Week Fourteen: Americanah

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This week’s blog comes a little later than planned. I will explain why later on…

Americanah is the third novel by Nigerian Chimananda Ngozi Adichie – I’d previously read Half a Yellow Sun and got immersed in the haunting story of the Biafran war, so when I saw this book in Waterstones, I decided to give it a go.

Americanah is very different to Half a Yellow Sun – it’s a love story and a commentary on what it’s like to be an African immigrant in the USA. It follows the life of Ifemelu, a Nigerian ex-pat living in the States and making a decent living from writing a blog about race. We meet her on the day she decides that she no longer wants to live in the States and is homesick for Nigeria – so she closes her blog, ends her relationship and then begins to make arrangements for her homecoming. The story then relates her life up to this point, beginning with her early life in Nigeria and her relationship with Obinze –  the love of her life, through her immigration to New York and her life that follows in America as a so-called ‘Americanah’ – a Nigerian ex-pat in the States.

I enjoyed this book, but I did find it rather long-winded. There are some really interesting observations about race in America and the whole experience of being African, rather than African American. Much of these observations are made through Ifemelu’s blog and own experiences and so at times, it does read a little like a political essay. All very interesting – but for me it didn’t really keep me engaged as a narrative. I guess I’d rather just read an essay or a blog post, rather than a whole novel. The consequence – I got a little bit bored and impatient with the story. It could have been much pacier and engaging in my opinion. The love story element – Ifemelu and Obinze’s relationship – was rather predictable and so by time I got bored mid-way through, I just wanted a resolution right away. If it were a film, I think I would have fast-forwarded from the middle to the end…

Shame really as the writing is very good and thought provoking. I did enjoy it in bits, but the book as a whole was just not pacy enough or engaging enough to make me want to finish… hence the delay in getting round to posting!

 

To accompany this book, I made a delicious meal – Jollof Rice. This is mentioned in the book too many times not to make and it was really tasty – rich and tomatoey, a little spicy and comforting like risotto. I served this with fried plantain. Confession: I had to ask my colleague where you can buy plantains. I’ve eaten them before but never actually cooked any. She laughed quite a lot when I asked – turns out they are those really ripe big bananas you see in corner shops. You learn something new every day! 

Jollof Rice – Serves 2

For the rice

  • 1 tbsp olive or vegetable oil

  • 1 onion, sliced

  • 1 can plum tomatoes

  • 1 red pepper, diced

  • 4 tbsp tomato purée

  • ¼ tsp cayenne pepper or chilli powder

  • 1 tsp curry powder

  • 1 bay leaf

  • sprig fresh thyme

  • 1 stock cube

  • 100g long-grain or basmati rice

  • salt and freshly ground black pepper

For the Plantain 

  • Plantain

     

  • Butter to fry

 

1. Fry the onion in a saucepan until soft, then add the pepper, tomatoes and tomato puree. Season this and add the spices and the bay leaf. Add the stock cube and boiling water to the mixture.

2. Bring to the boil and simmer this for about 20-30mins. 

3. Add the rice to the mixture and then simmer for around 30 mins until cooked (I used brown rice so actually needed about 45-50mins). 

4. To cook the plantain – slice it and then fry in a little butter – simple. 

All in all a very easy dish, very tasty, cheap to make and healthy too! Would definitely make this one again.

 

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