By Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Knopf, May 2013
$26.95; 496 pp.
“You are looking at things with American eyes. But the problem is that you are not even a real Americanah. At least if you had an American accent we would tolerate your complaining!” Ifemelu’s friend tells her. Ifemelu has returned to Lagos with newfound sensitivity and self-discovery. In her third novel, following the acclaimed Half of a Yellow Sun, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie presents an uncompromising critique about American society, immigration and race through the eyes of Ifemelu, a self-assured and out-spoken Nigerian woman who travels to America to attend college and decides to return home after 13 years. In this funny and insightful tale, Ifemelu moves from New York to Philadelphia to Baltimore and struggles to find work and maintain intimate relationships. Her experiences and keen observations inspire her to create and write a lifestyle blog called “Raceteenth or Various Observations About American Blacks (Those Formerly Known as Negroes) by a Non-American Black.” While Americanah is a vibrant romantic story filled with the author’s masterful prose, it also captures her fascination with hair. “Black women’s hair is a political thing,” Adichie herself has said.
Mo’ Meta Blues: The World According to Questlove
By Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson and Ben Greenman
Grand Central Publishing, June 2013
$26; 288 pp.
Many people know Questlove as the genius drummer and co-founder of the Grammy-winning, hip-hop group The Roots. Some may recognize him from the band’s gig as the house band on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon. Others may know him as a music arranger, deejay, producer, songwriter and activist who wears his signature Afro pick in his hair. In Mo’ Meta Blues, Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson, who started playing drums at age 2, calls himself an evolutionist and says that hip-hop and music saved his life. Questlove is a consummate musician, and in his memoir he reveals his obsession with music and talks about the influences that helped shape his distinctive ideology. He shares with readers his growing up in an environment where “music was central to our family in almost every way,” his love of the rock band KISS, the transformative impact of the song “Rapper’s Delight,” his friendship with bandmate Tariq and singer D’Angelo, and, most impressive, his encyclopedic knowledge of music. Written with author and editor Ben Greenman, the book reads with a conversational tone. Questlove connects moments in music history to stages in his life while offering reflections on Black culture.
By Sidney Poitier
Spiegel & Grau, May 2013
$20; 308 pp.
Academy Award-winning actor and film director Sidney Poitier is far from being a first-time, published writer. The legendary Poitier, who has written three best-selling autobiographical books, has now written his first novel. The protagonist Montaro Caine is the CEO of Fitzer Chemical Corp., a mining company that is in a crisis. He suddenly finds himself on a quest to uncover the mystery of two coinlike objects, one had been in the hand of a newborn. The coins are highly sought after and Montaro hopes by discovering their origins, and if there’s any monetary value attached, it might also save his company. At the same time, Montaro is having problems at home with his teenage daughter. Poitier is an inventive storyteller and Montaro Caine is an original tale about inherent good-heartedness. This somewhat clunky sci-fi /suspense story is filled with numerous characters and subplots, yet Poitier manages to keep hold of the reader’s attention.
Claire of the Sea Light
By Edwidge Danticat
Knopf, August 2013
$25.95; 256 pp.
In her latest novel, Edwidge Danticat explores the magical and mysterious connections we share with the natural world and weaves them with the misfortunes of ordinary life. Claire Limyè Lanmè’s mother died while giving birth to her beautiful daughter. Nozias Faustin, Claire’s father, is a poor fisherman in the seaside town of Ville Rose in Haiti who has contemplated giving his daughter away since she was born. He believes Madame Gaëlle, a local fabric vendor who has lost her own daughter, can offer his child a better life. On Claire’s seventh birthday, just as Nozias is about to hand her over, Claire disappears. Amid the search for the girl, secrets and truths about some of the townspeople emerge. The idea of “the young replacing the old, and life replacing death” runs through this slim novel. Written with a graceful style, Claire of the Sea Light has elements of a fable and is adroitly handled in the hands of such an accomplished storyteller who incorporates her cultural sensibilities.