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Under the Udala Trees

Cover of Under the Udala Trees

Under the Udala Trees

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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 eleven 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.

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 eleven 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.

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About the Author-
  • Born in Port Harcourt, Nigeria, Chinelo Okparanta is the author of the award-winning story collection Happiness, Like Water. Her honors include an O. Henry Prize, a Lambda Literary Award, and finalist selection for the Young Lions, the Caine Prize, and the Rolex Mentor and Protege Arts Initiative. Her stories have appeared in Granta, the New Yorker, and Tin House, among other publications. She lives in New York.

Reviews-
  • Publisher's Weekly

    August 10, 2015
    Okparanta's excellent debut novel is a heartbreaker. Ijeoma is a young girl in civil war-torn Ojoto, Nigeria. When the war takes her father, and her mother can no longer care for her, she is sent away to family friends in the city of Aba. While with them, Ijeoma, part of the Igbo tribe, meets Amina, an orphan from the Hausa tribe. Despite the heavy cultural and religious taboos, the girls fall in love and begin to explore their sexuality. This behavior comes to an abrupt halt when they are caught and Ijeoma returns to her mother, who inundates her in religious instruction. Ijeoma and Amina attend the same school and wrestle the conflict between their attraction and the pressures upon them. After Amina marries a man, Ijeoma is devastated, but soon meets another woman, Ndidi. Eventually, caving to pressure, Ijeoma marries her childhood friend Chibundu and tries to be a happy wife but as time passes, Ijeoma must contend with her feelings for Ndidi, which she must keep secret, and finally make a fateful decision. Okparanta's characters are just as compelling as teenagers as they are as adults and readers will be swept up in this tale of the power of love.

  • AudioFile Magazine Okparanta's beautiful romance gives voice to the extremely marginalized--even beaten, stoned, and burned alive--LGBTQ population of Nigeria. Robin Miles's narration transports listeners to Ijeoma's youthful experiences in the civil war in Biafra, which resulted in her father's death during an air raid and a foster care/servant situation in which she discovers love with a young woman. Miles does an excellent job with the nuances of emotion, especially the scolding petulance of Ijeoma's mother and Ijeoma's own bewilderment and growing tenacity as she discovers herself. Equally vivid are the horrific experiences of raids upon private clubs and the grim sadness of an unhappy marriage, all voiced with clarity and subtle accents. Even though this is a story written with a strong social message, Miles puts the characters and story center stage. D.P.D. © AudioFile 2016, Portland, Maine
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Under the Udala Trees
Under the Udala Trees
Chinelo Okparanta
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