Inspired by Nigeria's folktales and war, Under the Udala Trees is a deeply searching, powerful debut about the dangers of living and loving openly. Ijeoma comes of age as her nation does; born before independence, she is 11 when civil war breaks out in the young republic of Nigeria. Sent away to safety, she meets another displaced child, and the star-crossed pair fall in love. They are from different ethnic communities. They are also both girls. When their love is discovered, Ijeoma learns that she will have to hide this part of herself. But there is a cost to living inside a lie.
As Edwidge Danticat has made personal the legacy of Haiti's political coming of age, Okparanta's Under the Udala Trees uses one woman's lifetime to examine the ways in which Nigerians continue to struggle toward selfhood. Even as their nation contends with and recovers from the effects of war and division, Nigerian lives are wrecked and lost from taboo and prejudice. But this story offers a glimmer of hope - a future where a woman might just be able to shape her life around truth and love.
©2015 Chinelo Okparanta (P)2015 Blackstone Audio, Inc.
The author does a fantastic job of putting the reader in the shoes of the protagonist and detailing the struggles not being in what is considered a "conventional" relationship; which is unfortunate for our day and age.
A must read book.
I read when I am sad, happy, bored, in the toilet, in a queue, anywhere. Give me African writings any day
Th subject. Always considered taboo in most African communities and here we have it in colour
The mother and daughter arguments. Found those really funny
Well the accent was not authentic but she did give it a good shot and her dramatisation of the story made it a pleasant listening
I cried, laughed and literally shouted at times
Just finished reading Under the Udala Tree and as promised here is my review.
In my first year at university I read Jeannette Winterson's Oranges are not the Only fruits and I remember thinking how a story of a girl whose sexual orientation is contrary to that of her society or perceived religion would pan out in an African setting. Considering the strict adherence and literal reading of the bible in our African communities I thought this topic would make a good story line and guess what? Chinelo brought the story to life. Ijeoma falls in love with Amina when she is sent to live with family friends after the death of her father. That already sets the pace of the book and ones heart racing. To begin with even for us non Nigerians we know that The Hausa(northern and Muslim practising) and Igbo ( riverine states, trenched between tradition and Christianity) do not intermarry let alone tolerate a girl on girl or boy on boy relationship.
I was upset for a while because even the author skirted around the relationship or how it panned. For chapters the "act" that saw Ijeoma reunited with her mum is not mentioned but inferred to. The taboo nature of "act" permeates the mood of the story telling that you as the reader ends up frustrated to know what exactly happens. I think the author is trying to instill in the reader that what happened between Ijeoma and Amina is abominable in this culture that continual reference to it is tantamount to encouraging such pervasiveness(pervasive being the view that Igbo and ultimately Nigerian society views single gender relationships)
However when the "deed" is finally revealed you are not disappointed as the pace of the book picks up again. The mum, Adaora, much in the same manner as Jeanette's mum in Oranges aren't the only fruit is just as ecclesiastical about the whole issue. She quotes the bible and practically bashes her daughter with it in the hope that Ijeoma forgets Amina. This part is funny but also educational as it highlights the argument for both same gender relationships(Ijeoma) and against(mum). For most of us who often witness such arguments in our communities you can't help but laugh at the similarity in views that mum and Ijeoma has to us and to the people we know. It is a long part and there were times I felt Chinelo should just have written it as an essay but apt all the same.
Amina and Ijeoma, once caught in the act by their master(the family friend Ijeoma is sent to) are separated. However as fate would have it are united at the boarding secondary school they are both sent to. The relationship doesn't not survive high school and at the end of it Amina gets married to another Hausa, and most importantly a man. This of course is done so as to show how sometimes it is easy to bow down to the pressures of tradition.
Ijeoma stays on with mum and eventually meets and falls for Ndidi. Ndidi introduces her to the underworld of The gay communities. Scenes of the persecution of this group are thrown in for good measure.
Ijeoma is forced into marrying a childhood friend Chidinma. However she pines for Ndidi and writes to her. The letters are intercepted by her husband and she is made to by him to stop and love only him. Eventually after the miscarriage of her second pregnancy Ijeoma gives in to her sexuality as she realises marriage to man thwarts her own happiness. She leaves with her daughter who in later life has a much better understanding of the diversity in people's sexuality than her mum's or grandma's generation. The world is still not a good place for gays but you can glean a better world that's coming where people will likely have their relations without interference from society.
