Under the Udala Trees

  • by Chinelo Okparanta
  • Narrated by Robin Miles
  • 11 hrs and 26 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook

Publisher's 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.


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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

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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- Unene Gregory

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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- Erica

Book Details

  • Release Date: 22-09-2015
  • Publisher: Blackstone Audio, Inc.