It’s The End of The World As We Know It: Or, At Least, the End of Americanah

“‘Ceiling,’ she said, finally. ‘Come in.’ (588).

That’s it. That’s the final sentence, the famous last words, of Adichie’s Americanah. To summarize my opinion on the ending: Underwhelming. Anticlimactic, to put it in fancier words. Overall, the book was alright, a good read, but when looking at just the ending, I feel unsatisfied. Here’s why.

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie by Beowulf Sheehan
Source: https://thedinglehopper.wordpress.com/2016/04/21/why-i-appreciate-the-ending-of-americanah/

Adichie has a very interesting way of writing. I enjoyed her writing style, the casualness of it, and it made reading the book all the more enjoyable. Her presentation of ideas was also well developed and creative, specifically with the medium of blogging (that I mention in an earlier piece). I think she handles the issue of race in America extremely well and the story overall has opened me up to new opinions and concepts that I was previously unaware of. I liked some of the characteristics she displayed in her characters, though there wasn’t really a character that I was dedicated to or cared about completely other than Dike. Originally, Ifemelu had seemed like a very likable character but as the novel came to a close, I just lost interest in caring about her situation.

Obinze was the same way. But in saying that, that carelessness isn’t coming from their choice to get back together. In the end, I could really care less whether or not they got back together. I just felt that Adichie began with such round and interesting characters that seemed to sort of fall flat towards the end. Ifemelu’s choice to move back to Nigeria does open her up to a whole crop of new experiences and while scenes like the Nigerpolitan Club held my interest, others like her meetings with Obinze and her new blog in Lagos didn’t. I felt like her character was lost in the doubling back to rekindle the Obinze and Ifemelu relationship.

But, like I’d said earlier, my issue it not with the pair getting back together, it’s with all of the unanswered questions Adichie left for me as a reader. What happens to Dike? Wasn’t Ifemelu technically dating Fred? What happened to him? Does her Lagos blog gain as much traction as her blog in America? Does Obinze plan to continue taking care of his daughter despite ending his marriage with Kosi? Whatever happens to Rayinudo and her boyfriend situation? What about Aunty Uju, how is she doing? Or even Curt and Blaine, why bring them up last minute and do nothing with it? I think what I was looking for were nice neat little bows that had seemingly been promised earlier on in the books and was left hung out to dry. The ending was just so muddled that I felt as if I got no closure.

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Source: https://www.amazon.com/Americanah-Spanish-Chimamanda-Ngozi-Adichie/dp/607312385X

Like, tying back to Ifemelu calling Obinze a ‘fucking coward’ over text. While I do understand the surge of emotions she was feeling, at the same time, I feel like I’m missing her actual justification for why she got so upset. I realize why she would’ve been upset but I would’ve liked to see more of her personal insight on the semi-ending of the fling with Obinze (the second time). I also would’ve liked to see how to handled taking Obinze back, if she would’ve just welcomed him with open arms like the ending suggests or if she would’ve wanted to take things slower. And what about the comment Obinze made when he said it seemed like Ifemelu had become someone he didn’t recognize, could that possibly resurface in their new relationship? The ending felt almost like it was more from an outside perspective than Ifemelu’s, so getting a nice little conclusion paragraph from her probably would’ve been more satisfying than a monologue from Obinze and a short response from her. After everything I’ve been through with Obinze, I expected a bit more than three short words.

In the end, I have no problem with Americanah. It built me up and didn’t quite deliver but that doesn’t take away from all of the successes Adichie had in her compelling story, complex characters, and discussions on race.

That’s it.

 

“You Should Start A Blog.”: Why Voicing Your Opinions Online Is More Than Just Ranting

blogging-SMB
Source: https://liqsquid.com/articles/tag/blogging/

I don’t blog (outside of Dead Inside, that is). It never occurred to me to go online and rant about my opinions, to give strangers access to these opinions. It’s not that I had anything against it, I just never considered ever doing it. I love to write, I love to talk, why did I never think to combine the two? It’s probably because I didn’t know anything about blogging. Sure, I’d skimmed through random blog posts that had appeared in the midst of my research on things like episode recaps or news stories. But other than that, I don’t actively read blogs. I never have.