The similarities to Oranges are not the only fruit are many and when the mother is arguing with Ijeoma and bible bashing her you can literally swap each mum for the other. However the experiences of Ijeoma are richer and more life altering than those of Jeannete. Loved this book very much
Why did the narrator chose a non-specific southern African accent for a Nigerian story? It's like reading a book set in London's East End in Geordie accent. The narration and the way she pronounced "akara" almost made me stop listening. Thankfully the plot was captivating enough to keep me interested until the end.
I really enjoyed this book and would highly recommend it. The characters jump out of the page and have stayed with me. The narration feels just right for the book. Not too over the top.
A different Narrator
Lack of research.. This is a Nigerian story but she used a very generic African accent that was closer to South African that any West African accent..Please, please, western narrators...do your research!!! I would have preferred to listen to this in a western accent than this mingled, terrible, terrible accent!!
I gave this book five stars due to the content. It's well written but more importantly it sheds light on an important issue. This author gives voice to inner turmoil gay people in Nigeria go through as well as the underground life they have to lead for safety.
"Good book that left me wanting more."
The narrator was excellent. The story at times left me wanting more, especially at the end. I felt the author should have developed the second lesbian relationship a bit more and given more insight into their reunion and lifestyle. The lack of this exploration left me with many questions and thoughts. The author addresses many important themes such as sexual identity, culture, tradition, religion and death to name a few. The author writes beautifully in full, rich detail.
"narrator makes this story shine"
idjeoma is such a strong character but she's surrounded by people who are trying to bring her down with tradition and religion. the story was so frustrating as our heroine is helpless through much of the story. fortunately i finished the story with the help of the narrator. robin miles has a way of making the many accents and various languages in this book come alive. her reading, as well as superbly acted distinct voices between characters brought an additional layer of enjoyment to this story. she did such a good job that I'm going to seek out other books she's read aloud.
"Slower paced book, but very beautiful"
The story itself sort of meanders along as it follows the life of the main character. That. Ring said, the moments in it are heartfelt and emotional. I kept getting stuck at some of the slower parts, but the ending left me crying. It was perfect. Highly recommended
It was a well told story and left me engaged wanting the book to be longer.
Ijeoma because she reminds me of things I've dealt with and have been through personally.
No, this is my first time listening.
The moment when ijeoma's husband found her wooden treasure box with all her letters to oondeedee
I am just disgusted at the laws in nigeria still to this day and think that I would never visit with those laws still in place.
"A Fascinating Tale ... "
Chinelo's book is a beautiful tale of forbidden love in a culture that questions anything that veers from the "norm." The characters are rich and flawed, the setting vivid and enchanting. The only downside was the narration. Not to fault the narrator entirely but, it is frustrating to listen to a language one speaks well being butchered by someone who doesn't speak it at all; even the accent was wrong. It was a huge distraction from what was truly a beautiful and important story. A fascinating tale with a flawed narration.
"Compassionate, beautiful, compelling."
A well composed story that gently unfolds, revealing the discovery, beauty, and sacrifice of love outside the societal norm.
"the plot was a bit weak"
i found the story a bit weak, difficult to explain what I missed but for me somethingg was missing
"Stunning Imagery of a Young Woman's Struggle"
First of all, the narration of this story is wonderful. A lot of times it can be hit or miss, but the narrator has plenty of emotion behind her words and tonal change to differentiate characters. It makes for a much more immersive experience. The story is very well written and uses a multitude of descriptive background to really set the scenes. However, it can be a little disjointed at times and skips around a lot. It was valuable for me to hear about this young woman's struggle with acceptance in a culture that was also undergoing it's own tooth and nail struggle for identity. As always, it is uplifting to find beauty in the tragedy of war and companionship in the desolation of loss.
"Not at all what I was expecting!"
At first I had to get used to the narrator's accent, then devoured it along with the author's detailed descriptions. I genuinely felt for the dilemma of the main character. The ending was fitting to the character's paradox, though I was sad to have it over! Superb writing and reading!
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