The Great American Read

S1 E6 | CLIP


Barbara Bush and others discuss why they love the novel, Americanah.

AIRED: October 09, 2018 | 0:03:08

- [Narrator] The power of a first love to stay with us

in spite of heartbreak and separation

is a theme is one of your favorite novels,

Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adiche.

The story follows Ifemelu,

a promising student from Nigeria.

She wins a scholarship to study in America,

but she must leave behind a first love,

her classmate, Obinze.

Ifemelu stumbles from one failed relationship to another,

and along the way, she discovers what it means

to be a black African in America.

(upbeat music)

- [Adoja Andoh] "He was already looking

"at their relationship through the lens

"of the past tense.

"It puzzled her, the ability of romantic love

"to mutate, how quickly a loved one

"could become a stranger.

"Where did the love go?"

- And there's this moment in the book

where they were young and in love,

and their relationship falls apart

for one decision that she makes,

and yet, they're both thinking of each other from a distance

for the majority of their lives through thee book,

and I love that sort of sad, beautiful notion,

of when you're young,

you don't know where your life is gonna go,

and how it's gonna play out.

- I would say that Americanah has a universal love story,

but it is a very specific love story,

told from the perspective of two, beautiful,

talented, amazing, worldly, broken African people,

but we can all relate to their journey to love.

(inspirational music)

- I think a lot of people responded to Americanah,

because yes, it's a book about first love,

but it's also a book about returning to the person

as Ifemelu returns to Obinze,

her sort of first childhood love,

and they come back together,

and they say, "Can we do this?"

Now with a little bit of experience,

now with even more psychic wounds.

You know, what kind of relationship can we have together?

And there's a realism there.

There's a bit of fatigue.

There's a little bit of hope,

but the combined sort of flavor of all of that

felt very interesting and satisfying.

- A love story like Americanah

puts you in really close contact with characters,

who may or may not be like you,

and you see how they interact with the world,

and how they change,

and it's really powerful when that's featuring characters

that are different than you.

- To read this tale by a Nigerian woman,

not quite being African anymore once you're American,

but not quite being American,

'cause you'll always still be kinda African,

and following her on that journey,

it was so touching,

and it was so educational,

without feeling like I was being educated,

and it was just really well done.

- I am Barbara Bush,

and I loved the book Americanah,

and I hope you will read it,

and get to know the two main characters

and their love story,

and I hope you'll vote for it.