again I would look at it, pick it up, and remind myself that we had unfinished business.
So last year when I went to Lisbon to witness the birth of my goddaughter, I decided that it would be a good idea to take the book with me. I would finally read it on the plane or during my stay there.
I read about 60 pages and then put it down.
I was not ready for it yet.
So when I returned home, I put it back on my bedside table and I would look at it from time to time.
In the mean time life went on. And I knew that I just had to read that book, that I somehow needed it, that there was something in there for me but at the same time I simply could not make myself do it.
So I started watching videos on YouTube of talks that Chimamanda had given, of interview after interview where she would talk about this book and her other works.
And then by the end this past week I felt that I was finally ready. I decided to pick it up and finish it by Sunday at the latest.
I was finally ready for it and for what it had to tell me about the world and about myself!
This book touched me so deeply that I am still trying to look for ways to describe it.
It stirred in me questions about identity and belonging. About finding my voice and yet not knowing how to deal with that. It made me revisit my youth.
It took me back to my years as a university student. Made me think about the academic choices that I made, about reading and writings, about the power of language – and in my case l, having to choose how to deal and in which spaces to use these, two very different languages that were now part of me.
While reading it, I thought a lot about friendship; the friendships we have, friends we lose or distance ourselves from, about female friendship, about trust, judgment, space and respect in relationships and in friendships in particular.
It took me back to my years as a students living abroad for almost ten years and then coming back.
But it made me think of my choices as a woman – romantic choices – and it made me think of choices that many of the women that I know make about how to live their lives, about their careers and more.
And after reading the whole book being in tears here and there, laughing and feeling all sorts of emotions, those very last pages, the very last ones, more than touched me:
They moved me deeply.
It made me hopeful for women. The book made me proud to be a woman. As a woman and and especially as an African woman, I could identify emotionally with Ifemelu and the stories that not only she but the author shared with us.
And I felt relief!
I am sure that I will sit down at some point and really gather my thoughts to say all that I need to say about this book but while the book is still so fresh from this first reading I had to stop for a minute and say thank you Chimamanda.