Chapters 25–32 Summary

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Last Updated on March 31, 2020, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 1310

Chapter 25

Obinze connects with Emenike, a friend from secondary school, hoping for help getting a job or an NI (National Insurance number). Emenike, though, “in the harsh glare of life abroad, became unreliable.” When Obizne reaches out to his cousin Iloba, he finds Iloba to be willing to help; Iloba connects Obinze with Vincent Obi, a man who offers Obinze his NI number in exchange for thirty-five percent of Obinze’s earnings. Obinze thus takes on Vincent’s identity. 

Chapter 26

Obinze finally gets a job after his abbreviated stint at toilet cleaning: now, he cleans a detergent-packing warehouse for a Brazilian boss. When he loses that job because of downsizing, he then works for a company that delivers kitchens. His white coworkers call him a “laborer,” but the warehouse chief, Roy Snell, is a kind and jolly man who begins calling Obinze “Vinny Boy.” Over time, Roy begins to hold a “special affection [for Obinze], which was both protective and kind.” Obinze has a kind delivery partner, Nigel, who takes Obinze to see “the London sights” after they complete their deliveries and always evenly splits his tips, unlike the other drivers.

Chapter 27

Sitting in a cafe, Obinze reads American and British newspapers, which increasingly focus on immigration. A woman and her son share his table, and when the boy asks if Obinze lives in London, Obinze says that he does but thinks the answer does not capture his life—“like an erased pencil sketch,” invisible. He has been seeing a woman, Tendai, and in his loneliness he texts her. On the tube, he sees the “unfettered non-white foreignness” of his fellow riders and thinks about “the life he had imagined for himself, and the life had now had, lacquered as it was . . . by panic and hope. He had never felt so lonely.” 

Chapter 28

One morning, Obinze arrives at work and, sensing that something is off, fears that his use of a false identity has been discovered. However, it is merely the real Vincent’s birthday, and Roy’s men celebrate him, an act which “brought tears to his eyes: he felt safe.” 

The real Vincent calls Obinze that evening and demands a raise; he now wants forty-five percent of Obinze’s earnings. Obinze ignores the request. A week later, Roy tells Obinze that someone called the warehouse and insinuated that Obinze is “illegal and working with a Brit’s name.” Obinze promises to bring his passport tomorrow, knowing that when he leaves work that evening, it will be for good. He wishes “more than anything that he had told Nigel and Roy his real name.” 

In a flash-forward to many years in the future, Obinze offers Nigel a job working as his general manager when Obinze has become successful in Lagos. 

Chapter 29

The Angolan men who are arranging Obinze’s marriage to Cleotilde continue to extort Obinze for money. Obinze calls Emenike to ask for five hundred pounds. When they meet, Emenike gives Obinze an envelope of one thousand pounds and says, with self-satisfaction and a sense of superiority, “It’s not a loan.” Emenike’s wife, Georgina, joins them at the restaurant. She invites Obinze to come to the dinner party she and Emenike are hosting the next night. 

Obinze attends the party at their home in Islington and wonders if Emenike “had so completely absorbed his own disguise” that there is no longer any remnant of who he was back in Nigeria. The dinner conversation reveals that Emenike thinks of himself as purely British and no longer as Nigerian. Additionally, the guests criticize “the garishness of [American] nationalism” and analyze...

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the differences between Britain and America.

Emenike says about racism that “in America blacks and whites work together but don’t play together, and here [in England] blacks and whites play together but don’t work together.” The dinner guests do not understand people like Obinze, who, they say, “were raised well fed and watered but mired in dissatisfaction, conditioned from birth to look towards somewhere else.” 

Chapter 30

Obinze and Cleotilde are about to get married when an immigration officer announces that Obinze’s visa has expired and he can no longer be in the UK. Obinze is arrested and taken to a cell that reminds him of a “chimpanzee’s cage.” The immigration officer tells Obinze that he should expect to be deported, and even Obinze’s lawyer tells Obinze that an appeal will only delay Obinze’s inevitable deportation. The lawyer indicates on a form that Obinze is willing to be “removed,” and the word makes “Obinze feel inanimate. A thing to be removed. A thing without breath and mind. A thing.” 

Obinze waits in detention at Manchester Airport to fly back to Nigeria, feeling ashamed. His mother promises to meet him in Lagos. He has visitors—Iloba, Nicholas, and Ojiugo—and spends much of his time thinking about Ifemelu. He’s transferred to a cell in Dover, then travels through Heathrow to get on his flight back to Nigeria. When he disembarks the plane, “a new sadness blanketed him, the sadness of his coming days.” In the Arrivals area, he sees his mother waiting for him. 

Chapter 31

Returning to Ifemelu’s narrative, Ifemelu cheats on Curt and they break up. Ginika diagnoses Ifemelu as a “self-sabotager” for ruining her relationships, first with Obinze and then with Curt. Curt is unable to forgive Ifemelu, calling her a “bitch” and refusing to return her calls. 

Years later, when Barack Obama wins the democratic nomination for president, Ifemelu finds herself in conversation at a dinner party with a woman of color who dated a white man and says that “race was never an issue for them.” Ifemelu counters, “That’s a lie,” going on to explain that in the privacy of their own home, a mixed-race couple doesn’t have to think about race, but “the minute [they] step outside, race matters.” Ifemelu is slightly drunk from too much white wine, and later sends an apology email to the host of the dinner party and the woman with whom she disagreed. 

Ifemelu thinks back to Curt and the way they dealt with race: though Curt is understanding and sensitive, there are experiences of being a woman of color that he simply could not know, such as the way people were always surprised to learn that Ifemelu was Curt’s girlfriend, or how they worked to overassure Ifemelu that they liked black people. She even brought Curt to a bookstore and showed him copies of many different women’s magazines, asking him how many representations of black women he saw.

Ifemelu sends an email to Wambui detailing all the things she’s been thinking about race and representation in America, and Wambui tells her, “More people should read this. You should start a blog.” Thus, Ifemelu’s blog, Raceteenth or Curious Observations by a Non-American Black on the Subject of Blackness in America, is born. Her first blog post contends that “the simplest solution to the problem of race in America” is “romantic love.”

Chapter 32

After her breakup with Curt, Ifemelu tries to remember who she was before she was his girlfriend. Her job bores her and her apartment feels foreign. She spends her weekends with Aunty Uju and Dike; Aunty Uju has met a man, Kweku, who is a doctor from Ghana and treats Aunty Uju “like a princess.” 

Ifemelu’s parents come to visit for three weeks, but “they seemed like strangers. They looked the same, but the dignity [Ifemelu] remembered was gone,” and she watches them “with a sneer.” When they go back to Nigeria, Ifemelu feels tremendous relief. She quits her job, feeling aimless and disinterested in everything, and writes a blog post wondering if race is genetic or a social invention. 


Chapters 18–24 Summary


Chapters 33–40 Summary