A Few Words About Kingsborough's Common Reading for 2015 - 16:
by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Carefully chosen by over sixty members of our campus community, all of us involved with KCC Reads are very excited about this year’s selection. Not only does it touch on a range of disciplines—the Behavioral Sciences, Women’s Studies, Speech and Communications, English, Political Science, and, depending on focus, courses in Philosophy, History, Health, Business and Culinary Arts too—Adichie’s novel is, in a word, perfect for our student body. It deals in a sustained and smart way with issues important on campus: immigration, first and foremost, as well as gender, race and class. These major tropes develop alongside lesser themes of religion, self-identity, home, romance and love, the family, and building careers in the 21st Century global marketplace. It is appropriate for courses looking at immigration and globalization, class and class cultures, American Studies, and race and Africana Studies, among others. Americanah is also a highly (indeed easily) readable text, an engrossing "page-turner" and sophisticated portrait of the lives of immigrants in today’s world. The text therefore works as well in developmental English and CLIP classes as it does in core content courses; and, though rather long, it can be parsed into sub-sections without difficulty, and taught in part or full.
These aspects come together as a strong commendation of the book. A teaching text works best when it is interesting, when it is understandable, when it addresses important topical concerns, and when students can identify personally with character, story, theme. That all of this is true of Americanah may explain why it won the committee vote in an unprecedented landslide—for the first time in my experience, nearly every voting member—including students, alumni, staff and faculty—chose this book, a ringing endorsement that likewise clarifies why it has garnered much in the way of literary "cred." Among other accolades, it was a New York Times's Ten Best Books of 2014; winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award; an NPR "Great Reads" Book, a Chicago Tribune, Washington Post and Seattle Times Best Book, and a Newsday Top 10 Book.
For KCC Reads, then, this year’s focus is immigration, immigrant life and the residency, legal, social and other structural concerns facing this population. This means our work for the coming academic naturally "plugs in" to other campus initiatives, such as Diversity Week, Immigration Day, Prof. Skoric’s Immigrant Women’s Group, her Immigration HUB, as well as to concerns of our Equity initiative and other priority projects. The premise of the novel is the relationship of its two protagonists, both born in Nigeria and who, after first falling in love and then graduating high school, become immigrants—Ifemelu to America, Obinze to England. Emily Raboteau’s Washington Post review characterizes it as a "book about the immigrant’s quest: self-invention, which is the American subject. ‘Americanah’ is unique among the booming canon of immigrant literature of the last generation." As the characters’ lives traject along very different paths, not only do Ifemelu and Obinze become estranged they also "lose" and must reconstruct their individual identities, their confidence and focus, and their "places" in the world. Their story prompts us to ask: What are the characters in search of? And, why do they decide, separately, to return home after working so hard to belong and thrive in new geographies?
As we know, our students are particularly well equipped to contemplate, answer and debate questions like these. With leadership of faculty using it, they will be encouraged to think about Americanah from various perspectives, to spend "quality" time mining Adichie’s brilliant novel for all it can teach us and all the knowledge we can produce by studying it. For example, we might think and learn about:
Teaching Resources on the book:
Books Nominated for this Year
Videos of this Year's Events:
View Chaumtoli Huq's Keynote Lecture on Americanah here:
View Prof. Skoric's Inaugural Lecture on Americanah here:
View Prof. Arenas' Fall Lecture on Americanah here: