On Facebook a friend’s post about Chimamanda Adichie’s Americannah read thus:
So I finally finished reading Americanah and there is nothing spectacular about the novel. I think Adiche has over flogged some issues. She really should try something new.’
We are all entitled to our beliefs and opinions. I refrained from a reaction to this piece of mind because it was *my-keeping-mute-week.*
I was at a book reading in September. An European questioned the authenticity of African diasporic writers, mentioning in passing the exponential increase in diasporic writers in recent times. The opinion of the friend and the question of the European are related. It was time for a response.
In my reaction, I emphasized, the authenticity of writers from the diaspora should not be questioned; on no account should they also be compared to writers at home.
These two writers write from different perspectives and environments which follows that there is a wide contrast in their subject matters. Therefore, a diasporic writer might overstretch particular issue(s) in her novel because she has one more reason to do so, namely her newly added perspective. How she infuses these into her writing is best known to her/him.
In this light, a reader living in Nigeria might identify well with a book written by a live-in-Nigerian-author. The same reader might not with a live-abroad-Nigerian-author. Our perceptions differ based on the environment we live in.
Here a practical example. As a resident in Germany, I can make as subject matter *Mineralwasser* in comparison to *Nigeria-Tablewater*.
The live-in-Germany-Nigeria-readers might have a good read and good laugh. On the other hand, live-in-Nigeria-readers might be vexed when they read my book. Simply put: we have no Mineralwasser in Nigeria. Thus, it will be difficult to imagine the bad taste Mineralwasser leaves in my mouth. I can picture the live-in-Nigeria-readers asking what the hype is about the book.
I read Americannah few months after I arrived in Germany. I finished reading it within hours. It was unputdownable. I bet if I was in Nigeria when I read the novel, I still would have finished reading it because I love reading, but I would not have understood some key words, thematic preoccupations, White-Black dichotomy etc.
Take for instance Ifemelu’s experience, the protagonist who left for America for further studies and what she went through in pursuit of her dreams. Living in Germany and reading this novel remedied that for me. I was Ifemelu in that novel, I could relate Obinze to some friends who live an undocumented life in London and the trauma of using friends’ passports to get jobs that submit 40% income to these friends. Probably, some other diasporic readers could identify with one or two characters in the novel. I have since read the novel three times after my first read.
My desire to write about the black-white dichotomy in my Master thesis also surfaces from living in Germany. I am sure I would never have thought about doing my research on a topic like that living in Nigeria. The reason is this: I was never *Black* in Nigeria. I became *Black* when I stepped on the shores of Europe. So, how can my live-in-Nigeria-readers understand my master thesis and the mumbo-jumbo? This has nothing to do with intelligence but they cannot picture the world from my view.
In a nutshell, lest one think I am over-flogging issues here, diasporic African/Nigerian writers are not less authentic, the presumed issue over-flogging is not necessarily true and their confluence of narratives are clearly different from live-in-Nigeria-writers due to among many other factors the departure from home, thus adding another perspective to them.