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Nigerian wins major book prize for ‘Americanah’

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Acclaimed novelist Chimamanda Ngozi Adichi, who gave us “Half of a Yellow Sun,” has written an epic volume on a U.S. sojourn by a modern young woman from Nigeria who confronts a new reality — being Black in America.

The book was a standout among this year’s entries for the U.S. National Critics Book Circle and this week it was announced that “Americanah” captured the group’s top prize for fiction.

In the book, a young couple from Nigeria plot their new lives abroad — she in the U.S. and he in the United Kingdom — but their respective trips are nothing like they planned. Neither finds the smooth transition to success in their new and separate lives. They taste the bitter flavor of racism and realize they are unprepared for the rejections that flow from racial discrimination.

In an interview with the Los Angeles Times, the author said her book drew on her own experiences as an African living in the U.S., particularly with African Americans.

“I don’t know race in the way an African American knows race… Sometimes it takes an outsider to see something about your own reality that you don’t,” she said.

Her preceding work, “Half of a Yellow Sun,” is set during the Biafran War of the late 1960s and has been adapted into a forthcoming film starring Chiwetel Ejiofor and Thandie Newton.

Adichie’s third novel was also named as one of the New York Times’ top 10 books of 2013.

Among the other prize winners announced this year was “Five Days at Memorial,” a book by Sheri Fink about Hurricane Katrina and the patients, staff and families who took shelter in New Orleans’ Memorial Hospital during the devastating storm.

 

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