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Summary

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.

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The Narrator ruins the book!!

What could have made this a 4 or 5-star listening experience for you?

A different Narrator

Would you be willing to try another book from Chinelo Okparanta? Why or why not?

Yes

What didn’t you like about Robin Miles’s performance?

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!!

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars

Good story read with a terrible accent

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.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars

great story but name pronunciations need work

I love the story and the message behind it , as a Nigerian, i love the way she dealt with many of the the issues the country faces concerning superstition, religion, culture and how it revolves around the LGBT community. That said, I wish Audible (or whoever is responsible for casting the actor who reads the book) would use actual Nigerian actors for the recording.
I just found it very distracting hearing so many native names and conversation being pronounced badly. Whenever the reader narrates a line spoken in "pidgin English" a lot of the words were pronounced badly. This may not be a problem for a non-Nigerian as they would not know any better , but it may actually sweeten the experience and give it a more authentic experience for them to listen to a real Nigerian narrate the story .
It's like paying for authentic Chinese food that has been cooked by a foreigner following a recipe. You may end up enjoying the meal, but it would always lack those extra things a native Chinese could have added to it .

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    1 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars

Very bad accent for the native words and names.

The book has very distinct native Nigerian names and words that are not pronounced by a native speaker. Might be appealing to a foreign audience but not palatable at all for a Nigerian, where the author is from. I have rated the story just to be able to make this observation but I couldn't listen past the first chapter.

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    5 out of 5 stars
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Not what I expected.

The book has touched me in ways words cannot explain. I really enjoyed this book

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    4 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars

Beautiful observed and delivered

This was my first audible book and I thoroughly enjoyed it. The writing was so beautiful it absorbed me and I quickly entered this child's world. The naïveté of the love of a young gay person was delightful, the inevitable censure and crushing of this love so painful. The resignation to the soul-destroying farce of a loveless marriage was desperate... i found my attention waned a bit in this part but I guess that mirrored the dullness of the situation... But I would highly recommend this beautifully observed novel of an incredibly important life experience that gets such little attention. I thought the reader was extraordinarily good.

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    4 out of 5 stars

The torment of life as a gay woman in Nigeria

What made the experience of listening to Under the Udala Trees the most enjoyable?

The colourful descriptions of Biafra. Okparanta has the ability to bring landscape and people to life with the bare minimum of prose.

What was one of the most memorable moments of Under the Udala Trees?

Ijeoma's daily lessons as she tried to make sense of her "abomination".

What does Robin Miles bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you had only read the book?

She sounded like I imagined the Ijeoma to sound.

Did you have an emotional reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

No. Not once did I laugh, nor did I cry. This is the reason I rated it 4* and not higher.

Any additional comments?

It's a powerful and thought-provoking book but for me, lacked emotional punch.

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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

A must read, beautifully written

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.

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    5 out of 5 stars
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Africa's own Jeanette Winterson

What did you like most about Under the Udala Trees?

Th subject. Always considered taboo in most African communities and here we have it in colour

What was one of the most memorable moments of Under the Udala Trees?

The mother and daughter arguments. Found those really funny

What about Robin Miles’s performance did you like?

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

Did you have an emotional reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

I cried, laughed and literally shouted at times

Any additional comments?

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

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    5 out of 5 stars
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A brave & beautiful story

This is an important story, a perspective that is usually silenced by fear. It's also beautifully told and narrated - a highly recommended listen.

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  • ayodele higgs
  • 05-12-15

Great Listen!

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.

21 of 23 people found this review helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
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  • Tradclassique
  • 09-03-16

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.

20 of 22 people found this review helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
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  • Cody Munger
  • 08-11-16

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.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Audiobookhoe
  • 07-08-17

Heavy story about a queer Nigerian woman's journey

So much to unpack. This book follows around Ijeoma, a queer Nigerian woman, throughout her life in a country that's not the most queer friendly.

I was surprised at how sex positive the book was with Ijeoma exploring her feelings, both emotionally and sexually.

From her first love, Ameena, a hausa girl, to feeling pressures to marry her childhood friend, her story wasn't easy to tell, nor was it meant to be a love story.

Its cerebral but I liked it. I wish I knew of more narratives of African queer women, but this definitely set the bar high.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
  • Jenny
  • 23-12-16

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

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Reesh
  • 25-06-16

Great listen!

Would you listen to Under the Udala Trees again? Why?

It was a well told story and left me engaged wanting the book to be longer.

Who was your favorite character and why?

Ijeoma because she reminds me of things I've dealt with and have been through personally.

Have you listened to any of Robin Miles’s other performances before? How does this one compare?

No, this is my first time listening.

Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

The moment when ijeoma's husband found her wooden treasure box with all her letters to oondeedee

Any additional comments?

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.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
  • Michael Spicer
  • 06-08-18

fantastic story with an equally fantastic narrator

This story was gripping, emotional, alternately heartbreaking and heartwarming, and the wonderful narration enhanced the experience, as Robin Miles' performance was able to take the words on the page and bring them to life.

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Kindle Customer
  • 22-07-18

loved it

I loved this book! it resonated with me bc I too have been torn between my sexuality and faith. The word pictures were impeccable. The orator was a delight to listen to. I loved everything about this book.

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    1 out of 5 stars
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  • Emily
  • 12-04-18

DNF

Any additional comments?

I found the characters flat, and I had trouble connecting to the story through the way Robin Miles narrated. Disappointing since I wanted to like the book and there were so many great reviews.

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
  • Julia
  • 10-11-17

Equal measures heartbreaking and hopeful

Equal measures heartbreaking and hopeful, as life is. A queer perspective I don't see represented in my media often.