I’m bringing this up because I recently finished Americanah and I was considering social media and the Internet’s influence on the story being told. One unique aspect of the story is Ifemelu’s blogging, something I was immediately interested in upon hearing about because I don’t know much about blogging (which I’m sure is evident if you’ve read any of my earlier posts). I also don’t know a lot about race and racism from the perspective of an African woman moving in and out of the United States. Isn’t that one of the main purposes to read? To bring yourself out of your own shoes and try someone else’s on for a while, look at things from their perspective and learn from that?

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Source: https://lolabelovely.wordpress.com/

And that’s why I commend Adichie on including this facet of Ifemelu’s personality because through it we are not only able to understand more about the blogging community and blogging professionally, but we’re also subject to Ifemelu’s opinions on bigger topics in an easy to comprehend way. What better way to hear her comments on racism in America than to read them word for word how she would write them? By putting these opinions in blog format, Adichie is able to focus on other portions of the story rather than finding a way to work Ifemelu’s opinions into dialogue and the storytelling. Also, the blog is a perfect window into who Ifemelu is as a character because it’s written with her voice and there’s a distinct difference between how Adichie writes and how Adichie writes as Ifemelu. Her character is fully on display in a more explicit sense which rounds her out a bit more when partnered with the internal thoughts and reactions we get from the narration.

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Source: http://mashable.com/category/blogging/

Blogging, in general, is seen to allow for mature discussions on huge issues as well as further awareness brought to those issues and Adichie highlights that by demonstrating this to the readers of Americanah. I wouldn’t be here voicing my opinions about the ideas presented in Americanah without the nudge from Adichie. Race is a topic that is intensely avoided in Western society, most specifically in a conversational format, and with blogging, the topic of race is able to be discussed without (much) backlash from others who feel it needs to be quieted. You’re not forced to listen to opinions you don’t agree with, you can choose who you listen to. And because of the nature of the Internent, distance no longer becomes an issue when discussing things. Anyone can access conversations on different topics and because of this they can heighten their knowledge as well as become more comfortable with voicing their opinions. And because of that, blogging becomes the perfect medium, not only for Ifemelu but also for anyone else who wants to speak. So, thank you Adichie for opening me up to that.

That’s it for now

 

Do You Believe in Love? Even the Second (Third? Fourth?) Time it Comes Around?

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Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Love_(TV_series)

All those bogus romance plots and plots constantly talk about a “one true love”, a singular “soulmate”. I think that means it’s safe to assume that love is only supposed to come around once. One and done. You get those sappy “the one that got away” quotes and unrequited love and the happy endings that everyone seems to get regardless of the challenges they faced literally two minutes before the big fairy-tale wedding. Talk about unrealistic. And the pressure that puts on young people in relationships! The ultimatum that you’re either destined to end up with this person or they’re only a passing fling until the right one comes along.

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Source: http://www.semiahmoo.com/specials/the-romance-package.htm

I think love is too complicated to be simplified like that. It’s possible to love more than just one person at a time, but that’s because I’m viewing love as more than just romantic love. I’m thinking about loving my family members, my friends, the people who support me. So to rephrase: Is it possible to be in love with more than one person? I honestly don’t know. I can’t provide answers on that one. But I do know that love is an roller coaster of emotions that can destroy people, so I don’t imagine being that intensely in love with two people is much fun.

When I first got the idea to write this blog, I was sure I was going to be able to talk about Ifemelu and how she loved Obinze but has now moved on. Unfortunately, that doesn’t seem to be entirely true. With the ending of Americanah, Obinze and Ifemelu are rekindling their relationship and thus proving that their one true love prevails above all. It follows the societal expectation of the singular love of your life. Does that discredit Ifemelu’s other relationships? Does this mean she and Curt or she and Blaine never had a chance because she and Obinze had fallen in love before they’d even met? And what about Fred? He made his move at a bit of an inconvenient time because Ifemelu and Obinze had sort of gotten back together (maybe?) but then Ifemelu broke this off (did she? I think she did) but then Obinze breaks off his marriage which is what Ifemelu wanted (I’m assuming?) and now they’re back together (once again, maybe? There were a lot of unanswered questions with the ending, I’ll touch on that in another post).

