The votes are in: New Yorkers have selected Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s “Americanah” as the winner of the “One Book, One New York” campaign from the New York City Mayor’s Office of Media and Entertainment in partnership with BuzzFeed.
Nearly 50,000 votes were cast online and at subway kiosks (although that’s less than 1% of Gotham’s population of 8.6 million). Over the next several months, the Mayor’s Office of Media and Entertainment — which launched the program in February in support of the city’s book industry — will present a series of free, public events throughout the five boroughs for people to gather and discuss “Americanah.”
“Americanah” was picked out of a group of five nominated books, each of which has a connection to the New York metro area. The other four were “Between the World and Me,” by Ta-Nehisi Coates; “The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao,” by Junot Díaz; “The Sellout,” by Paul Beatty; and “A Tree Grows in Brooklyn,” by Betty Smith.
Adichie, in a statement provided by the Mayor’s Office, said, “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.”
“Americanah,” winner of the 2013 National Book Critics Circle Award for Fiction, tells the story of Ifemelu and Obinze, who are young and in love when they depart military-ruled Nigeria for the West. 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. 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.
A film adaptation of “Americanah” is in the works, set to star Lupita Nyong’o and David Oyelowo.
BuzzFeed helped promote “One Book, One New York” by producing video testimonials with celebrities about each of the books, including Bebe Neuwirth, whose selection was “Americanah.” BuzzFeed will continue its partnership with the Mayor’s Office by staging different events in the coming months, including a reader-focused event at Manhattan’s Housing Works Bookstore and a Facebook Live event hosted by BuzzFeed book editor Isaac Fitzgerald.
Adichie, in addition to being a best-selling novelist, is an outspoken feminist and has been a commentator on the recent U.S. elections as well as topics relating to activism and race. Her 2013 TEDx Talk, “We Should All Be Feminists,” has garnered over 3.7 million views on YouTube and portions of it were incorporated into Beyoncé’s single “Flawless.”
For the “One Book, One New York” program, Penguin Random House donated 1,000 copies of “Americanah” to New York City’s public library systems for the contest launch and is now donating 500 additional copies. In partnership with Scribd, the Mayor’s Office of Media and Entertainment is providing free 90-day access to the full audiobook of “Americanah” through June 2017 (more information at this link).
A full list of events for “One Book, One New York” is available on the Mayor’s Office of Media and Entertainment website (at this link).