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Americanah Study Guide

Welcome to the LitCharts study guide on Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie's Americanah. Created by the original team behind SparkNotes, LitCharts are the world's best literature guides.

Brief Biography of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Adichie was born as the fifth of sixth children and raised in Nsukka, Nigeria. Her father was a professor at the University of Nigeria and her mother was the university’s first female registrar. Adichie studied medicine at the university and then moved to the United States at age 19. She received master’s degrees from Johns Hopkins and Yale, and she was awarded the MacArthur Fellowship “Genius Grant” in 2008. She has published poems, short stories, a play, and three novels—Purple Hibiscus, Half of a Yellow Sun, and Americanah—which have been awarded the Orange Prize among other honors. Adichie is currently married and divides her time between Nigeria and the United States.
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Historical Context of Americanah
Nigeria first gained its independence from British colonialism in 1960, but then faced a brutal civil war seven years later (described in Adichie’s novel Half of a Yellow Sun). Americanah takes place in contemporary Nigeria, and spans the military regimes of Ibrahim Babangida (1985-1992), General Abacha (1993-1998), and General Abubakar (1998-1999), who finally returned the country to a democracy. Since then Nigeria has been headed by the presidents Olusegun Obasanjo, Umaru Yar’Adua, and Dr. Goodluck Jonathan. The 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center in New York City also affect the characters of Americanah, as does the Presidential campaign of Barack Obama.
Other Books Related to Americanah
Adichie was first inspired to write by Chinua Achebe, the Nigerian fiction writer most popular in the West and author of Things Fall Apart. She was also inspired by Camara Laye, author of Dark Child. Both Achebe and Laye gave Adichie a “shock of recognition” that “people who looked like [her] could exist in books.” Another influence is the Kenyan writer Binyavanga Wainaina, who is Adichie’s contemporary and friend.
Key Facts about Americanah
  • Full Title: Americanah
  • When Published: 2013
  • Literary Period: Contemporary Literature, Political Fiction
  • Genre: Fiction
  • Setting: Nigeria, America, England
  • Climax: Dike’s suicide attempt
  • Point of View: Third person limited, following Ifemelu and Obinze
Extra Credit for Americanah

Chinua Achebe. The great Nigerian writer Chinua Achebe was one of Adichie’s most important inspirations and influences, and when she was a child Adichie’s family even lived in Achebe’s former house.

Feminism. In 2012 Adichie gave a TED talk titled “We Should All Be Feminists,” discussing the problems with gender roles. Part of this talk was later sampled in Beyoncé’s song “Flawless.”