There’s a compelling scene in Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie where the Nigerian protagonist Ifemelu is getting her hair braided in a stuffy American hair salon. During the six hours that she’s there, stories from the past and present unfurl in a gripping narrative.
On reading Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
While Adichie’s protagonist is waiting patiently for the hairdresser to complete her work, a white girl walks in asking for cornrows. She notices Ifemelu reading a book, and tries to strike up conversation. She declares with confidence that A Bend in the River by VS Naipaul is “the most honest book about Africa” that she’s ever read. “It made me truly understand how modern Africa works,” Kelsey states about the 1979 novel. When Ifemelu challenges her perspective on the book, asserting that it is not a book about Africa at all but about an Indian man’s contempt for Africa and yearning for Europe, the girl responds: “Oh, well, I see why you would read the novel like that.”
To which Ifemelu replies: “And I can see why you read it like you did.”
Kelsey raised her eyebrows, as if Ifemelu was one of those slightly unbalanced people who were best avoided […] She could have blogged about Kelsey, too, this girl who somehow believed that she was miraculously neutral in how she read books, while others read emotionally.
There are many gripping themes in Adichie’s Americanah ripe for discussion, but this one question niggled at me throughout: Is it possible to change the lenses through which we approach stories? Or, perhaps a better question is: How can we identify and acknowledge our reading lenses? How can we be more aware of the way we read books?
I believe that you can change the way you read and interpret books, and the world as a whole. How? By being conscious of the meaning you bring to a story: