Novelist Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie has conquered the literary world with her tales seeped in human complexity and societal woes. She has already witnessed one of her books being converted into film – ‘Half of a Yellow Sun’ starring Chiwetel Ejiofor, Thandie Newton and Anika Noni Rose. And recently it was announced that she is teaming up with Oscar-winner Lupita Nyong’o for her latest offering – ‘Americanah’. The Mexican born Kenyan actress will portray Ifemelu, a young Nigerian woman who moves to America and blogs about the process of adapting to a new culture.
‘Americanah’ obviously hits close to home for Adichie, who has always been very vocal about her experience as a Nigerian living in the States. “I found myself taking on a new identity, oh rather I found a new identity thrust on me”.
I like to say I’m happily black. So I don’t have a problem at all sort of having skin the color of chocolate. But in this country I came to realize…that meant something, that it came with baggage and with all of these assumptions. And that the idea of black achievement was a remarkable thing. Whereas for me in Nigeria, it wasn’t. It was not. And I think that’s when I started to internalize what it meant and that’s when I started to push back. So for a long time I didn’t want to identify as black. …
It’s very easy when you’re an immigrant and you come to this country it’s very easy to internalize the mainstream ideas. It’s easy for example to think, “Oh, the ghettos are full of black people because they’re just lazy and they like to live in the ghettos,” because that’s sort of what mainstream thinking is. And then when you read about the American housing policies for the past 100 years it starts to make sense. And it forces you to let go of these simple stereotypes.
Adichie’s issue with the “black label” stems from the baggage that is associated with it, and it is something that required quite a bit of adjustment. Being a successful writer or having a career was an attribute that was lauded and she received high marks from Americans who saw her as “different” due to her accomplishments. Mainly because the sentiment is that blacks are not typically ambitious because they are too lazy to get an education or get good jobs. Being an immigrant and trying to find an identity that she could feel comfortable with, Adichie admits that she almost bought into the stereotypes that made her not want to be seen as “black”. But after seeing the other side of the coin, and realizing those disparities in achievement and status is a problem that is more than skin deep, Adichie’s outlook changed and she internalized a more realistic view of race relations.
Adichie’s experience is quite reflective of Africans who come to the States and find themselves caught between the idea of who they are and what they represent and how acceptable it is in their adopted country. ‘Americanh’ is poised to tackle those issues through the lenses of Nyongo’s character and it will be interesting to see how movie goers will respond to the evoking themes.
(h/t The Atlantic)