Ifemelu’s blog quickly gains a large readership. She connects with her readers and other bloggers and begins to build a large social network. She’s invited to speak at many events, covering topics of diversity and race. Ifemelu discovers that the “point of diversity workshops, or multicultural talks, was not to inspire any real change but to leave people feeling good about themselves” and knows that the people to whom she speaks are not the people who read her blog.
Ifemelu buys a condo in Roland Park. Her blog continues to grow and earn followers, and soon “she felt subsumed by her blog. She had become her blog.”
Because of the blog, Blaine, the man Ifemelu met eight years ago on the train, reenters her life. They both attend the meet and greet at the Blogging While Brown convention in Washington, DC, and Blaine tells Ifemelu that he loves her blog. Ifemelu thinks he doesn’t remember her, but when he asks about her “mall visits in Connecticut,” she bursts out laughing. Though he is in New Haven and she in Baltimore, they begin emailing and calling, eventually developing a romantic relationship. She spends a lot of time in New Haven and begins to feel that Blaine “was like a salutary tonic; with him, she could only inhabit a higher level of goodness.”
Blaine’s best friend, Araminta, warmly receives Ifemelu’s appearance in Blaine’s life. Araminta warns Ifemelu about Blaine’s sister, Shan, saying she is an “interesting character.”
Though Blaine invites Ifemelu to move in with him after a month of their dating, she waits until a year has passed to do so. She doesn’t like that her blog posts sound increasingly academic because of his suggestions, and he tells her she’s being “lazy” when she shies away from the responsibility of “cultural commentary.”
Blaine is a man firm in his convictions, and Ifemelu feels “fascinated by his sense of rightness.” When Blaine is with his academic, intellectual friends, Ifemelu says little and observes them looking “at the world with an impractical, luminous earnestness that moved her, but never convinced her.”
She tells her parents that she has moved in with Blaine, and they wonder why she is in a relationship with an “American Negro.” Her mother instantly begins imagining the wedding. When Ifemelu gets off the phone with them, she renames her blog Raceteenth or Various Observations About American Blacks (Those Formerly Known as Negroes) by a Non-American Black.
Blaine’s sister, Shan, is publishing her first book. When Blaine describes her, he says that she likes to host what she calls a “salon,” a gathering of intellectuals for conversation, and is “a really special person.”
Shan is the sort of person who makes everyone focus on her. When she first meets Ifemelu, she initially ignores her, speaking only to her brother, before sizing Ifemelu up and saying, “You’re very pretty,” then complimenting her blog. To Ifemelu, Shan has “the air of a person who was somehow chosen. The gods had placed a wand on her.” Blaine becomes a different person around her, agreeing with what she says even though Ifemelu is sure he would disagree if anyone else said such simple, sweeping statements. Ifemelu invites Shan to be a guest blogger when her book comes out.
Ifemelu writes a blog post titled “Obama Can Win Only If He Remains the Magic Negro.”
At a surprise birthday party thrown for Blaine’s friend Marcia, Ifemelu feels that she still doesn’t quite fit in with Blaine’s coterie. Blaine has been getting “defensive” when they talk...
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about his friends. Together, they had recently attended a lecture given by his ex-girlfriend Paula, who is still in Blaine’s social circle.
Sitting down to eat at the party, Paula tells Ifemelu that she is having her students read Ifemelu’s blog. She takes out her phone and begins reading one of Ifemelu’s posts about the absurdity of non-black people comparing their suffering to the suffering of black people.
After the meal, they turn on the TV and watch Barack Obama announce his candidacy for president. The guests banter about him and wonder if America is ready for a black president. Paula and Blaine have a rapport that makes Ifemelu jealous of their former intimacy, though she knows “there [is] nothing going on. Blaine would not cheat on her.”
Ifemelu writes a blog post titled “Traveling While Black.”
Dike is now grown-up and six feet tall; Ifemelu imagines him in college,
relentlessly funny and bright and bouncy, and the girls would have instant crushes on him, the boys would be envious of his panache, and the parents would wish their kids were like him.
Shan hosts a salon, which Blaine and Ifemelu attend. Shan is trying to decide on a good cover for her upcoming book. The attendees of the salon discuss white and black writers, American fiction, and Ifemelu’s blog. Shan says that Ifemelu can only write what she does because she’s African, not African American: “If she were African American, she’d just be labeled angry and shunned.” When Shan smiles at Ifemelu, Ifemelu sees in the smile “the possibility of great cruelty.”
Ifemelu writes a blog post titled “Is Obama Anything but Black?”
Ifemelu deeply admires Boubacar, a Yale professor whose dinner party she and Blaine recently attended. Boubacar tells Ifemelu about a humanities fellowship at Princeton and encourages Ifemelu to apply. He invites her to sit in on his class, and afterwards they walk together back to his office. There, a colleague stops in and invites Boubacar to attend a lunch the next day given in honor of his going on sabbatical. The colleague extends the invitation to Ifemelu, and she accepts.
As she leaves Boubacar’s office, Ifemelu receives a text from Blaine asking if she has heard the news about Mr. White, who works at the library. The previous evening, Mr. White exhibited behavior that caused a white library worker to assume that he was dealing drugs, resulting in the police arriving and taking Mr. White away to be questioned. The university is calling the situation a simple incident that wasn’t racially motivated, a falsehood that angers Blaine to the point of his organizing a protest for the next day. Blaine assumes that Ifemelu will attend the protest.
The day of the protest, Ifemelu instead attends the going-away lunch, lying to Blaine by saying she had taken a long nap. The next day, he discovers her lie, and in his anger he tells her,
It’s not just about writing a blog, you have to live like you believe it. That blog is a game that you don’t really take seriously.
On the third day of Blaine’s stony silence, Ifemelu goes to stay with Aunty Uju.
She writes a blog post on white privilege.
Dike’s school accuses Dike of hacking into his school’s computer network, though he doesn’t know how to hack. He says that they “blame the black kid first.”
Blaine doesn’t speak to Ifemelu for nine days. When they finally reunite and cook together, he continues to be aloof.
Ifemelu writes a blog post about “what things really mean” when people talk about race in America.
Blaine and Ifemelu’s relationship is different now: “their union was leached of passion,” though they unite over the cause of Barack Obama and hope in his candidacy.
Ifemelu receives the humanities fellowship at Princeton. She gets an apartment there but doesn’t plan to move until after the election. When Obama wins, Ifemelu believes there is “nothing that was more beautiful to her than America.” She writes a blog post to the “white friends who get it,” “it” being institutional racism.