Winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award for Fiction and chosen as one of The New York Times's Ten Best Books of 2014, Americanah tells the story of Ifemelu and Obinze, who are young and in love when they depart military-ruled Nigeria for the West. Beautiful, self-assured Ifemelu heads for America, where despite her academic success, she is forced to grapple with what it means to be black for the first time. Quiet, thoughtful Obinze had hoped to join her, but with post-9/11 America closed to him, he instead plunges into a dangerous, undocumented life in London. Fifteen years later, they reunite in a newly democratic Nigeria, and reignite their passion—for each other and for their homeland.
Author Chimamanda Adichie has made headlines in recent years for her outspoken feminist perspective and refreshing literary voice. Her TEDx Talk, "We Should All Be Feminists," has garnered over 3 million views on YouTube and was incorporated into a hit song by Beyoncé. In addition to inspiring a Dior fashion show and a Madonna video, she has contributed feature stories for top publications including The New York Times and The New Yorker; and she is a frequent commentator on the recent American elections, as well as matters pertaining to activism and race.
"I'm so happy that my novel Americanah is the winner of the 'One Book, One New York' program," said author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. "Whether you check it out from your local library, pick up a copy at your local bookstore, or even start your own book club to read along with friends, I hope you enjoy Americanah – which I like to think of as a book about love, immigration, race, hair, and so much more. It's an honor to be a part of this effort from the Mayor's Office of Media and Entertainment."
In addition to the 1,000 copies of Americanah donated to New York City's public library systems for the contest launch, Penguin Random House is generously donating additional copies to ensure that as many New Yorkers as possible have free access to the winning book. Librarians of New York City's three public library systems will bring discussion of Americanah into communities throughout all five boroughs. Many of New York City's 200 neighborhood library branches will feature creative and distinctive programming around Americanah and its themes, while keeping pace with the overall initiative.
"We are delighted that New York City has chosen Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie's Americanah as the inaugural winner of the One Book, One New York program," said Robin Desser, VP, Editorial Director, Alfred A. Knopf, The Knopf Doubleday Group, Penguin Random House. "This dazzling novel about a young woman from Nigeria who comes to America allows us to see our country with fresh eyes. Told with biting wisdom and humor, it's a story about love, race and identity that feels more timely now than ever. Americanah is destined to resonate among New Yorkers who share a common belief: that wherever we may come from, all our stories matter."
In addition, the Center for the Professional Education of Teachers (CPET) at Columbia University Teachers College will adapt its 'Literacy Unbound' program to serve the needs of One Book, One New York, dispatching teaching artists to work collaboratively with participants in workshops in all five boroughs. These workshops will encourage artistic forms of self-expression around the themes presented by Americanah. CPET will also release a readers' guide for group discussion of the book; a curriculum guide that aligns to standards for NYC public high schools; and instructional podcasts for book club facilitators. More information on all of these resources will be available on NYC.gov/OneBook.
BuzzFeed, a leading global media company and MOME's partner for the One Book, One New York initiative, will present a number of opportunities for the public to engage with the program in the coming months, including a reader-focused event at Manhattan's Housing Works Bookstore and a Facebook Live event hosted by BuzzFeed Books Editor Isaac Fitzgerald.
"We're so thrilled that the city of New York has chosen Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie for its inaugural One Book One New York program. This story of immigration, identity, and love was praised to the high heavens when it originally came out, so it will be wonderful to watch a new audience of readers enjoy and discuss Americanah as a city," said Editor of BuzzFeed Books Isaac Fitzgerald. "BuzzFeed is proud to partner with Commissioner Menin and the Mayor's Office of Media and Entertainment to help more New Yorkers across the five boroughs fall in love with fiction."
In partnership with digital reading subscription service Scribd, the Mayor's Office of Media and Entertainment is also pleased to provide free 90-day access to the full audiobook of Americanah through June 2017. Information on how to sign up for the free audiobook is available on MOME's website.
"We thank Commissioner Menin for the opportunity to be a part of this amazing program, which encourages New Yorkers to read more while taking part in thoughtful, community-driven discussions," said Scribd Founder & CEO Trip Adler. "To make sure that no one misses out on 'One Book, One New York,' Scribd is covering the costs for everyone in New York to listen to the Americanah audiobook, as well as providing three free months of Scribd, so New Yorkers can explore content from our many New York-based book, audiobook and magazine publishing partners."
The Mayor's Office of Media and Entertainment will host a series of free or low-cost, open-to-the-public events during the coming months to encourage participation in the community read, and to explore topics related to those raised by Americanah. The full list of events is available on the agency's website; highlights include:
- April 5: In a panel moderated by author, journalist, and cultural critic Touré, a group of experts will discuss the themes of Americanah in the context of current events. 6:30 PM at the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, 515 Malcolm X Boulevard in Manhattan.
- April 18: Immigrant Stories: A discussion featuring novelist Min Jin Lee and author Simon Winchester that examines how writers are humanizing the experience of immigration. 6:30 PM at the New York Public Library, Stephen A. Schwarzman Building, 476 Fifth Avenue in Manhattan.
- May 1-7: PEN America World Voices Festival of International Literature: At this historic moment of both unprecedented attacks on core freedoms and the emergence of new forms of resistance, the Festival will offer a platform for a global community of writers, artists and thinkers to connect with concerned citizens and the broader public. There will be a number of free One Book, One New York programmatic events throughout the festival. Various locations.
- May 10: MOME, the African Film Festival and Lehman College will host a special screening of Raquel Cepeda's new film Some Girls, followed by a moderated discussion about storytelling, identity, and the immigrant experience. The 24th edition of the African Film Festival runs May 3-9 at the Film Society of Lincoln Center, Maysles Cinema and BAMcinematek. The Lovinger Theatre, 250 Bedford Park Boulevard West in the Bronx.
