You divide your time between Nigeria and the United States. What role does each country play in your life?
Nigeria is where my heart is. And I like America. In Nigeria, I have a very social life and I don't get much writing done. America is where I write because I have quiet and I don't have friends calling and asking me to go shopping. Also, my husband spends most of his time in this country. Unlike me, he has a real job.
Your heroine first dates the ideal white American man and then the ideal African-American man. But Ifemelu only finds happiness after she returns home to Nigeria. "Americanah" struck me as being partly about the immigrant's feeling of being a fish out of water.
I like that reading a lot. When I write fiction, I'm not always conscious of everything I'm doing.
I knew I wanted Ifemelu to grow. Both Curt and Blaine were very good boyfriends, but she destroys both those relationships.
It's easier to have a relationship when there's a shared culture and you don't have to explain yourself. It allows you to be the full version of yourself. But, a shared culture is no guarantee that things will work out. There are a lot of men in Nigeria that Ifemelu wouldn't have been happy with.
Ifemelu writes blog posts that are provocative and strongly felt. Are Ifemelu's opinions your opinions?
I'd say that I share about 80 percent of Ifemelu's opinions. Most of the representations about race are mine. We're both sort of blunt, and I've been told that my sense of humor, like hers, tends to be sarcastic.
But her voice isn't my voice. It's hard for me to read the book aloud because Ifemelu uses American expressions that aren't mine and that feel awkward when I try to say them.
What response have the blog posts been receiving from readers?
The best compliment I've gotten came from an African-American woman who said: "I can't believe that you said everything that we say when the door's closed. Thank you for speaking up for us, but I hope you know you aren't going to win any more prizes."
Some white Americans have been offended, particularly men. They say, "Not everything has to be about race. Can't we all just be human?"
There seems to be an assumption in white America that it's the responsibility of black people to prove that race matters. That's odd, given American history. It should be the other way around.
If George Zimmerman had been acquitted while you were writing "Americanah," would you have included it in the novel?
I kind of feel like I want to write about it.
I was in Nigeria, and I tracked the trial obsessively. I went online and read everything about it I could. When the verdict came down, I wept. My friends didn't understand why I was affected so strongly, because in Nigeria, race isn't an issue.
There were a lot of things that people seemed to accept that I think would have been questioned a lot more closely if Trayvon Martin had been white.
And there was a glee about the acquittal that seemed almost inhumane. It's one thing to say that the law has worked, whether you think it's a good law or not. But, it's still a tragedy.
If you go
Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie will talk about her new book at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday at the central Enoch Pratt Free Library, 400 Cathedral St. Free. Call 410-396-5430 or go to prattlibrary.org.
About the book
"Americanah" was released by Alfred A. Knopf. $26.95, 496 pages.