The nationalism of liberal Americans

Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie:

“I’m Kelsey,” the woman announced as though to the whole room. She was aggressively friendly. She asked where Mariama was from, how long she had been in America, if she had children, how her business was doing.

“Business is up and down but we try,” Mariama said.

“But you couldn’t even have this business back in your country, right? Isn’t it wonderful that you get to come to the U.S. and now your kids can have a better life?”

Mariama looked surprised. “Yes.”

“Are women allowed to vote in your country?” Kelsey asked.

A longer pause from Mariama. “Yes.”

“What are you reading?” Kelsey turned to Ifemelu.

Ifemelu showed her the cover of the novel. She did not want to start a conversation. Especially not with Kelsey. She recognized in Kelsey the nationalism of liberal Americans who copiously criticized America but did not like you to do so; they expected you to be silent and grateful, and always reminded you of how much better than wherever you had come from America was.

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