Review: The Girl with the Louding Voice

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Review for "The Girl with the Louding Voice" by Abi Dare (2020)

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Ahhh, this book made me want to stand up and cheer!

“The Girl with the Louding Voice” is the story of 14-year-old Adunni, a Nigerian girl who longs to go back to school and become a teacher. Her mother is dead, and her father believes that education is wasted on girls. When the family falls upon hard financial times, her father accepts a tv and several other gifts as a bride price for his daughter. He gives Adunni away in marriage to an older man who already has two wives and several children.

As a wife, Adunni finds life unbearable. She quickly discovers that her husband is only concerned with her bearing him a boy to raise. His older first wife is cruel and causes her constant misery. In contrast, her husband’s much younger second wife is kind, and her and Adunni develop a lasting friendship. After a tragedy involving the second wife, Adunni escapes to the large city of Lagos, where she finds work as a servant to a wealthy, abusive mistress. When an opportunity to further her education comes and offers Adunni a chance to escape, she takes it–in great peril to her life.

I loved this book. Although the portrait of rural life is bleak (child marriage, sexual exploitation, trafficking, and forced servitude are very real), Adunni uses her ‘louding voice’ to rise up and make a difference in her circumstances. Adunni also speaks a very basic English in a very distinct dialect, which found its own rhythm as the story moved forward. The language, along with her courage and determination to make a better life for herself were what made this book worthwhile.

4.5 stars. Definitely read this if you get the chance!

Review: My Sister, the Serial Killer

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Review for "My Sister, the Serial Killer" by Oyinkan Braitwaite (2018)

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Dark and brilliant work of fiction. I read this in about 5 days, only because I had to pause to savor the words and the plot a ‘lil bit longer than usual.

Anywho, “My Sister, the Serial Killer” is about two sisters living with their mother in present day Lagos, Nigeria. Ayoola, the younger sister, is a beautiful fashion designer with a bad habit for murdering her boyfriends. Korede, the older sister, works as a nurse in a local hospital and resigns herself to a life of boredom and covering for her sister when another one of her paramours winds up dead. When a handsome doctor at Korede’s hospital ends up falling for Ayoola, the sister’s worlds are turned upside down.

This is not so much a story about murder and mayhem than it is about modern Nigerian life and the pitfalls of familial obligation and tradition. Ayoola does not feel remorse for her victims and neither of the sisters are particularly likable. However, you come to understand that Korede is fully overshadowed by Ayoola, so much so that you can’t help but to empathize with her as she is dragged closer and closer into her sister’s murderous web. Each takes their turn manipulating one another and allowing others in their orbit to be manipulated. Overall, it’s a fun story and I honestly enjoyed this book.

I definitely look forward to the next book that Oyinkan Braithwaite writes.

Review: Buried Beneath the Baobab Tree

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Review for "Buried Beneath the Baobab Tree" by Adaobi Tricia Nwabani and Viviana Mazza (2018)

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

“Buried Beneath the Baobab Tree” gives voice to one of the hundreds of Nigerian girls who have been kidnapped by the terrorist group Boko Haram. The internet launched a campaign with the #BringBackOurGirls hashtag going viral in response to the large-scale kidnapping of girls at a government school in the Borno State of Nigeria in 2014. Although the hashtag brought awareness to the plight of the girls, what many may not know is that the 2014 kidnapping was not the first of its kind by the group, nor has it been the last. Boko Haram continues to terrorize Nigeria and its surrounding countries, and although there have been some girls released by the group, hundreds still remain captive and missing.

The narrator of the novel is an unnamed girl, later given a name that is not hers by her kidnappers. In the beginning of the novel, before the main events take place, we learn that she is passionate about her education, her family, her Christian faith, and pursuing a scholarship to achieve her dreams. This is shattered when her village is attacked by Boko Haram and most of the men are killed. The narrator and dozens of other girls are forced to go with the kidnappers into the forest. Once there, the girls are surrounded by men with guns who force them renounce their beliefs and embrace Islam. She is made to do chores, eat meager food rations, and learn passages from the Qu’ran. Those who refuse to comply with the kidnappers’ demands are severely beaten or killed. The narrator is also forced to marry a Boko Haram fighter who physically and sexually abuses her. Despite the horrors around her, the narrator remains steadfast and refuses to be brainwashed. She continues to dream of her escape and desire for education.

This is tough reading material. The novel is told in short vignettes, which I found to be helpful in allowing the content be digested more thoroughly, especially for a younger audience. We rarely get YA books about the struggles of women in non-Western context, so I definitely loved this one and recommend it to anyone.