Today, the New York mayor’s office announced that Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s 2014 novel Americanah is the city’s “One Book, One New York” pick. The novel, which follows a Nigerian woman named Ifemelu who immigrates to the U.S., was chosen after NYC commuters cast a series of votes in the subway system. Additional copies of the book are available in the city’s libraries, and there will be a whole bunch of Americanah events going on around the city. Point is: There will be a lot of people reading Americanah in the subway, and you, too — if you haven’t read the book — might end up reading it on the subway. Maybe you’ll want to strike up a conversation with those people and break through the loneliness of city life. Since we know this is incredibly difficult for New Yorkers, we’ve put together some conversation starters. Please don’t approach anyone who clearly does not want to talk, but if they seem interested, here are a few ideas:
1. Talk about where you are in the book. This is obvious! Say, “I’m at the part where Ifemelu is in New Haven,” and they’ll say, “Obinze’s in London and it’s a lot to take.” Then, if you see this person on your commute a lot, you can strike up a conversation later to see how far they got.
3. Have they read We Should All Be Feminists? What do they think of Adichie’s brand of feminism, her criticism of Beyoncé’s feminism, or her recent controversial comments about trans women? (This may be too heady of a conversation for a crowded subway, perhaps stick to niceties.)
4. Do they think the Lupita Nyong’o’s film adaptation is actually going to happen? Who else would they cast? Who should direct?
5. What other books are they reading? Give them recommendations! Nicely — don’t be rude if they haven’t read your favorites, and ask them for suggestions. Perhaps you’d both enjoy other stories about the American immigrant experience, from authors like Jhumpa Lahiri or Junot Díaz, or other novels about postcolonial Africa, from Chinua Achebe or J.M. Coetzee.
6. Say nothing. Stare mournfully across the subway car as they turn the pages of Americanah. Watch them get off at their stop. Think about the moment when you briefly held eye contact. Take the same subway again, but miss them, somehow. Wait days, maybe weeks. Consider asking your friends about them, maybe post a missed connections listing on Craigslist. “Person reading Americanah on the subway” will be popular, and you might get many responses. But maybe you won’t get them.