In the book “Americanah”, Ifemelu left her home in Nigeria to pursue a college education in America. She wins a fellowship at Princeton after graduating and she lives with her boyfriend, a professor at Yale. It seems as though everything is going well for her, but she can’t shake the feeling that she is missing something in her life. She runs a blog where she describes her various interactions with people she met in America. She tries to find a place for all these people in her blog.
As her blog got more popular, she felt pressured to deliver excellent content. She described her blogging experience as tearing away a part of herself with each story she published. Soon there was nothing of her left. She felt empty and hollow, so she decided to move back to Nigeria. America had changed her. She had to compromise her Nigerian values to try and fit in with the American lifestyle. Being the strong, independent black woman she is, she chose to keep her values and return home where she knows she wont have to act like someone she is not. The complete contrast of her mother.
Already in this book I can see the contrast between Ifemelu and her mother. In chapter three we get a look into Ifemelu’s childhood. It was filled with mania and imbalance as her mother was constantly changing religions because angels frequently told her to. Her mother therefore was always changing hairstyles and lifestyles, so from a young age Ifemelu never had a stable figure guiding her.
Ifemelu became more skeptical and independent due to this madness of her mother. Her mother was a representation of conformity, lacking the independence and individuality that would make her who she is. On the contrast, Ifemelu is an independent woman full of individuality and uniqueness. This characteristic allowed her to fill the empty holes America put in her and return to Nigeria, where she knows her values will be embraced not criticized.
The most important motif I have seen so far is hair. Hair creates the contrast between Ifemelu and her mother because while her mother is quick to cut off all her hair when the church tells her to, Ifemelu is proud to wear her hair natural and free of relaxers, the “way God made it.” she tells Aisha at the hair salon. I love Ifemelu’s independence and how she’s not afraid to embrace who she is. This shows as well when a white man calls her “fat”, and even though she was told by a friend that word is offensive, she doesn’t care. She is aware of her looks and her identity and not one part of her isn’t proud of herself and her heritage. As for the hair and body image ideas, stay tuned because there is a lot more to come on those topics.