Americanah – Is a Nigerian ‘Black’?
From established writers to literary aficionados, Rainbow Book Club members gathered on Friday, July 26 at Le Meridien, Ogeyi Place to discuss Chimamanda Adichie’s latest novel, Americanah. Those present grappled afresh with issues like race (‘blackness’), immigration, deportation and class, thanks to Adichie’s skilled writing that allows readers to form their own opinions. The novel was Rainbow Book Club’s book-of-the-month for July.
In Americanah, Adichie introduces certain serious topics with a light touch that makes for a much easier ingestion of the novel. By writing in great detail, using well-developed characters, Adichie exposes the human heart as it deals with choicelessness, change and being an outsider. Part of the discussion was on whether racism exists in Nigeria. People responded by drawing from personal experiences and observations of their immediate environment. Most people regarded themselves as ‘Nigerians’ primarily, recognizing the label of ‘black’ as only applying to them when they venture beyond the country’s borders.
A discussion on blackness seems incomplete without one on the politics of hair. African (kinky) hair in many parts of the world is seen as a statement, a source of pride or shame, depending on who does the naming. As such, certain attendees questioned whether Nigerian women are losing pride in their natural hair by opting for styles like weaves, which consist of non-African hair. The verdict on that issue, it was argued, is that Nigerian women choose other styles primarily due to convenience. Others reasoned that our ‘Africanness’ is found not in our hair and clothing choices, but primarily in our values. Furthermore, it was decided, it is up to the individual to make choices that either uphold or do away with the African culture.
Every month, the Rainbow Book Club holds a book of the month discussion session. However, with preparations underway for the Port Harcourt Book Festival (formerly Garden City Literary Festival), set to take place from the 21st – 26th of October 2013, the monthly discussions will resume in November.