October 7, 2015 – Notes

 In attendance: Liz Clarke, Vivian Krone, Janice Loschiavo, Lois Pagnozzi, Meta Pitrelli, Cathy Quinn, Sharon Rome, Barbara Santillo, Tina Segali, Marilyn Sinisi, Joan Swensen.

Emeritus: Donna Sabetta, Jeri Stangl.

Book & Author: Americanah, by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie.

While waiting for Liz and Vivian, whose arrival was delayed by traffic problems, the group caught up, shared photos and munched on snacks. Everyone agreed that Cathy looked pretty darn good for someone undergoing chemo every other week. Liz claimed to have lost three pounds (!!).

Questions, notes and quotes regarding Americanah:

  • Meta introduced the book and spoke of her father, who was not accepting of prejudice of any kind. But Meta admitted to having had reactions similar to those some of the characters had. We all hold certain beliefs that are unknowingly biased or unfair.
  • Cathy questioned why people think speaking slowly and loudly to people who don’t speak English will make them understand. Vivian pointed out that if someone speaks a language “a little”, it actually does help to speak slowly.
  • Barbara pointed out how Ifemelu’s hair is a metaphor for her state of mind.
  • Lois noted how Ife wanted to keep her hair African. Like many immigrants, she wanted to belong and feel a part of America, but she also wanted to maintain her roots.
  • Sharon talked about how Ife’s hair-weaving was like her life, mixing and mingling language, food, culture.
  • Tina cited the Spanish word “añoranza” as that longing, nostalgia, homesickness that an immigrant feels for his life in his country. “The crisp air, fragrant and dry, reminded her of Nsukka during the harmattan season, and brought with it a sudden stab of homesickness, so sharp and so abrupt that it filled her eyes with tears.” (p. 177)
  • Liz told us how Steve still calls Ireland home.
  • In response to Barbara’s questioning what Ife inherited from her mother, Cathy answered, “Nothing, but she did inherit qualities from her aunt.”
  • Barbara pointed out how the aunt was a go-getter and Ife’s confidante. She gave her niece the strength to face all the challenges of her new country and ultimately, Ife became stronger than her aunt.
  • Meta noted how differently Ifemelu was treated when Curt was with her. People try to do the right thing, but they are judgmental. We judge people not only by the color of their skin but sometimes more significantly, by their economic status.
  • Lois referred to the scene on page 470, when Ife said to her aunt “You told him (Dike) what he wasn’t but you didn’t tell him what he was.” Aunty had told Dike he wasn’t “black folk” but then what was he?
  • When Ife broke with Obinze after she had the sexual encounter with the weird tennis player, was she being self-destructive? She was depressed and ashamed, though she did it out of desperation. She also destroys the relationship with Blaine, though Vivian pointed out that they had begun to drift.
  • Ife didn’t want to live with the female roommates. She was more intelligent and refined than they were. She “woke up each day feeling bruised.”
  • Lois noted Ife’s blog entry on page 273, “You Are Black, Baby.” She outlines the differences between non-American blacks and African-Americans, underscoring how different their life experiences are.
  • What made Ifemelu come out of her depression? Curt, but she sabotaged that, too.
  • The election of Obama was a joyous event for Ife and Blaine. “There was, at that moment, nothing that was more beautiful to her than America.”
  • Will Ife stay in Africa? Opinions went both ways.

The book earned a 3.0 rating. This was one of the rare occasions that the discussion continued even after dessert. Happy Birthday was sung to Meta and Jeri, who share a birthday (October 11) and Donna, whose birthday fell on the date of the book club meeting. Tina distributed the lottery tickets, after securing pledges that the big prize would be shared with all should they win. (I checked and had not one number matching. Did everyone check? Perhaps we have won and don’t know it?!?)

Next Meeting: Wednesday, November 4, beginning at 5:00 p.m. Joan has indicated that she may still be in NJ at that time, in which case the meeting will be at her house. If the Swensens have already departed for Florida by November 4, the meeting will be at Liz’s house. Stay tuned!

Food assignments for the November meeting will be announced once we know where it will take place. Janice volunteered to bring the lottery tickets in November (and is therefore exempt from food duty!)

Next book: Excellent Women, by Barbara Pym, chosen by Cathy. Barbara will make the selection for December (possibly The Thin Man, by Dashiell Hammett).

Submitted by Tina Segali

October 12, 2015