Americanah

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

"Yemi said, in the manner of the true Lagosian who was always hustling, eyes eternally alert to the brighter and the better; Obinze gave him his card before going back to find Kosi."

p. 38

"People often told him how humble he was, but they did not mean real humility, it was merely that he did not flaunt his membership in the wealthy club, did not exercise the rights it brought--to be rude, to be inconsiderate, to be greeted rather than to greet--and because so many others like him exercised those rights, his choices were interpreted as humility."

p. 40

"With him, she was at ease; her skin felt as though it was her right size. She told him how she very much wanted God to exist but feared He did not, how she worried that she should know what she wanted to do with her life but did not even know what she wanted to study at university. It seemed so natural, to talk to him about odd things. She had never done that before."

p. 73

"Aunty Uju's cell phone rang. "Yes, this is Uju." She pronounced it you-joo instead of oo-joo.

"Is that how you pronounce your name now?" Ifemelu asked afterwards.

"It's what they call me."

Ifemelu swallowed the words "Well, that isn't your name." Instead she said in Igbo, "I did not know it would be so hot here.""

p. 128

"School in America was easy, assignments sent in by e-mail, classrooms air-conditioned, professors willing to give makeup tests. But she was uncomfortable with what the professors called "participation," and did not see why it should be part of the final grade; it merely made students talk and talk, class time wasted on obvious words, hollow words, sometimes meaningless words. It had to be that Americans were taught, from elementary school, to always say something in class, no matter what."

p. 164

"Ifemelu would come to realize later that Kimberly used "beautiful" in a peculiar way. "I'm meeting my beautiful friend from graduate school," Kimberly would say, or "We're working with this beautiful woman on the inner-city project," and always, the women she referred to would turn out to be quite ordinary-looking, but always black. One day, late that winter, when she was with Kimberly at the huge kitchen table, drinking tea and waiting for the children to be brought back from an outing with their grandmother, Kimberly said, "Oh, look at this beautiful woman," and pointed at a plain model in a magazine whose only distinguishing feature was her very dark skin. "Isn't she just stunning?"

 

"No, she isn't." Ifemelu paused. "You know, you can just say 'black.' Not every black person is beautiful.""

p. 180

"Only after she hung up did she begin to feel the stain of a burgeoning shame spreading all over her, for thanking him, for crafting his words "You sound American" into a garland that she hung around her own neck. Why was it a compliment, an accomplishment, to sound American?"

p. 215

"There were so many of them now published in the newspapers, and they echoed the radio and television, even the chatter of some of the men in the warehouse. The wind blowing across the British Isles was odorous with fear of asylum seekers, infecting everybody with the panic of impending doom, and so articles were written and read, simply and stridently, as though the writers lived in a world in which the present was unconnected to the past, and they had never considered this to be the normal course of history: the influx into Britain of black and brown people from countries created by Britain."

p. 320

"But race is not biology; race is sociology. Race is not genotype; race is phenotype. Race matters because of racism. And racism is absurd because it's about how you look. Not about the blood you have. It's about the shade of your skin and the shape of your nose and the kink of your hair."

p. 419

"Of all their tribalisms, Americans are most uncomfortable with race. If you are having a conversation with an American, and you want to discuss something racial that you find interesting, and the American says, "Oh, it's simplistic to say it's race, racism is so complex," it means they just want you to shut up already. Because of course racism is complex. Many abolitionists wanted to free the slaves but didn't want black people living nearby. Lots of folk today don't mind a black nanny or black limo driver. But they sure as hell mind a black boss. What is simplistic is saying "It's so complex." But shut up anyway, especially if you need a job/favor from the American in question."

p. 435

"Doris sounded as if she and Ifemelu somehow shared the same plot, the same view of the world. Ifemelu felt a small resentment at this, the arrogance of Doris's certainty that she, too, would of course feel the same way as Doris."

p. 496

"She heard his words like a melody and she felt herself breathing unevenly, gulping at the air. She would not cry, it was ridiculous to cry after so long, but her eyes were filling with tears and there was a boulder in her chest and a stinging in her throat. The tears felt itchy. She made no sound. He took her hand in his, both clasped on the table, and between them silence grew, an ancient silence that they both knew. She was inside this silence and she was safe."

p. 543

© Kyuwon Lee, 2020.