Americanah has got me scribbling thoughts in and out of margins, finding grins across my lips as I mark phrases and words that make me think. However, I think my strongest emotional response came from the thick passage after Ifemelu’s exploitation. So, friends, let’s talk about this passage and let’s talk about shame because –
a) it’s debilitating
b) it matters.
One of the things that continues to strike me in this novel over and over again is the accuracy and vulnerability with which Adichie describes particular experiences. On page 192, she divulges the experience of Ifemelu’s shame, saying,
“Sometimes she woke up flailing and helpless, and she saw, in front of her and behind her and all around her an utter hopelessness. She knew there was no point in being here, in being alive, but she had no energy to think concretely of how she could kill herself… her days were stilled by silence and snow” (Adichi 192).
These words are so shattering and it aches me how thickly Ifemelu was affected; she refuses to talk or move and stays in bed for weeks, refusing to even contact Obinze back. I think this goes to show how intricate a thing sexuality is and how it affects EVERYTHING. Not in a necessarily erotic way, but in the fact that such a violating experience can infiltrate someone’s being and shut them down from functioning. That’s what shame does – it tells us we are worthless and that there is nothing in our being alive; that we have nothing to offer.
This experience is repeated in similar fashion for Ifemelu when she cuts off her hair, calling sick into work for three days in a row – refusing to leave her bed.
Curious for y’all’s thoughts on how shame and it’s affects infiltrate this book in other ways, and also how Adichi brings in themes of Hope and Redemption, threading them through the needle of word through which she sews this book.
Much love and Until –