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As the matter of fact, the novel, Americanah, is talking about the experience of the main protagonist as immigrants in the United States. As we all know, the United State is a nation of immigrant. And it is a racially complex country. Today, immigrants make up one-eighth of the US population (Judith, and Zoya Gubernskaya) and so many people want to immigrate to the US. For most of them as well as Ifemelu, the United States is the place where they can make their dream come true.
But it’s also a place where dreams can be shattered. Although Ifemelu is a fictional character in the book, she is realistic. Many immigrants have the same experience as she has.
Actually, literature can also be a true portrayal of life. In reality, immigrants are forced to subdue parts of her identity, and even appearance, in order to fit into American culture without being judged or dismissed.
Most of immigrants think it is necessary to “do as a Roman do”.
It is well-know that most black people have the curly hair. That is their feature, but Ifemelu needed to burn straight in order to gain the identity, to gain the job. Therefore, “Her hair was hanging down rather than standing up, straight and sleek, parted at the side and curving to a slight bob at her chin. The verve was gone” (Adichie 251). And she also said “with the nasal, sliding accent she put on when she spoke to white Americans, in the presence of white Americans, in the hearing of white Americans.
And with the accent emerged a new persona, apologetic and self-abasing” (Adichie 133) And during the immigrant life, Aunt Uju has to give up her important part of character in order to protect herself. She stopped being herself, prefer to do what you have to do if you want to succeed” (Adichie 146-147). Ifemelu was so shock that Aunty Uju has learned to feel sorry for her foreign identity, and she tries to speak with an American accent in front of white people, which can reduce others’ attention to her, but Uju was a confident, open woman in Nigeria before. In real life, most immigrant also face the same problem. They need to give up some of their own culture generally to follow the local culture in order to adjust to the new environment. Only in this way can they not feel shame of being a foreigner. In the research “how insistent immigrants are that learning English is critical for their success”, it is reported that some immigrants also see learning English as an ethical obligation. Nearly two in three (65 percent) say the U.S. should expect all immigrants who do not speak English to learn it (Farkas). In other words, many immigrants like Aunt Uju always though that they were an outsider in our life. Therefore, the characters in the book are realistic.
In addition, immigrants maintain a strong connection to their county or countrymen while they are making their home in immigration country. In the book, Ifemelu really liked the place called “African Students Union”, where she could find many people like her who was an immigrant from Africa. They have the same experience and family background. And Ifemelu could share her ignorance and homesickness with them. Hence, Ifemelu could feel a new sense of connection with her country, and she felt vindicated as a Nigerian. she could feel less alone. In reality, there are many immigrants maintain connenction with their original country.
According to the research, there are “59 percent regularly phone family abroad and another 44 percent send money at least once in a while. Respondents split 47 percent to 52 percent between those who closely follow current events in their country of origin and those who do not” (Farkas). All in all, immigrants like Ifemelu usually make connection with their country or countrymen in order to make themselves less lonely. Thus, literature can also be a true portrayal of life.
In conclusion, what Ifemelu and Aunt Uju were going through is what most immigrants are going through in real life. Although the character is fictional, they are realistic especially their experience is realistic. Literature can also be a true portrayal of life.
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