Chapters 12–17 Summary

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Last Reviewed on March 31, 2020, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 1337

Chapter 12

In Philadelphia, Ifemelu reunites with Ginika, her former classmate from Nigeria. Worried about money, Ifemelu prioritizes getting a job. She rents a room in a four-bedroom apartment; her roommates, Jackie, Elena, and Allison, puzzle her with their American idiosyncrasies.

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Chapter 13

Using the identity from the Social Security card that Aunty Uju gave her, Ifemelu hunts for a job. She feels as though “her autumn of half blindness had begun, the autumn of puzzlements, of experiences she had knowing there were slippery layers of meaning that eluded her.” Every job interview results in failure. She frequently calls Obinze to calm her because “with him, she could feel whatever she felt.” She also regularly calls Dike, whom she misses dearly. 

Chapter 14

Ifemelu finds school to be easy, but still constantly worries about money. She studies America because she wants to “wear a new, knowing skin right away.” Discovering the library, she reads voraciously:

And as she read, America’s mythologies began to take on meaning. America’s tribalisms—race, ideology, and region—became clear. And she was consoled by her new knowledge.

In her honors history seminar, Ifemelu participates in a conversation about the word “nigger,” arguing that it’s not always harmful. A “firm voice” also speaks, and after class Ifemelu meets the face that goes with the voice: Wambui. Wambui invites Ifemelu to come to the African Students Association meeting; there, “Ifemelu felt a gentle, swaying sense of renewal. Here, she did not have to explain herself.” 

Wambui helps Ifemelu in her job search, but still no one will hire her. On the phone with Aunty Uju one night, she learns that Aunty Uju and Dike are moving to Massachusetts to live with Bartholomew. Ifemelu is amazed that Aunty Uju will marry a man so beneath her. 

Chapter 15

In responding to an ad for a “female personal assistant for busy sports coach,” Ifemelu learns that she will be paid one hundred dollars a day if she can “give [the man] a massage, help [him] relax.” Though she knows “he was not a kind man” and she regrets responding to his ad, she still asks for time to consider the offer, knowing that the job could pay her monthly rent. 

Ginika calls with a possible job lead: a woman, Kimberly, is looking for a babysitter. Ginika drives Ifemelu to the interview at “a house that announced its wealth.” Kimberly, a white woman, makes exaggerated efforts to appear sensitive to race and multiculturalism. Kimberly’s sister Laura also participates in the interview. Though both women believe themselves to be “woke,” they sound self-righteous and ignorant from their stance of white, wealthy privilege. Kimberly’s husband, Don, is equally ignorant. Ifemelu does not get the job.

By late fall, Ifemelu’s financial situation is dire. She has been desperately searching for work to no avail. Finally, she calls the sports coach back and takes the job. He invites her to come over right away. 

When the man takes off his shirt and lays on the bed, Ifemelu tells him, “I can’t have sex.” He says he doesn’t expect that, but when she lays next to him, he touches her and makes her feel “sordid” and “tainted.” The man asks her to “work” twice a week. 

After taking the train back home, Ifemelu scrubs her hands and throws away the clothes she was wearing, filled with disgust and regret for what she’s done. Ifemelu calls Aunty Uju to tell her what transpired, but Aunty Uju doesn’t really want to hear about it. She listens to a voicemail from Obinze and hearing his voice makes him seem “so far away, part of another time and place.”

That night, as it snows, she imagines killing the coach. Winter fully descends, and Ifemelu does not answer the phone when Obinze calls, nor...

(The entire section contains 1337 words.)

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