If you didn’t believe in African love stories before, this is the chapter to convert you.
Ifemelu and Obinze as teenagers meet at a party thrown by the most popular “cool guy” in school. Obinze is a transfer student from Nsukka where his mother, now on sabbatical, is a university professor. Obinze is out of this world perfect: handsome, intelligent, intellectual, witty, grounded, confident, secure, athletic, progressive, modern, and the list goes on (in all positive directions). He is quickly accepted into the popular/elite student group but also stands apart from them, not dependent on the status to legitimize him. Is this guy real?
Naturally he rejects a set up with Ginika (mixed and considered the most beautiful girl in school) for the admittedly strong-willed, purposefully difficult, independent thinker, Ifemelu.
“Your guys will kill you. You’re supposed to be chasing her.”
“I’m chasing you.” Pg 72
I know love doesn’t have a color but sue me cause I love to see black men and women in love. Black love… African love… the kind of love we imagine between Barack and Michelle Obama, Ossie Davis and Ruby Dee, Malcolm X and Betty Shabazz, Mandela and Winnie….
Obinze is not threatened by Ifemelu’s intelligence, wit, and strength; in fact those characteristics attract him to her. He expects and desires a woman to have substance, to speak her mind freely and have opinions; perhaps because that’s the model his mother provided.
In the course of the night, Obinze and Ifemelu find a spot not to “make out” but to talk. Their conversation is between equal minds and intimate. It is easy, substantive, warm, playful, real…. They talk about literature, Igbo proverbs, his mother, God, the future.
The trust, so sudden and yet so complete, and the intimacy frightened her. They had known nothing of each other only hours ago, and yet, there had been a knowledge shared between them in those moment before they danced, and now she could think only of all the things she yet wanted to tell him, wanted to do with him. Pg. 73
This is love… idealized, romanticized and a bit of what we all desire real or not….
Is perfect Obinze the African/Nigerian woman’s dream? He reminds me of Obama … the fact that a black man had to virtually be without vice to be elected president of the United States. Do we need black men to be perfect to love them and be loved well by them?
I wonder if Obinze, rather than being a good representation of African men (which we do sincerely need more of) sets a standard that most African men, or any man for that fact, will always come short of.
Even Ifemelu becomes nervous about this love.
Sometimes she worried that she was too happy. She would sink into moodiness, and snap at Obinze, or be distant. And her joy would become a restless thing, flapping its wings inside her, as though looking for an opening to fly away. Pg. 76
Still, African love stories and positive depictions of African men are what we sorely need more of in this world. Sue me…I’m a believer.