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Four: Rupturing the Genre: Un-Writing Silence in Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie's Americanah.

Silence, aesthetics, race and femininities

Americanah (2013) - Adichie's third novel after Purple Hibiscus and Half of a Yellow Sun - is a work that spans three continents and revolves around the love, migration, return and reunion of the two main characters, Ifemelu and Obinze., who both grow up in Nigeria. Some few years into college, Ifemelu obtains an American visa and migrates to continue with her education. The writer handles this separation by developing two plot lines that trace their different experiences: Ifemelu in America and Obinze in Nigeria, Britain and his eventual return to Nigeria. From this authorial gambit, we learn that Obinze, who is supposed to follow Ifemelu to the U.S. after he is done with college, is denied a visa. He later moves to Britain on a temporary visa. When the visa expires, he makes plans to marry a European so that he could become a European citizen. However, on the day of the marriage immigration officials arrest and deport him back to Nigeria. While Ifemelu is in America, their relationship becomes strained, and they eventually stop communicating. Ifemelu completes college and gets a job which she later quits to concentrate on a famous and controversial blog she calls Raceteenth or Various Observations About American Blacks (Those Formerly Known as Negroes) by a Non-American Black. Despite her relative success and her acquisition of American citizenship, she opts to relocate back to Nigeria, mainly because of subtle yearnings and unresolved romances with both the Nigerian home and Obinze, her first love. Back in Nigeria, she starts another blog titled The Small Redemptions of Lagos.

Adichie uses Ifemelu and Obinze's love and migration as a threshold to narrativize the vexed questions of home, hair politics and feminine aesthetics, and racial hierarchies. She employs a highly heterogeneous novel-a romance and migrant novel, and a novel of manners-to reclaim and rewrite the normative romance and immigrant narrative. The novel trenchantly represents migration as unequivocally gendered, explodes and disperses the mythical romance with the nation, disrupts and shifts epistemic and discursive centers by manipulating the subject/other and the observer/observed positionalities, and gives an incisive and self-reflexive portrayal of the hydra-headedness of racial pathologies. In addition, Idowu-Faith (2014, p. 2) observes that the novel critically engages "international migration theories... to chart a new migration story where return migration is the quintessential closure." The novel's radical reversal of conventional narrative order and representation is reiterated by Hallemeier (2015, p. 232) who argues that "Americanah presents an alternative, utopic vision of global power in which the United States stands as a foil to the promising future of late Nigerian capitalism."

This paper is concerned with the novel's particular generic hybridization-thematic and stylistic choices which are deployed to trouble silencing and policing, especially as they relate to the black migrant, and specifically as they are exercised over the woman as the racial, femininely gendered and sexual other. While the novel often reads like a "cataloguing of experiences" and "anecdotes that defy the fabric of coincidence" (Aribisala, 2013), which ultimately makes the plot feel "like an excuse for the venting of opinions" (Maslin, 2013), I contend that this polyvocality is strategically tooled to trouble the silences concealed in the pursuit of propriety and nuance. In this way, I read silence as regulating and structuring gendered and interracial relationships in ways that maintain social hierarchies. In thinking through silence/silencing that Americanah limns, I draw upon the ideas of Picard (1948) who posits that silence suffuses every aspect of human life; Dauenhauer (1980, p. 4) who argues that silence encapsulates something more than the mere "absence of audible sound"; and Clair's interjection that "expressive activities can be silencing" and "silence can be expressive" (1998, p....

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Ndaka, Felix Mutunga, Wagadu: a Journal of Transnational Women's and Gender Studies
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Article Details
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Author:Ndaka, Felix Mutunga
Article Type:Critical essay
Geographic Code:6NIGR
Date:Dec 22, 2017
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