I don’t know how I feel about Americanah…am I allowed to say that? Am I allowed to say that I am not immediately bowled over by it or transported by it? I don’t know.

I put it down…several times. I put it aside to read something else or do other things and now, although I have been reading it for the last few hours, I have put it aside again to write about it.

I’m not saying that it is not a well written book, it is extremely well written….but somehow it is different…maybe this is what it is meant to be.

This isn’t a review of the book, I do not have the breadth of experience to review a book by someone far more skilled than myself.

Americanah is odd. It doesn’t attempt to make itself relatable. It seems to wander from one place to another, from one perspective, one emotional and mental place to another, as if when she was writing it, Ms Adichie herself put it down and picked it up over and over again, and as if each time that she picked it up, she was a different person.

It seems to meander, almost to drift, but it does not…it is just taking the scenic route to a place that we might or might not see, depending on where we are when we get to the end.

I suspect that it is not meant to be completely relatable. Some parts I picture immediately, my father was a lecturer in the University and so I can relate to Obinze’s mum, because many of my parent’s friends spoke like her…of journals and conferences. I remember the strikes, first as a child wondering why my father wasn’t at work again, reading the stickers that appeared on the doors “My take home pay can’t take me home” and feeling the slight awkwardness with protesting, as if they didn’t quite remember how…then I became a student, and the strikes meant that I was at home longer than I should have, but not as long as old friends in other universities with more militant lecturers.

I read Ifemelu’s accounts as she arrived and then adapted and then created her own identity and I know that I cannot relate to it because I have only ever lived here and so I have never had to adapt to someone else’s culture or way of life. But I can see the truth in Ifemelu’s answers, her thoughts ring true as well. I just have a little trouble seeing the person she is when she is in America.

The parts about hair tend to grate a bit, but that is mostly because I am getting tired of the whole natural hair/relaxed hair debate. There seems to be a carefully worded campaign for all of us to revert to kinkiness, a message that says “yes I felt it was silly too but then I fell in love with my Africanness the first time I touched my head and felt tight curls instead of silk”. It’s not balanced…it’s very obviously on the side of natural hair and I feel slightly irritated that even here I can’t escape the various advertisements and arguments about the Afro.

Maybe this is what makes Americanah a great book. Perhaps Ms Adichie does not intend us to get lost in the book. Perhaps she means some parts to jar and some parts to make us smile in nostalgia. Perhaps she means some parts to make us think about perspectives that we have experienced but never thought through.

It’s possible it’s just me sha

I find it quite political and somehow I find the book shifting in perspective from a story to a veiled political statement and back and it is in some of these places that I disconnect from the story and put the book down and go off and do something.

Some parts of Obinze’s story sound unreal. Did she mean them to sound that way? Or am I too immersed in Ifemelu to connect fully to this guy who seems to be less substantial as an adult than he was as a youth?

I don’t know what Americanah is. And perhaps that is part of my problem; that I cannot define it. Perhaps it bothers me that it is more complex, more layered and less clearcut than her other work.

I do recognize that this is an incredibly written book, if for no other reason than that I am sitting here at 1.30 in the morning with no light, trying to take it apart in my head to see if I can put it back together in a way that I understand.

Americanah does not engage my heart or my emotions. It engages my mind and I find myself thinking not so much about the characters and their lives and their stories, but about the book itself, about the perspectives and opinions that Ms Adichie has put out. I am not lost in the story, I am standing outside, watching this girl and pondering her impressions, perspectives and motivations.

I find myself thinking about lecturers that no longer write in journals and the wave of hopelessness that drove Nigerians out of the country in droves in the 90s. I compare that in my head to the many leaving now and I find myself asking if the Nigerians who left earlier look at the Nigerians leaving now and are as saddened and surprised by them as we are back here. I find myself contemplating the dynamics of race in a context where I am not automatically correct because after all I am a Nigerian woman in Nigeria. I muse briefly on the thought that perhaps my blog needs to become more specific, more niched (I know that‘s not a word but it says so rightly what I want to say so I ‘m keeping it).