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Source: https://www.theodysseyonline.com/revisiting-americana

Either way, even if the relationship between Ifemelu and Obinze adheres to the societal ideal of “one true love”, I do believe that Ifemelu could’ve been in love with the other men she was with. I don’t think the fact that she and Obinze getting back together means he’s her “one true love” either. I don’t even think I believe in a “one true love”. I do think it’s possible to fall in and out of love with multiple people, or even the same person, something Adichie clearly demonstrates in the three central relationships she portrays in Americanah. 

That’s it for now.

I Get Passionate About White-Washing in Hollywood and Write Much More Than I Should

hollywood white washed
Source: http://www.entertainmentfuse.com/10-times-hollywood-whitewashed-east-asian-roles/

I don’t actively buy magazines. I do, occasionally, pick up a gossip or fashion magazine to flip through when the opportunity presents itself like in the check-out aisle at the grocery store or in the waiting room of a doctor’s office. I think it’s more about having something to do rather than actually subscribing to whatever information is being thrown my way with high resolution photos of gorgeous people and large text graphics. And even as a ‘few and far between’ magazine reader, I can still see the obvious problem in the exclusion of people of color in magazines. So, what’s stopping avid or even regular magazine readers from recognizing this and acting on it?

It’s simple, Hollywood is white-washed. Regardless of your race, it’s impossible to deny that Hollywood is dominated by white people and people of other races have to claw their way up the social hierarchy. They have to fight in order to get auditions or photoshoots or job opportunities that fall into the laps of other white celebrities. Just as Ifemelu mentions, look across the covers of a dozen popular and mainstream magazines and you’re unlikely to find a person of color on the cover.

magazines
Source: http://vibeauty.blogspot.com/2011/06/wednesday-sights.html
essence
Source: https://www.buzzfeed.com/hannahgiorgis/black-herstory-month

Specifically non-white characters are being handed over to white actors, not only destroying the creative liberty of the piece but also even further limiting the opportunities of non-white actors. When people of color are considered for characters who everyone assumes are supposed to be white, protests explode all over the internet despite their hypocritical nature. People like Curt consider magazines like Essence to be ‘racially skewed’ because they attempt to provide people who aren’t white with some of the attention they deserve. TV shows or movies with decent characters that are played by people of color are considered ‘modern’ or ‘revolutionary’ because they’re proving that guess what: PEOPLE OF COLOR CAN ACT OR MODEL OR SING OR DANCE OR PERFORM JUST AS WELL IF NOT BETTER THAN WHITE PEOPLE CAN!!! Insane right?! We had to boycott the Oscars because they were excluding people of color, do you realize how insane that is? How hard is it to include everyone equally, to allow everyone the same opportunities and the same treatment? (This is why I’ll never understand racists.)

And there is no way that anyone can claim that people of  color ‘just aren’t as good’ at certain things like acting or singing. Have you seen some of the people of color who do manage to gain traction in Hollywood? Viola Davis, Diego Luna, Idris Elba, Rami Malek, Aja Naomi King, Aziz Ansari, Harry Shum Jr., Kerry Washington, Dev Patel, John Cho, freaking Beyoncé! The list goes on and on and I’m sure there would be waves and waves of other people of color who are phenomenal and extremely talented that will never have a shot at proving themselves because of how white-driven our society is!

I think the reason behind Hollywood clutching onto white-washing like a 50’s housewife clutching her pearls is because they’re afraid of what will happen if people of color actually start to get some positive attention or a platform from which they can speak and actually be listened to. Allowing people of color to become more prominent in Hollywood means opening society up to conversations on race that so many people are so desperate to avoid. And that’s crazy! Tying back to my Dinner Party post, I think it’s so important to have discussions on controversial topics like race and it’s impossible to do so in a mature setting if Hollywood is so insistent on ignoring the problem.

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Source: http://media4.s-nbcnews.com/i/newscms/2014_10/233266/140306-obama-ukraine-briefing-jsw-124p_0c3a31d984edfa75eff6ee4b71292e98.jpg

To wrap this up, I’m going to quote Dike in the text he sent Ifemelu after Obama was elected President of the United States, “I can’t believe it. My president is black like me.” (447). That is why representation is so important. Not only is it encouraging discussion on race, it’s also providing security and hope to people of color, assuring them that they do matter and they are important regardless of white-washing. That even if they aren’t white, they can still suceed. It’s ok not to be white. We know that and it’s about time Hollywood acts on that.

