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Posted: November 24th, 2022

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Topic: Deconstructing Race and Nation
Class: World Literature
Course Description: This course introduces students to masterpieces of world literature in translation, with particular attention to the cultural traditions reflected in the literature. The course uses specific works of literature to show the evolution of the human experience from ancient times to the present day. Overall, the course aims to teach students more about what it has meant, and continues to mean, to be a human being in cultures around the world.
Assignment: Deconstructing Race and Nation
Thoughtfully create a written response to the following questions, citing all outside sources in MLA format:
1. In the beginning of Americanah, one of Ifemelu friends states, “She’ll come back and be a serious Americanah…” (65). How is “Americanah” defined within the novel? Does Ifemelu become an Americanah? If so, how?

2. Within Americanah, Adichie is careful to portray the cultures of each country. How do racial identities shift from country to country?

3. In her blog, Ifemelu carefully categorizes differences amongst members of the African Diaspora: Africans, African Americans, Afro-Caribbean Americans. She does not make these distinctions in Nigeria. What observations does Ifemelu make, and why does she make them in America, rather than Nigeria?

Readings:
“Americanah: A Novel by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

If you are not familiar with this novel, you can use this as a summary:
https://www.litcharts.com/lit/americanah
An interview with Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie on Americanah.
In this interview, Adichie discusses the issues of identity, the legacy of colonialism, and race in Americanah and her thought process that informed her writing of the novel.

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Deconstructing Race and Nation
Name sInstructorsCourse

Date

Dismantling the Concepts of Race and Nation

1.

Within the novel written by Adichie, there is a way in which Americanah is defined in a particular way. It tells the stories of various African immigrants who have settled in America and adapted to the American way of life. Ifemelu is the novel’s central character and the novel’s protagonist. She is a young Nigerian who travels to the United States to further her education because her campus in Nigeria has been closed due to a series of strikes (Adichie). Because Ifemelu is attempting to adjust to her new environment, her stay in a foreign country is difficult. This includes dealing with white people and the fact that racism is a major issue that affects a large proportion of the population.

Ifemelu was born and raised in the United States. This is due to the fact that she adopted an American intonation and straightened her hair like the whites in order to blend in (Adichie). She also dated a white wealthy man and even created a fictitious identity in order to look for employment. Ifemelu, on the other hand, was in the United States legally because she had a student visa, which allowed her to pursue higher education. Besides that, Ifemelu was well aware that if she returned to Nigeria, she would be labeled as a “Americanah.” Ifemelu was given this moniker by her family because she had adapted to the American way of life. People in Nigeria are known as Americanah because they pretend to have forgotten their mother tongue, refuse to eat home-cooked meals, and speak with an accent when in fact they do not.

2.

It is true that racial identities differ from one country to the next. People in Nigeria, for example, are all conscious of their black identity. Nigerians, on the other hand, prefer light-skinned people because they believe they are more attractive when compared to dark-skinned people. Furthermore, if a Nigerian is acquainted with a white individual, that individual will be instantly recognized by the Nigerian. In turn, when Ifemelu travels abroad, she is subjected to the pressure of fitting into the American way of life. Her aunt Uju, who works as a doctor in a foreign country, has a difficult time dealing with patients who do not want her to provide her services (Adichie). Furthermore, because they were dating, Curt, Ifemelu’s white boyfriend, was criticized by the public. This implied that interracial relationships would be subjected to difficulties.

Obinze, an African immigrant who was living in England at the time, had similar experiences with racial identities. Obinze was once Ifemelu’s Nigerian lover, but the two were forced to part ways because they both moved to different countries. Obinze was subjected to racial discrimination when he was referred to as a “knee-grow” because he scraped his lap on the floor (Adichie). Furthermore, Obinze is having difficulties after his visa expires. He begins to obtain other people’s identities in order to obtain employment. He is successful. Obinze also desires money so that he can purchase a green card marriage for himself and his family (Adichie). Later, he is apprehended by authorities and deported back to his home country of Nigeria. People in England are fearful of immigrants, which caused Obinze to feel despiseful of his country.

3.

While in America, Ifemelu makes a number of observations that are worth noting. One of them is that Nigerians who lived in America used to brag about their accomplishments to other migrants, which was not uncommon (Adichie). This is when Ifemelu, who lives in New Jersey but attends Princeton, decided she wanted to get her hair done. Nonetheless, she is unable to locate any African salons in Princeton, so she decides to look in a different city. Ifemelu is relieved that the taxi driver who took her to a salon was not a Nigerian national of any nationality.

In addition to her interactions with the hairdressers, she made the following observation: Aisha, a Senegalese immigrant, was assigned the task of repairing Ifemelu’s hair. Aisha is amused by Ifemelu’s desire to braid her hair rather than relax it, rather than relax it (Adichie). Aisha believes that braiding does not present a professional image. Ifemelu is surprised because Africans desire their hair to be similar to that of white people and because braids are considered unprofessional.

The other observation she made was while talking with Aisha on the phone. Aisha revealed that she is dating an Igbo man, but that she does not intend to marry him (Adichie). This is due to the fact that the Igbo people in America believe in marrying within their own community. Ifemelu informs Aisha that the story is a fabrication. Igbo people have the freedom to marry whomever they want. Ifemelu became aware that immigrants held strange doctrines or held strange religious beliefs.

The final observation was made about immigrants showing respect for another American-African based on the number of years they have lived in America. This is shown when Ifemelu had to lie to Aisha that she has lived in America for fifteen years but instead it was thirteen (Adichie). Ifemelu was well aware that by deceiving Aisha, she would gain respect. Additionally, Ifemelu makes numerous observations in America rather than Nigeria. This is because in America the citizens view life differently. Ifemelu never knew she was “black” until she lived in America where racism is at its core.

Works Cited

Adichie, Chimamanda N. “Americanah.” https://www.litcharts.com/lit/americanah#context, 2020,

Works Cited
Adichie, Chimamanda N. “Americanah.” https://www.litcharts.com/lit/americanah#context, 2020,

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