I am trying to work out why I found this novel more painful to read than any other, more claustrophobic than 'White Teeth', more enervating than an August day in Manhattan. I feel like my brain and senses have been shredded into tiny scraps of information which mean nothing.

'Americanah' is a significant, robust novel of its time. It is post-modern and iconoclastic in that it is the antithesis of literature; it has taken the African experiece - sorry, an African's experience - of living in America, Africa and England and shown it to be a torturous, confining and defining terminal maze of categories. The main characters, high school sweethearts, Obinze and Ifemelu, are torn asunder by their ambitions and romantic notions of what freedom means.  'Roots' didn't terrify me as much as this novel. The oppression then was largely physical; here it is deeply psychological. The choices, the idiosynchrasies, the freedom and failures in 'Americanah' are far more frightening, final and real than any romantic notion of being black but not American.

I don't know what I am and it never bothers me. It bothers others - but not me. I can refuse to define myself by race but then that is just down to an ambiguous genetic coloring. I know race is important but this novel made me realise to some it is everything. I don't see the point of art and literature if that's the case. There is no humanity - just varying shades of black and white.  I can read books describing graphic war scenes, infections, murders, rapes, grisly dismemberings but this novel to me was far more horrific. It made me feel a loneliness, an exclusion which no other novel dealing with race has ever made me feel. 

Racism is deeper than skin color or place of birth; racism is a state of mind, a perception and, in the twenty first century, post-Obama, post-Jay Z and their very real failures, it is thriving.

I understand now why the book is so popular but it makes me very sad and I wish I hadn't read it, I hadn't understood it. It corrupted my view of everything. I think I would have preferred to have read some formulaic Nazi propaganda rather than this account of how an intellect is mauled and chewed by sophisticated culture until it no longer recognises itself.

If this was Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie's object - to portray viscerally the poison of educated racism - she succeeded magnificently. But give me Maya Angelou's call to the wholeness of the human spirit - rather than this blunting of it - any day.