That’s it for now.

[Note: I am so sorry, this got way longer than it was supposed to, whoops.]

People Who Only Talk About Themselves and the People Who Encourage Them: I Stopped Listening a Long Time Ago

It’s not about you. For once, it’s not about you.” (445).

When Adichie first introduced Shan, the sister of Ifemelu’s now ex-boyfriend, Blaine, I disliked her immediately. One of my biggest pet peeves is when someone is so self absorbed that they can only talk about or listen to things that directly affect them. And in Shan’s case, that is very obviously evident in her behavior and her dialogue. But then, Adichie takes it a step further by demonstrating that every other character is just as enamored with Shan as she is with herself. That’s the moment where I immediately stopped caring about her in any way.

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Source: https://dkzstslcvgwbc.cloudfront.net/sites/default/files/inline_image/talkative-duct-tape-solution.jpg

As someone who actually listens to people when they speak, I find it almost impossible to put up with people who only care to discuss themselves and disregard comments or additions to the conversation made by anyone else. I have found myself forming friendships with people like this and I can assure you, knowing you’re being ignored is one of the worst feelings in the world. Ifemelu doesn’t strike me as a character who would be easily ignored. She is very open about her opinions on things and is welcome to criticism from her online readers as well as healthy debates, so when I realized the vanity behind Shan, I assumed Ifemelu would, in no way, put up with her. So imagine my surprise when Ifemelu doesn’t immediately put Shan in her place during their first meeting.

That ties into Adichie choice to characterize how other characters respond in Shan in the way she did. I think because of how “confident” Shan was in her vanity, Adichie was able to manipulate Shan into becoming almost an icon for Ifemelu upon their first meeting. Ifemelu recognizes that Shan is full of herself and worshiped by everyone else and yet she falls right along in the worshiping. Because of this, Shan almost represents who Ifemelu would want to be, what with her success and confidence and the positivie attention she receives from others. Also, disliking Shan would cause a divide in the relationship between Blaine and Ifemelu, something Ifemelu seems determined to hold on to.

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Source: https://www.paperplatesblog.com/blog/americanah-by-chimamanda-ngozi-adichie-book-club-discussion-and-menu

Shan also acts as a foil to Ifemelu’s character because the audience is able to see a change in Ifemelu through how she to reacts to Shan. Originally we’re given the “blind worshiping” which then transitions to Ifemelu wanting to speak out against certain things that Shan says and finding Blaine’s devotion to her irritating and then finally with the quote mentioned above where Ifemelu is flat out fed up with Shan in the way I was when first introduced to her character. Overall, while Shan is irritating as all get out, I do understand why she would be necessary to the story as well as how she impacts Ifemelu’s character.

That’s it for now.

The Dreaded Dinner Party: Which Opinions to Reconsider Voicing Unless You Plan to Stand Your Ground

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Source; http://fashionablehostess.com/host-dinner-party-kitchen-surfing/

I hate talking about anything remotely controversial with anyone I’m related to or anyone I don’t know well. Maybe it’s because I’m stubborn or because I have a tendency to argue passionately with anyone who disagrees with me. But, at the same time, I jump at the chance to argue and debate with friends or classmates. It’s most likely the setting of the conversations. Non-best friend get togethers usually involve sitting around a table, chowing down in the midst of debates (and there’s usually drinking involved in some way) where as friendly debacles occur in casual and comfortable settings with people you can act more loosely around without the fear of being condemned. And that brings us to the crux of this post: the Dreaded Dinner Party.

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The Dreaded Dinner Party is rarely held by friends you’re comfortable with because if it was, there would be no need to include ‘Dreaded’ in it’s title. Usually it’s family members or neighbors or even coworkers. People who you see enough that it wouldn’t be strange to spend time in their house but who you wouldn’t spill every detail to. The Dreaded Dinner Party begins as any other meal would, with polite small talk while everyone plays catch-up. And then, as the meal progresses and the minutes pass, the conversation begins to transition into a debate. Opinions are tossed around without consideration as to how their listeners may react and differing views clash.