I’m uninterested in Curt, he is a sideline to the story…even Blaine is somehow incidental…I don’t know if he is meant to be.

It annoys me how Ifemelu’s father moves from sounding wise to sounding quaint, I roll my eyes when Ifemelu specifies that she will be using a satin bonnet to cover her hair after she has braided it. There are very many people in the story and it’s a bit hard to keep track of all of them and their various ideologies.

And this might be just because I’ve lost my sense of romance…temporarily misplaced it, but I kinda wished Ifemelu and Obinze didn’t end up together…I mean, how often does it happen like that in real life? I know, it’s fiction, not real life

I’m a bit shocked to realise that I have written 3 pages on this book and that I could write a few more without feeling like I have successfully taken it apart.

Somehow I get the feeling that Ms Adichie has done something quite unprecedented with this book.

I still don’t know how I feel about this book; maybe I’m not meant to feel.

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A LITTLE BIT OF A RANT

I’m truly sorry that I’ve been away for so long. I’ve had a crazy couple of weeks. Hope you and yours have been well

I’m deeply unhappy as I write; I’m almost heartsick. Nigeria is trying to break my heart. Over the last month or two, people on Twitter have been asked to raise almost 20 million Naira for 4 different people with different ailments. First it was #SaveOke, then #SaveFunmi, now we’re trying to #Save both Meka and Debbie; and all I can think is, where does this end?

For every Funmi or Debbie or Meka or Oke with enough media savvy friends to work to raise money to save their lives, there are millions of other Nigerians, suffering agony from one ailment or the other, waiting for death, with no one to start a #Save campaign for them. Where does it stop?

Why is it so hard for us to develop basic healthcare in Nigeria? Going to the hospital is no guarantee of a diagnosis, much less correct treatment. We have people in charge of this nation’s health, people whose jobs it is to craft policies that will make good quality healthcare available for all. Where are these people? How many Nigerians will die before our health sector gains the transformation it needs? How many more will we lose?

I was chatting with a friend about Debbie and she told me something that shocked me. She carries out a specific medical test routinely when she travels to the US for check-ups –I don’t remember the name, but it is a routine test for her age. She couldn’t travel for her check-up at some point and so went to a “good” hospital here in Nigeria to do her tests. Upon scanning her list of required tests, she noticed that this routine test was not on the list. When she asked her doctor why, he said to her “but you don’t need it, you’re ok aren’t you?”

I avoid hospitals like the plague. On one trip, I was admitted with a very bad migraine. The doctor did a blood test and prescribed malaria medication. This wouldn’t have been a big deal if the nurse on duty had not come in 5 minutes before to tell me that there had been no malaria parasites in my blood. On another occasion, I went to a hospital suffering an allergic reaction. I was prescribed malaria medication “just in case”, despite my assurances that I knew I didn’t have malaria. I endured 3 days of itching like a nutcase and liberally coating myself in calamine lotion till I looked like a Nollywood ghost. I count myself lucky. People have gone in for routine issues and did not come out.

I’m not here to claim that all hospitals in Nigeria are bad. There are several gifted and dedicated medical professionals and institutions that pride themselves on a job well done. But I must be honest; it seems to me that they are in the minority.

I’m tired of hearing that so-and-so equipment is not available in Nigerian hospitals. I’m sick of hearing that people are admitted for malaria and don’t come out of the hospital alive. I’m tired of hearing about misdiagnoses and various forms and variants of medical malpractice. It breaks my heart.

Our healthcare is one aspect of our inadequacies as a nation. We have one of the highest infant and maternal mortality rates in the world. People still die of cholera. Ghana has started to ask for yellow fever cards. Where does it stop?

Everywhere I look, I see disillusionment and cynicism from my compatriots and disregard from foreigners. I don’t know how to fix our healthcare system; I don’t know what it will cost, or what it will require. What I do know is that there are people who do know; where are they? There are people who can afford to set up world-class hospitals in Nigeria; where are they? Where are our NGOs and health advocates? Where are the people who know what is wrong and how it can be repaired?

President Obama believes we are the world’s next economic success story, and so I look around me – at bad roads, at epileptic power, and hospitals with neither doctors nor medication, at the waste of our natural resources and policies that no one bothers to explain to the average person.

