From the Austrian-Jewish Lower East Side in Henry Roth's "Call It Sleep," to the Norwegian Nebraska plains in Willa Cather's "My Antonia" to Dominican New Jersey in Junot Diaz's "The Brief, Wonderous Life of Oscar Wao," the immigrant experience has long been part and parcel of the American literary tradition.
"Americanah," the new novel by celebrated author Chimamanda Ngozie Adichie, explores the immigrant experience through Nigerian eyes. Her story follows a young couple, Ifemelu and Obinze, high school sweethearts in Lagos who find very different paths to adulthood.
Ifemelu emigrates to America, to study in Philadelphia, where her observations about race and class become priceless fodder for her blog, and for Adiche's readers. Obinze, barred from the U.S. after 9/11, tries his hand in Great Britain, where he encounters bitter disappointment.
Adichie discusses the Nigerian immigrant experience in America and Great Britain, the widely varying perspectives on race in the U.S. and how race, politics and gender can all be reflected through a woman's hair.