Here are a few topics common during the “Not So Happy Hour” of the Dreaded Dinner Party: politics, racism, sexuality or anything of the LGBT+ variety, sex (slut shaming, sex education, etc.), sex in the media, the media in general, foreign affairs, religion (especially when religious views are not unanimous among the group), drugs, immigration, the American education system, economics, terrorism, poverty or class in general, abortions, etc.

controversy
Source: http://charlesstone.com/the-controversy-behind-top-10-reasons-people-dont-tithe/

Personally, I find nothing wrong with healthy debates about any of the topics mentioned above and I believe these topics do need to be talked about in a mature environment. I’m not saying intellectual discussions can’t be had at dinners parties, I mainly saying that opening up to discussions about these “controversial” topics is also opening up to the possibility of a level of awkwardness if someone in the group shares an unpopular opinion. The dinner party Obinze attends is a prime example. He arrives, has pleasant conversation, eats some of his dinner and proceeds to have a very levelheaded conversation that includes a woman named Alexa who has opinions that both I and the others at the dinner party disagree with. These opinions jumpstart an interesting discussion on racism and America that leaves Obinze feeling uncomfortable and alienated.

I can usually see the reasoning behind opinions I disagree with but that doesn’t stop me from firing back. And because of that, I do feel certain topics can initiate heated debates that can spiral out of control if people aren’t smart with what they say (or if they drink a bit too much). Because of this, I am among many that fear the Dreaded Dinner Party.

That’s it for now.

The Paper Bag Test and SpongeBob SquarePants: How to Introduce Racism to Children

“Many churches, fraternities, and nightclubs used the “brown paper bag” principle as a test for entrance. People at these organizations would take a brown paper bag and hold it against a person’s skin. If a person was lighter or the same color as the bag, he or she was admitted.”

I’ve taken this quote straight from Wikipedia, so who knows how reliable it is, but either way, this concept still exists. And the fact that it does is ridiculous. When Ifemelu first mentioned this idea, I immediately Googled it because I had suspicions about what it was and wanted to confirm them. Once my suspicions were confirmed, I immediately thought of an episode of Spongebob. I know it might sound crazy considering we’re talking about race and racism but I am going to draw some connections between this concept in Americanah and an episode of one of my favorite TV shows as a child.

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Source: http://www.spongebobia.com/spongebob-captures/gallery.php?prod=106b&page=3&limit=60#

This episode begins with Spongebob and Patrick being excluded from a popular party because of their lack of “tan”. The host of the party then proceeds to mock them for the lack of pigment in their skin. Obviously, right off the bat, this is a reference to racism. What’s interesting is that Spongebob and Patrick are ridiculed and excluded because of the lack of color in their skin whereas the other characters who are considered cool are much darker in color. The episode continues with Spongebob attempting to acquire a tan and then becoming even “whiter” than he had been previously, further alienating him from this “popular” society. Spongebob is considered ugly after this attempt to alter his appearance and because of that, it’s possible to draw a parallel between that and the people who attempt to “whiten” their skin in order to fit in to Western beauty standards. Society draws them in by telling them that whitening their skin will guarantee them a place in white society but when it backfires or doesn’t work as effectively as they’d hope, they’re ridiculed and distanced further from Western society’s image of “beauty”.

Spongebob continues to alter his appearance in order to achieve the color accepted in this society and at one point while he’s attempting to get into the party being held, they hold up what looks like a paint strip and compare it to Spongebob’s skin. That is a distinct reference to the paper bag test which is what originally reminded me of this episode to begin with. The entire reason I’m discussing this is because the concept of racism was introduced at such a juvenile level that it’s surprising to see the blatant connections now that I’m older and much wiser.

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Source: http://www.spongebobia.com/spongebob-captures/gallery.php?prod=106b&page=11&limit=60

Does this episode of Spongebob paint a positive message? Does it teach kids that discrimination is wrong? I’m not exactly sure. But I do think it’s important that kids be exposed to such issues in order to facilitate in their understanding. But are children’s television shows the correct way to introduce kids to racism and discrimination within society?

That’s it for now.