Chapter 3 begins a flashback to Ifemelu’s childhood. Ifemelu’s mother starts attending Guiding Assembly, a Christian church that preaches prosperity as its major doctrine, and passes the collection plate around three times per service. Her mother prays constantly for the safety of The General, an important statesman who has taken Ifemelu’s Aunty Uju as a mistress. Ifemelu’s mother calls him Aunty Uju’s mentor, pointedly ignoring the sexual aspect of their relationship.
Meanwhile, Ifemelu’s father loses his job. He tries to find a new job, but eventually gives up and mopes at home, forgetting even to shower at times. Ifemelu’s mother blames this change in fortune on the devil. Ifemelu’s father speaks with a British accent and uses large words as if to make up for never being able to get the kind of education he always longed for. As Ifemelu’s father remains unemployed, eventually the family falls behind in their rent.
On the day Ifemelu is to go to see Aunty Uju’s new estate gifted to her by The General, she gets in trouble with a powerful woman at church because she refuses to help make paper garlands for Chief Omenka, calling him a thief. The church woman accuses Ifemelu of being unwilling to do God’s work. Ifemelu believes that both this woman and her mother use religion as a way of not seeing things as they really are.
After Ifemelu’s father reminds Ifemelu that her tendency to go against authority has sullied her school record, Ifemelu’s mother demands that Aunty Uju tell Ifemelu to behave. Aunty Uju has long acted as a big sister in Ifemelu’s life, giving her sensible advice as she navigated puberty. After the incident at church, Aunty Uju again offers Ifemelu sisterly advice, reminding her that she does not always have to say her every thought.
When Obinze joins Ifemelu’s secondary school, rumors abound that he moved there because his mother fought with another professor at the University in Nsukka. This makes him instantly popular. Everyone expects him to go out with Ifemelu’s friend, Ginika. Ginika is sweet and always gets voted the prettiest girl in their class, but she claims it is only because she is half-caste and has a white mother. Kayode, the coolest boy in school, promises to introduce Obinze to Ginika at his upcoming party.
At the party, Obinze has a difficult time speaking to Ginika. Ifemelu blurts out a rude question about him wearing a jacket in the heat, which amuses him. Obinze and Ifemelu end up dancing and talking the whole night. Obinze tells her that he’s admired her from afar because he saw her carrying a novel. He also liked that she had a reputation for being argumentative. Ifemelu points out that he’s supposed to be after Ginika, and he replies, “I’m chasing you.” Ifemelu appreciates his honesty, and the way he makes her feel like herself. They kiss. From that moment on, they are an inseparable couple.