A Perfect Pair: Americanah & Fresh Off the Boat Six Words

Some things are just meant to be together: peanut butter and jelly, milk and cookies, Burt and Ernie, Milli and Vanilli (girl, you know it’s true).  While reading Americanah, I discovered its perfect match: Fresh Off the Boat Six Words. Here’s why they go so well together (click here to find out why Milli and Vanilli go so well together).

Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie:
 The story starts out with strong, self-assured, opinionated Imefelu preparing to return to her native Nigeria after 15 years in America. As she prepares for departure, her past is told in a series of flashbacks. After a year in a Nigerian college, Ifemulu leaves her boyfriend, Obinze, and everything she knows to go to college in America. She struggles with holding on to her Nigerian heritage and culture while trying to assimilate to American society. I’m only half-way through, but the author brings up so many interesting points about race, culture, and identity. 

Fresh Off the Boat Six Words edited by Larry Smith:
Sparked by Larry Smith’s simple question “describe your life in six words”, the newest Six Word Memoirs collection showcases the awe-inspiring experience of coming to America. This book features six word memoirs as well as short stories about immigration and identity. Some are laugh-out-loud funny while others bring tears to your eyes and break your heart.  I ordered this book because my sister-in-law has her own 6-word memoir featured in the book! Cool, right? 

Why These Two are the Perfect Match:
Well first, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie is featured in the book. What more do you need to prove that these two are destined to be together? It feels that for those of us whose immigration stories happened many generations ago, immigration is something that doesn’t apply to us and is not a part of our identity. However, unless you’re Native American, someone in your family was at one point an immigrant. The immigrant experience is part of all of our identities. It seems that this fact is often overlooked or forgotten. Americans have a funny way of making immigrants feel like outsiders or unwanted; like America is a puzzle they don’t have all the pieces to. It might not be intentional, or maybe it is. I don’t know. The fact is that our identity as a nation has always been the “American dream”: coming from somewhere else and making a better life for yourself. It’ important not to forget that. 

It’s also important to show how hard life can be for immigrants. Sometimes people immigrate to America because they already have family here or they fell in love and married someone that lives here, or they just want a better life. But a lo times, the reason why people emigrate from his or her country is highly traumatic: war, persecution, extreme poverty, abuse. Then they come to this country and have to deal with a whole new set of problems: legal status, finding work, navigating all the social nuances that make absolutely no sense. Both of these books shed some light on the reality of being an immigrant and the importance of holding on to your own identity. I highly recommend reading these two books and reading them together.  

What are two books you have read that go really well together?

3 thoughts on “A Perfect Pair: Americanah & Fresh Off the Boat Six Words

  1. Very well said. Every Immigrant has a story that is unique and still relates to the collective Immigrant experience.

  2. I loved Americanah. This sounds like a great pairing: an extended story of one fictional immigrant experience paired with glimpses into the experiences of many others.

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