AdichieI’ve come across great literature about immigrants in America. Even greater literature on being black in America. And some riveting pieces about being a women in America. But until I read “You in America” by Amanda Ngozie Adichie, I had yet to come across a piece of literature that skillfully captures all three experiences in one story. Immigrant, black, and female.

“You in America” is an award winning short fiction story that chronicles the life of Akunna, a young Nigerian woman who moves from the shanty towns of Lagos, Nigeria, to  America. Written as a 2nd person narrative, Akunna’s story starts when she wins the American visa lottery. As a result, she emigrates to a small town in Connecticut, to live with a well-off uncle. She flees from her uncle’s house after he attempts to seduce her. The rest of her story traces her journey to make it on her own in America. She scores an “under the table” job as a waitress at a mom and pop restaurant, rents a tiny apartment, and scrapes a chunk of her monthly earnings to send to her relatives in Nigeria. In addition to the sexism she faces from relatives and strangers alike, Akunna, battles with the anonymity of being a black immigrant. The author writes in Akunna’s voice:

“Some people thought you were from Jamaica because they thought that every black person with an accent was Jamaican. Or some who guessed that you were African asked if you knew so and so from Kenya or so and so from Zimbabwe because they thought Africa was a country where everyone knew everyone else.”

“You In America” captures the complexity of an immigrant’s experience, proving that racial, immigrant, and gender experiences don’t necessarily reside in neat compartments, but often overlap. Additionally, this story is one in a small, but growing collection of modern literature on black immigrants in America.  For its fresh take on the immigrant experience and for its place as one of the pioneers in the movement for black immigrant literature, it’s an interesting read.