Blaine invites Ifemelu to visit his sister Shan, who has recently moved back to New York from France and is about to have a book published. Blaine says that Shan often has all her artist and writer friends get together for a “salon” at her place. When Ifemelu first meets Shan she is overwhelmed by Shan’s presence, and Blaine suddenly seems like a little brother trying to win her approval. When they first meet, Shan ignores Ifemelu and immediately starts complaining about her publisher. Finally Shan introduces herself to Ifemelu. Shan seems like someone strangely “chosen” to be special, and Ifemelu is intrigued by her.
Shan becomes an interesting and slightly antagonistic character when she suddenly enters Ifemelu’s life. Shan is brilliant and magnetic, but also self-absorbed and sometimes manipulative. Her character also helps explain more about Blaine himself, particularly his constant striving after perfection—he has been trying to impress his sister all his life.
Shan brings Ifemelu and Blaine into her apartment, and she stretches confidently as she talks to them. Shan compliments Ifemelu’s blog, and says she has a friend who was sure that the writer of Raceteenth couldn’t be African, because “Africans don’t care about race.” Ifemelu finds herself stammering in the face of Shan’s poise and power. Soon, Ifemelu starts to get irritated with Blaine for agreeing so eagerly with Shan, even when Shan disagrees with or dismisses Ifemelu’s words.
Blaine naturally takes on the role of educator or expert with most people, but with Shan he is suddenly eager to agree and please. Shan also writes about race, but she emphasizes her identity and experience as an African-American, casting Ifemelu as an outsider who doesn’t experience the same kind of history of oppression.
The chapter ends with a blog post about Barack Obama. Ifemelu says that he will only be able to win the election if he remains the “Magic Negro”: an archetypal character of a black man who never complains about his suffering, who always forgives, who is wise, and who teaches white people through his peaceful acceptance. Ifemelu fears that Obama might not be this “Magic Negro” because of his pastor, who spoke harshly about the realities of race in America, the realities that white people don’t like hearing about.
Obama’s presidential candidacy becomes a beacon of hope for Ifemelu and Blaine, and it seems to promise greater racial equality in America’s future. Ifemelu remains practical, however, and here acknowledges that part of Obama’s appeal to whites is the fact that he seems more like a character or archetype than a real person, and that he doesn’t ever accuse anyone of racism.