- May 11: The Paris Review will celebrate Americanah and themes related to the book at one of their famous office parties in their Chelsea loft. The Paris Review, 544 West 27th Street in Manhattan.
- Early June: A culminating celebration of the inaugural One Book, One New York program will be held at the New York Public Library's iconic Celeste Bartos Forum. NYPL Stephen A. Schwarzman Building, 476 Fifth Avenue in Manhattan.
"In New York - a city of readers who come from all over the world - how fitting to choose Americanah, a story of America seen through immigrant eyes, said The Paris Review Editor Lorin Stein. "We look forward to seeing it on every subway, bus, commuter train, park bench, and everywhere else New Yorkers go to read."
"Books enrich our lives; they spark our dreams and ambitions; and they befriend us, one and all, indiscriminately, often when it counts most," saidLehman College President José Luis Cruz. "Bringing the city's residents together to share a unique reading experience at this particular time is a perfect community-building event - an apropos antidote to the mounting attacks on our rich diversity. I am pleased this One Book, One New York event, courtesy of the Mayor's Office of Media and Entertainment, will be coming to the Bronx, and I look forward to seeing filmmaker and author Raquel Cepada's Some Girls, and also to being part of a city-wide conversation."
In addition to presenting these gatherings, the agency will encourage online engagement through the hashtag #OneBookNY. New Yorkers are encouraged to utilize reading guides for Americanah – provided by Penguin Random House, and available on the One Book, One New York website – and to form book clubs among family, friends, and communities to keep the conversation going.
The contest phase of this inaugural program was hugely successful, garnering over 50,000 total votes and nearly 18 million impressions across social media. New Yorkers were asked to vote for one of five books in contention, each of which have a connection to the New York City area. Moreover, they deal with the author or main character attempting to make sense of the world around them, and many of the timely themes include race in America, immigration, and overcoming obstacles. The books included:
- Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
- Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates
- The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Díaz
- The Sellout by Paul Beatty
- A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith
Voting took place throughout the month of February online and at interactive digital kiosks on subway platforms throughout New York City. To select the five book finalists, the Mayor's Office of Media and Entertainment convened an advisory council of representatives from each of New York City's three public library systems, as well as leading academics from the City's universities and representatives of the book publishing community. Their book recommendations were compiled into a list from which the five finalists were chosen. The publishers of the five nominated books have provided copies of those books to each of NYC's more than 200 library branches (over 4,000 copies in all).
"Books have the transformative power to open up new worlds, allowing readers to view the struggles and perspectives with greater nuance, empathy and knowledge," said Public Advocate Letitia James. "New Yorkers have chosen Americanah, as the winner of One Book, One New York, the story of two young Nigerian immigrants in love, who separate in search of better lives. While on different continents, each navigates a post-9/11 world - it's a powerful story that will enhance our city's understanding of race, culture, class and immigration. Now, more than ever, it is important that we take the time to explore perspectives outside of our own and I encourage all New Yorkers to read this compelling and courageous story."
"I congratulate Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie and her novel Americanah for being selected as the first winner of One Book, One New York, the largest community reading program in the country," said Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams. Her novel delves into the quintessential immigrant story —the main character's struggles with assimilation and heartache from leaving loved ones behind — while it also examines tough societal issues such as racism and identity. I'm certain that this story will be meaningful for so many New Yorkers. Happy reading!"
"With millions of people in NYC, it's sometimes difficult and overwhelming to connect," said City Council Majority Leader Jimmy Van Bramer. "The One Book, One New York initiative will push us out of our bubbles, off our phones and bring our city together to appreciate the written word. I encourage everyone to join in and pick up the winning book, as well as each of these five incredible reads, at your local library or bookstore!"
MOME is grateful for the support of its educational and presenting partners for One Book, One New York, including: Columbia University Teachers College Center for Professional Education of Teachers, New York Public Library, Brooklyn Public Library, Queens Library, Lehman College of the City University of New York, The Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, Made in NY Media Center by IFP, City College Center for the Arts, Center for Communication, The Paris Review, Film Society of Lincoln Center, African Film Festival, Pen America World Voices Festival, Queens Book Festival, The Apollo Theater Women of the World Festival (WOW), StoryCorps, BuzzFeed, Kargo, Barnes & Noble, the Association of Independent Booksellers, and all independent bookstores across New York City.
About the Mayor's Office of Media and Entertainment
The Mayor's Office of Media and Entertainment (MOME) is comprised of two divisions. The Office of Film, Theatre and Broadcasting encompasses film, television, radio, theatre, music, advertising, publishing, digital content and real estate as it relates to the creation of creative content. It serves as a one-stop shop for the entertainment industry, which has seen explosive growth over the last year in New York City, contributing nearly $9 billion and over 130,000 jobs. The Office promotes New York City as a thriving center of creativity, issuing permits for productions filming on public property, and facilitating production throughout the five boroughs. The Agency also oversees NYC Media, the City's official broadcast network and media production group, which has a reach of over 18 million people and provides programming for six local cable stations, including award-winning programs on the popular NYC Life (channel 25), as well as one radio station. You can also follow us on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.
About Vintage Anchor Books
Vintage Anchor Books is a division of the Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group, Penguin Random House, Ltd. Known as an industry-leading paperback publisher, its roster of authors includes Alice Munro, Richard Russo, Jon Krakauer, Jhumpa Lahiri, Paulo Coelho, Toni Morrison, Cormac McCarthy, Margaret Atwood, Dan Brown, Haruki Murakami, Orhan Pamuk, and Dave Eggers, among others.
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