She knew that the people who read her blog were not the same people who attended her diversity workshops. During her talks, she said: “America has made great progress for which we should be very proud.” In her blog she wrote: Racism should never have happened and so you don’t get a cookie for reducing it.
This quote is just one of the great insights into race relations that the protagonist, Ifemelu, posted on her blog, written primarily for the non-American black, which she herself is, having come to the US from Nigeria.
The novel begins with Ifemelu thinking about her blog when on the way to a hair appointment. I mention the hair appointment because hair is a theme that runs throughout the narrative. It’s a metaphor for the life of a black immigrant in America and a surprisingly good one. It highlighted the lengths that are sometimes necessary for people to go to to fit in and be accepted.
At its core this novel is a love story, although not a typical one. The narrative moves back and forward through time describing Ifemelu’s adolescence in Nigeria and her developing relationship with Obinze, a boy she meets locally. Her family, friends and other’s occupy more than just a guest spot. They’re expertly described and add to this rich narrative.
This novel isn’t just a story about Ifemeu but also charts the early life of Obinze, her soon-to-be boyfriend. Granted, there are more chapters from the POV of Ifemelu, but we get a fair amount told by Obinze, which brought authenticity and objectiveness to the novel.
For me this book was as close to perfect as it’s possible to get in a novel. The prose flowed in a way that made it a joy to read and the characters were written with such expertise that regardless of fault I fell in love with them.
I plan to read everything I can get my hands on from this author and highly recommend that you do the same.