Under the Udala Trees – Review
This is a gem of a “little” story. I realized after completing it that I have come to expect West African literature to focus on characters who are so degree-oriented that they usually end up in an European/American environment where the crux of their stories come to a head. In Under the Udala Trees, there is none of that. The main character, Ijeoma, never expresses a desire to further her “official” education after she completes high school. She just wants to live and love who she wants to love. And that is, partly, behind me designating this book a gem.
Ijeoma is the daughter of an Igbo couple who were happily married until the outbreak of the Biafran war (or struggle for independence from Nigeria) broke out and devastated the family. Out of concern for Ijeoma’s safety, her mother sends her to stay with family friends. While there she meets her first love, a Hausa girl named Amina.
That love, or more precisely, Ijeoma’s realization that she is attracted solely to her own gender is the crux of this lovely story. I say lovely because even though there is pain and heartache in this novel, there is also beauty and love; from way the geography of the place acts upon the characters to Ijeoma’s forced interrogation of Christianity, this novel is, again, a gem.
I heartily recommend Under the Udala Trees and will definitely read the next novel from its author, Chinelo Okparanta.
Book 2 of the African Reading Challenge.