Ifemelu thinks of Curt, her first American boyfriend. Curt is Kimberly’s cousin who lives in Baltimore. He tells everyone he fell in love with Ifemelu at first laugh, but Ifemelu did not want to date a white man. Ifemelu did not actually notice his interest at first. When Curt asks Ifemelu on a date, she is in awe by how smitten he is with her. After they kiss, he says they have to tell Kimberly that they’re dating. Ifemelu is surprised that this means they’re dating, but agrees. He tells her that she is the first black woman he has ever dated. She never tells him about Obinze because she doesn’t want to call him her ex. Curt is upbeat and optimistic in a way that seems distinctly American to Ifemelu.

Summary: Chapter 19

Ifemelu meets Curt’s mother, who informs her that even though their family is Republican, they supported civil rights. Ifemelu believes that she tolerates her son bringing home women of different ethnicities but assumes he will marry a white woman.

Dating Curt gives Ifemelu the money to live comfortably, boosting her grades and health. Curt asks her to leave her babysitting job, but she refuses. She does not tell her parents about Curt. As she approaches graduation, Ifemelu realizes that being a communications major with a foreign passport will make finding a job difficult. Curt gets her an interview for a public relations position at a Baltimore company that will help her get a green card. Ifemelu is grateful but deeply aware that her ASA friends struggle to find work with their student visas.

Before the interview, Ifemelu relaxes her hair because braids are not considered a professional style. The relaxer burns her scalp. Horrified, Curt argues that he likes her hair braided better. The company decides Ifemelu would be a great fit. She wonders if they would have thought the same if she had her natural hair.

The chapter ends with another blog post, in which Ifemelu writes that all minorities aspire toward whiteness and asks what WASPs aspire toward.

Analysis: Chapters 17–19

Ifemelu’s decision to return to her Nigerian accent marks a turning point in her development because she places a limit on how much she is willing to change herself to achieve success. She reevaluates her efforts to sound American instead of Nigerian, challenging the belief that her ability to emulate American qualities is something she should feel proud of. By placing emphasis on the work she puts into affecting an American accent, she’s able to categorize her accent as unnatural and inauthentic. If she were to embrace such a mannered quality over what she sees as her inherent self, she would be agreeing that a false, Americanized Ifemelu is better than her true self. Ever since Ifemelu moved to America, other people have encouraged her to alter herself to survive, evidenced most concretely by Ngozi’s social security card. By the end of this section, Ifemelu has the confidence to stand firm in her identity. She no longer wants to pretend to be someone she isn’t in order to get ahead.