Friday, August 16, 2013

Subashini on Americanah

Subashini has written an essay on Adichie's Americanah on Pop Matters. I have been reading this piece for the last fifteen minutes, pausing after nearly every papargraph to re-read and savour it, to attempt to quote on twitter and failing (because Subashini's sentences don't allow quotation by number-of-characters, a thing I realise happens more and more with people writing long form: whether consciously or unconsciously, everyone is now writing sentences that fit into one or two tweets; it makes me unaccountably happy when I find someone who can't be quoted quite like that).

But that's what blogs are for: to keep large chunks of wonderful writing for reading later. So here:
Ifemelu is that rare thing: a woman who doesn’t hide that she’s quite secure in her own sense of attractiveness and worth. She knows she’s beautiful, but Adichie deftly shows how racism works to undermine even Ifemelu’s sense of confidence with all the banalities of the everyday comments and stares about her hair and what people take to be her projection of Africanness. When Ifemelu writes on her blog, and announces at a dinner party, that “the simplest solution to the problem of race in America” is “romantic love”, not the “kind of safe shallow love where the objective is that both people remain comfortable”, but “real deep romantic love, the kind that twists you and wrings you out and makes you breathe through the nostrils of your beloved”, Adichie brings the novel’s ruminations on race and desire to its fruition.

She leaves this radical notion of love open to interpretation and disagreement, and foregrounds it against Ifemelu’s awareness that while that some white American men might find her intelligent, funny, and beautiful, they don’t really see her, don’t allow themselves to see her, don’t desire her, because of how race has shaped and disciplined their sense of desire. Rather, race trains them to see only some as loveable, and it’s definitely not meant to be a woman who doesn’t look at all like a woman shaped by the ideals of white supremacy. As Blaine’s sister, Shan, remarked earlier—it’s a problem that not’s limited to white American men, and Adichie’s many readers around the world can probably bring their specific experiences with colourism to bear onto this notion of radical love across racial borders vs. sexual fetish and/or temporary this-will-do-for-now romance.

I have also had a vague hunch that I need to read this piece alongside Junot Diaz's Decolonial Love, though I'm not sure what half-understood connections I'm making in my head at this moment. If I know, I will let you know.


Subashini said...

Hey, thank you for this--I shared the review on twitter and ran away because I don't know, I think I over-invested in this review, but this book was a lot of things and I was terrified of reviewing it, and it means a lot to see it here.

If you read it--or maybe you already have?--I'd love to know your thoughts, too.


Space Bar said...

Suba: Am about to begin reading it! Will mail you if I have thoughts?