Tag Archives: Nigeria

Americanah + Their Eyes Were Watching God

their-eyes-were-watching-god-zora-neale-hurston-paperback-cover-artIf you follow me on Twitter, you recently absorbed a barrage of book quote tweets with either the hashtag #Americanah or #TheirEyes. I didn’t intend to read Americanah and Their Eyes Were Watching God back to back, but now looking over the quotes I loved and the fervor with which I attempted to devour both books, it seems like an intentional choice.

If you haven’t rad Americanah yet, get on it already. This is Chimamanda Ngozie Adichie’s new one about Ifemelu, a brilliant, sharp-eyed young Nigerian woman who moves to the United States rather than trying to wade through the lethargy she finds in the aristocratic circles of Lagos, and Obinze, her adolescent boyfriend who tries to make a life in the UK. The writing is just flat out phenomenal and totally on-point, especially when Adichie turns Ifemelu’s eye to describing all manner of methods that women use to navigate the world:

“How important it was to her to be a wholesomely agreeable person, to have no sharp angles sticking out”

“Basking in the attention her face drew while flattening her personality so that her beauty did not threaten”

Americanah has thus far been, deservedly, drawing the most attention for its commentary on race relations in the United States. As a Non-American black person, Ifemelu approaches the knotted web of race politics with the dual lenses of insider and outsider. From that vantage point, she writes a blog documenting her observations about the peculiar and particular ways Americans of all colors attempt to engage with our history and our present. For me, I was drawn to Ifemelu as a narrator not for her racial commentary, but rather for her embodiment of the perils and pitfall of 21st century ambitious, educated ladyhood. What to do with all those smarts? What is useful to the world, and what is self-indulgent? Is self-indulgence bad? How much do we compromise for people that we love? How much do we take from our parents and how much do we leave behind? How do you make a life for yourself, and make it one that you are proud of?

Somehow, in the course of my liberal Massachusetts education, I zipped right by Zora Neale Hurston’s epic love story about Janie and Tea Cake, the mad dog, and the muck of the Florida everglades. Coming off the high of Americanah, so explicitly about a woman finding her authentic voice, Their Eyes was an incredible way to deepen that conversation.

If I ever teach a lit class, there will most definitely be a midterm paper assignment on these two books together. If you were recommending pairings of classic work with contemporary fiction, what would be on your list?

Related Post: Mapping the books I read and where I read them

Related Post: Live blogging my reading of Lean In.

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Everything is About Everything: New Media + Old Media

For book club, we recently read Robin Sloan’s Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore, a modern, bromantic, technologically-obsessed, Google-worshipping fantasy adventure in which millennial heroes and heroines are obsessed with the idea of Old Knowledge (aka OK). I’m kind of obsessed with Old Media (OM?), specifically it’s intersection with New Media (NM), and TBD Media (TBDM). I think this is a fascinating question:

OM + NM + TBDM = ?????

The combination of Old Media and New Media happens to be in vogue right now. If OM = books, TV, movies, music and NW = Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Blogging, etc., we already have lots of neat examples of these things working together. I’m having fun with mind-mapping right now, so….

mind map

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  • The Bling Ring – Sofia Coppola’s strange new movie about a band of overprivileged teenagers who break into celebrity homes uses screenshots of Facebook, sequences devoted to the taking of selfies, and texting as avenues to explore the meta “Pics or it didn’t happen” mentality of the youth (self included).
  • House of Cards – Netflix’ original (and now Emmy-nominated) political intrigue-a-thon incorporates on-screen text messages over images of characters in their own locales. Old school political mastermind Frank Underwood uses new school journalist Zoe Barnes to channel her demographic access into viral and conniving campaign messages.
  • Americanah – The new novel from Nigerian author Chimamanda Ngozie Adichie  is about a young Nigerian couple who follow separate paths (her to America, him to the UK) before reuniting in Lagos decades later. The protagonist, Ifemelu, writes a blog about race from the perspective of a non-African-American black person that becomes famous. Excerpts from her blog are incorporated into the book, and her online presence is treated as a fundamental piece of identity (as many of us now consider it to be).

The real interesting question, of course, is what happens when OM meets NM meets TBDM. What is TBDM anyway? Well, it’s obviously things we haven’t even created yet. Will our media become more multi-sensory? Will we control the stories we watch or be actors in them? Will the idea of created media devolve so heavily that we’ll all just read/watch real life as it happens a la Truman Show? What do you think?

Related Post: Past experiments with mind mapping

Related Post: Quadrant games!

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