The novel’s main protagonist, an intelligent, stubborn, outspoken Nigerian woman who moves to America to attend university. She has difficulty adjusting there but eventually becomes a citizen, wins a fellowship at Princeton, and starts a… (read full character analysis)
The other protagonist, a calm, thoughtful, intelligent young Nigerian man. He is raised by his mother, a professor, and is very well-read and obsessed with America. He moves to England after graduating university and… (read full character analysis)
The child of Aunty Uju and The General, a precocious and innocent boy who grows up to be a funny, popular teenager. His outgoing personality hides depression and a crisis of identity, however, as Dike once attempts suicide.
A super-religious woman who uses her faith to try to hide from the corrupt realities of the world. She loves Ifemelu but doesn’t understand her very well.
An intelligent, verbose man who always wanted to go to graduate school but had to work instead. He uses big words and humors his wife’s extremism without joining in.
A professor at the University of Nigeria, she is intelligent and plainspoken, feeling no shame about discussing sex or injustice. Ifemelu comes to admire and love her, as she respects and cares about Ifemelu.
Ifemelu’s sweet, quiet friend who was first set up with Obinze before he pursues Ifemulu. Ginika moves to America and then helps Ifemelu adjust there, finding her the job with Kimberly.
An African-American professor at Yale who is very principled and high-minded. Ifemelu dates him for a long time, and they share a passion for Barack Obama.
Kimberly’s cousin, a rich, handsome white man who falls in love with Ifemelu and dates her for a long time. Curt is very optimistic and spontaneous, and everything always seems to fall into place for him.
Obinze’s wife, an exceptionally beautiful women who is very traditionally-minded and domestic. She is a good wife but has little in common with Obinze.
Obinze’s young daughter with Kosi, whom he loves dearly.
Ifemelu’s first boss and friend in America, a wealthy, liberal white woman who is charitable and friendly but very privileged.
Ifemelu’s friend from school who stays in Nigeria. She helps Ifemelu adjust to moving back to Lagos.
The African hairdresser braiding Ifemelu’s hair. She wants to marry an Igbo who has U.S. papers in order to get American citizenship.
Blaine’s beautiful and intelligent but domineering sister. She seems to have a special power over people, but uses it selfishly.
A Nigerian “big man” who helps Obinze get rich.
Obinze’s cousin who lets him stay with her after he is deported, and introduces him to Chief.
A wealthy, powerful man in the Nigerian government who takes Aunty Uju as his mistress and then supports her. He is the father of Dike. He dies in a plane crash that is rumored to be an assassination.
A sanctimonious, domineering woman at Ifemelu’s mother’s church.
The most popular guy in the secondary school, Obinze’s friend.
A boy who is very ambitious and lies about being rich. He is friends with Obinze but then goes to England, gets wealthy, and becomes pretentious and patronizing.
A young man Ifemelu is attracted to at university in Nsukka.
The owner of the salon where Ifemelu gets her hair braided.
The other woman braiding hair at Mariama’s salon.
Marlon & Jane
A couple from Grenada whom Ifemelu befriends in Brooklyn until Marlon propositions her.
A rude Nigerian man whom Aunty Uju dates and marries in America, before ultimately leaving him.
Ifemelu’s white roommate who has a dog and dislikes Ifemelu.
A white girl at the American university who is patronizing to Ifemelu because of her accent.
Ifemelu’s friend in the African Students Association. She encourages Ifemelu to embrace her natural hair.
An outgoing Tanzanian student in the African Students Association.
The Tennis Coach
A white man who posts online about a job helping him “relax.” He touches Ifemelu sexually and then gives her $100.
Kimberly’s unfriendly sister.
Kimberly’s narcissistic husband, whom she adores.
Kimberly’s son, an innocent and playful boy.
Kimberly’s daughter, who is withdrawn, intelligent, and judgmental, though she seems to like and respect Ifemulu.
A white girl who comes into Mariama’s salon to get her hair braided.
A white man Ifemelu has a crush on, but he doesn’t see her as female or romantically viable.
A chilly, wealthy woman who seems to disapprove of Ifemelu.
A black politician who is elected president. Ifemelu becomes a passionate supporter of his candidacy.
Barack’s wife, a black woman whom Ifemelu greatly admires.
Two seemingly identical men who take care of the business behind Obinze’s green-card marriage.
The young woman Obinze is supposed to marry to gain citizenship in England.
Obinze’s cousin who lives in England. He used to be wild in Nigeria but the responsibilities of parenthood and the stress of life as an immigrant in England have made him very responsible.
Nicholas’s wife, who also used to be wild in college.
Obinze’s friend who works in the subway in England.
Obinze’s distant (and technically unrelated) cousin who lives in England and helps Obinze find work.
The Nigerian man who lets Obinze use his National Insurance card for a fee, but later turns him in.
Obinze’s kind and welcoming boss at his warehouse job.
A young Englishman who works with Obinze and later becomes his “General Manager” and moves to Nigeria.
Emenike’s English wife, a lawyer.
Blaine’s best friend.
Blaine’s white ex, an activist and academic.
A Senegalese professor at Yale whom Ifemelu befriends.
An old security guard at Yale who is racially profiled.
Jonathon and Isioma
Two of Kosi’s wealthy friends.
Ranyinudo’s rich married boyfriend.
Ifemelu’s boss at Zoe.
Ifemelu’s friend from school who becomes a wedding planner.
Ifemelu’s coworker at Zoe, a very sexual woman.
Ifemelu’s other coworker at Zoe, who lived in New York.
The super-religious receptionist at Zoe.
A pretentious man from the Nigerpolitan Club whom Ifemelu sleeps with.
A friendly businessman Obinze haggles with in Abuja.
Obinze’s good friend in Nigeria, another wealthy but honest man.