On Tuesday 24th February 2015, 9-10.30pm GMT Dr. Madhu Krishnan (University of Bristol), Dr. Serena Guarracino (University of Naples), Dr. Rachel Sykes (University of Nottingham) and Sima Jalal Kamali (University of Sussex) joined U.S. Studies Online co-editor Michelle Green to discuss AMERICANAH by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie.
During this 90 minute chat we discussed the representation of “good” and “bad” blackness in the novel, and how this resonates with Adichie’s refusal of the Afropolitan label and Ifem’s “blackless” Nigeria. We debated what the novel loses in prioritising the love story at the close of the narrative, and some of the weaker aspects of the writing, such as Adichie’s representation of success, contemporary media and blogging as a form of social commentary. Finally we ended the discussion with reflections on Americanah‘s effortlessly successful heroine, Ifem – how much does femininity help Ifem in America? How do we make sense of her success in relation to Obinze who more fittingly reflects the Afropolitan theme of being “hungry for choice and certainty”? Is the title a critique on her development and her story?
These are the questions that lead the discussion
Dr. Madhu Krishnan asks:
Q1. How can we read ‘blackness’ in Americanah?
Dr. Serena Guarracino asks:
Q2. Adichie has explicitly distanced herself from the “Afropolitan” label; yet could AMERICANAH be read as an Afropolitan novel? And to what extent?
Q3. How would you describe the relationship between the novel and the blog The Small Redemptions of Lagos? How does the blog expand the fictional world of the novel and/or take up its social commentary?
Dr. Rachel Sykes asks:
Q4. Despite the novel’s 400 pages, around 340 take place whilst Ifem’s hair is being braided. What do you think the importance of this is, either in relation to the act of braiding itself or as a way of structuring what is otherwise such a sprawling novel?
Q5. Adichie writes really great sex scenes, but I wondered what others thought about the love story in Americanah? Did it deserve to be as central to the concluding chapters as it became and if so, why?
Sima Jalal Kamali asks:
Q6. Americanah is narrated through the perspective of both of its central characters, Ifemelu and Obinze. What is the significance of this narrative shift technique in the way the story of Americanah unfolds?
About the discussion leaders
Madhu Krishnan is a Lecturer (Assistant Professor) in Postcolonial Literatures at the University of Bristol. Her research considers contemporary African writing in the context of transnational literary production with a particular interest in the ways in which literary writing contributes to, subverts and is shaped by a broader, a priori image of ‘Africa’ circulating in a global imaginary. Her book, Contemporary African Literature in English: Global Locations, Postcolonial Identifications was published in 2014 by Palgrave Macmillan.
Serena Guarracino received her PhD from the University of Naples “L’Orientale” in 2005, and subsequently authored two monographs in Italian on opera as the exotic in Anglophone literature and on contemporary rewritings of Carmen and Madama Butterfly from a postcolonial perspective. She has recently published a series of articles on the role of the postcolonial writer in the public arena, featuring as case studies Salman Rushdie, J.M. Coetzee, Caryl Phillips and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. She is currently teaching 18th and 19th century English Literature at the University of Naples “L’Orientale”.
Rachel Sykes recently completed her PhD, entitled ‘The Quiet Contemporary American Novel,’ at the University of Nottingham. Her work focusses on quietness, contemporaneity, and the trope of oversharing in contemporary fiction and creative nonfiction. She teaches at the University of Nottingham and the University of Leicester.
Sima Jalal Kamali is a PhD student of American History and Literature at the University of Sussex. Her PhD research is on African American political autobiography and is mainly focused on Maya Angelou’s autobiographical oeuvre and Angelou’s contribution to this field.