Summary: Chapter 17
Ifemelu moves into her own apartment. After a telemarketer compliments Ifemelu for sounding American, she resolves to drop her American accent. She wonders why she thinks sounding American is a triumph.
Ifemelu meets Blaine, a black American college professor, on the train to visit Aunty Uju. They flirt and exchange phone numbers. Ifemelu calls him when she gets off the train, but he never responds.
Aunty Uju complains about being black in a very white city. Her patients assume she isn’t a doctor, and one even asked to switch to another doctor. Bartholomew is never home. Aunty Uju won’t leave him because she wants another child. Dike has grown reserved. He tells Ifemelu that a camp counselor gave the other children sunscreen and said he didn’t need any. He tells Ifemelu he wants to be “regular.”
The chapter ends with a blog post Ifemelu later writes detailing the four tribalisms of America: class, ideology, region, and race. She explains that white Anglo-Saxon Protestants (WASPs) are always on top of the racial hierarchy, and black people are always at the bottom. Everyone else’s position fluctuates.
Summary: Chapter 18
Back in the salon, the braiders ask a South African customer why she has no accent. She explains she’s been in America for a long time. Aisha asks Ifemelu why she has an accent, but Ifemelu ignores her. She worries she’s made a mistake in going back to Nigeria.
A white woman named Kelsey arrives and asks if they can braid her hair. Kelsey makes assumptions about the shop owner’s gratitude for American opportunities and asks if women can vote in her country. Kelsey disparages Nigerian author Chinua Achebe’s novel Things Fall Apart for not teaching her the reality of modern Africa, and instead praises a book called A Bend in the River for being an honest book about Africa. Ifemelu objects that A Bend in the River is more about longing for Europe than it is about Africa, which makes Kelsey uncomfortable. Kelsey is surprised to learn African braiding involves hair extensions.