I look around and fight the urge to weep. It’s hard to keep believing in the possibilities of Nigeria. It’s so hard.

How long will we #Save people? Until we become jaded and stop caring? Until someone decides that it would make a good scam and spoils it for everyone else?

How long will we continue to patch what is very obviously a very broken state of affairs?

When will we start the process to #SaveNigeria’s healthcare?

THE TEN REASONS I LOVE MY JOB

I’ve been doing shortlists for some open positions in my organization. Apart from the tediousness of it, it has been interesting to look through CVs and see what all those job and employment websites always talk about; presentation, relevant experience and so on. It has also made me even more grateful that I not only have a job, but that I have a job I actually enjoy. There were many CVs from people my age and older, people with lots of qualifications and experience, people with skills and abilities.

Anyway, it’s gotten me thinking. Not just about the fact that I have a job, but about why I love my job. So, in no particular order, here are the 10 things I love the most about my job.

  1. Just now, in the middle of reviewing my overflowing out folder, I took a break, went out and played 15 minutes of very poor table tennis with my equally poor but very determined colleague. I spent more time chasing the ball than hitting it, but it was so much fun. I get lots of opportunities for these mini breaks and always come back to work refreshed and eager to get back to it.
  2. Earlier on today, a little girl was crying, she looked at me, came over and put up her hands for a cuddle. I picked her up and she immediately stopped crying and snuggled into my shoulder. I helped her to feel safe, and she helped me to feel 250 feet tall.
  3. I get the most awesome meals mehn! The chef has made it a mission to make me fat and so I get to eat the most flavourful healthy food ever. They know me so well that they know to give me lots of small portions through my day. 9 times out of 10, you’ll walk into my office to see me nibbling like a rabbit on something or the other.
  4. My boss has extremely high standards and is not afraid to call out misbehaviour or lack of performance. But she is also very honest and generous in her expressions of her feelings and opinions. We’ve spent many hours discussing politics, the world economic system, men and my future. (Her advice – be as independent as you can, work hard and make sure you fall in love with someone who has enough in common with you so that you guys will always have something interesting to talk about). She is an awesome woman who is even more impressive because of the humility with which she discusses her achievements.
  5. I work with the craziest people in Abuja. Yesterday I looked out the window and the accountant was on the lawn dancing makossa. He’s 6 feet plus and as lanky as they come. Half of the staff team was on the floor in stitches, the other half joined in.
  6. There’s always music – classical, naija, ethnic, nursery rhymes…there’s always music.
  7. I get to walk home every evening. It’s not just exercise, it’s a time to relax, unwind, review my day, disconnect from work, and connect with the people and things waiting at home for me.
  8. I get to run things, like a proper lady bawse. I am responsible for making short, medium and long-term decisions that will affect the future of my organization. It’s very humbling when I think over the steady stream of people coming into my office for my advice, approval or signature on a document. They trust that I have what it takes to make the right decisions. I owe it to them not to betray that trust.
  9. We’re a very female centred organization. I can’t say for sure, but probably about 70% of our organization is female. And not just delicate lady flowers o! Strong, assertive women who will not hesitate to lay down the law if need be. They are loud, quiet, fat, and thin and come from across Nigeria.  When one of the men pissed one of the girls off, we refused to let him leave till he had apologized profusely and repeatedly. We’re the Powerpuff girls in jeans and funky Ankara.
  10. It’s not perfect. People get frustrated, angry and even want to quit. We make mistakes, don’t have all the answers and would undoubtedly frustrate anyone unable to live without straight lines or order. What it is however, is a place that allows you to be imperfect, and somehow makes you fit in; quirks and all. I don’t need to pretend to be anything I’m not, which leaves me free to grow into the kind of employee and person I want to be.

There are so many more things, and maybe I’ll share them another time, but now I’ve got to get back to my paperwork and the very tantalizing looking lunch that has just come in. What do you love about your job or career? Be sure to leave a comment and share with me. I’d love to hear your experiences and perspectives.

Ciao!