Q: Our last blog post! Please discuss why Adichie’s choice to contrast Ifemelu’s immigrant experience with Obinze’s is important. What are the differences between their experiences? What do we learn when we get to read more than one story about immigration and success?
A: I think it is important that Adichie chose to contrast Ifemelu’s immigrant experience with Obinze’s is important because it is important to see things from both sides. No two people are going to have the same experiences so it is importnat to look at the different challenges that are being faced within their own experiences.
There are some differences, one major one being that obviously Ifemelu is a female and Obinze is a male. This within itself makes their experiences very different because sometimes females get overlooked a little more than men do. Through these experiences we learn that you shouldn’t have to give up hope and you should always work hard to overcome these tough times in your life. I think both of their stories show that a non-American immigrant can still succeed here. Even though it may be hard and there will be a lot of obstacles and roadblocks, there is still a way to get things done.
Q: Ifemelu lets an older white woman in the grocery store touch her hair after she asks to touch it, and Blaine is angry that she let her do it (Adichie, 2013, 388). Why is Blaine angry? Why does Ifemelu let her do it? Who do you think is right and why?
I think the reason Blaine gets angry at the fact that Ifemelu let’s the woman touch her hair because he feels like it’s almost disrespectful. I feel like the woman may have wanted to touch her hair because it is different than something she would normally see in her culture. I don’t think that Ifemelu felt intimidated by the woman I think she was just very indifferent about the situation.
I think Ifemelu lets her do it because she doesn’t feel like there is anything wrong with it and I think that Blaine may have over reacted to the situation. I do think that both of them are right in their own way because people have different opinions on what is right and wrong, but I do think that it is Ifemelu’s hair so she has the right to allow people to touch it if she wants that.
Q: Adichie says in her TED Talk, “The Danger of a Single Story, “The problem with stereotypes is not that they are untrue, but that they are incomplete.” Give an example from Americanah that shows a possible stereotype, like an immigrant as an illegal worker, and then gives it a context that offers the more complex and humanizing truth behind that stereotype.
“The Danger of a Single Story” is a subject that I feel comes up very often in Americanah. One example I can think of is when Ifemelu is in the hair salon and they want to relax her hair. Her hair is something that she takes pride in and something that makes her who she is. The woman in the hair salon says that the people who are of her culture all have their hair relaxed. Ifemelu says she doesn’t want her hair relaxed but the woman at the salon insists that she should to “fit in.”
In the end she ends up succumbing to the pressure of having her hair relaxed and styled and she absolutely hates it and has a rough time with the process. She has a harsh reaction to all of the chemicals and she becomes very upset.
Although this doesn’t seem like a “stereotype” the woman in the hair salon didn’t take into account that people can break out of “typical” cultural things and do their own things.
Q: What is the significance of Ifemelu’s battle with her hair from pages 251-264? Why does she need to change her hair? What does it do to her emotionally? Why is this significant in terms of intersectional feminism?
A: Throughout the novel Ifemelu discusses how her hair was always braided back, which was a traditional way for people in her culture to have their hair styled. The reason she had to change her hair was because people thought she needed to fit in with the “American Culture” more when she started looking into getting her green card and visa as well as finding a proper job.
Emotionally this takes a toll on Ifemelu. She doesn’t want to change her hair and doesn’t think it is necessary and just the process of it in general is painful and upsets her. This is an example of intersectional feminism because she being made to feel as though she needs to look a certain way to land a job or to become an American citizen. It is hard for her to bite her tongue in the process and get it done but she does it anyway.
Q: Americanah begins with Ifemelu getting her hair braided in a hair braiding parlor. The hair braider, Aisha, is very preoccupied with marrying one of her two Igbo boyfriends and wants Ifemelu to help. Aisha acts desperate, and at first glance seems to fit the stereotype of the scheming single woman fishing for a husband like it’s her only purpose in life. On page 22, Ifemelu wants nothing to do with the scheme, and remarks that it would have made a good blog post, “How the Pressures of Immigrant Life Can Make You Act Crazy.” How does this remark show the complexity of Aisha’s situation and break the stereotype?
This remark definitely shows the complexity of Aisha’s situation. She is stuck in between these two men that she wants to marry but they both believe that “Igbo people must marry other Igbo people.” She asks Ifemelu for help because Ifemelu happens to be Igbo herself but Ifemelu doesn’t want anything to do with her.
I think this situation breaks the stereotypes because they are all immigrants that are living in America trying to make a living. The stereotype for their culture is that they should all be back in Nigeria and marrying into their cultures. They have broken this stereotype.
Even the fact that Aisha wants to marry outside of her culture is breaking the stereotype.
The representation of women and people of color is crucial to our world. It seems that far too often we get shafted or put on the back burner. There are so many things that women and people of color have to offer and it happens way too much that we don’t get the opportunity to share those things. We are a crucial part of society because we have different ideas, goals and ideals than men that are important in a functioning society. Women and people of color just have an overall different outlook on life than a lot of men do.
Americanah does a good job of making people of color and women a strong and crucial part of the book. They represent them as independent individuals who are able to be independant and do things for themselves. I think it is important that they do this because it is inspiring to other women who pick up the novel. It makes them feel like they can do anything.