Title: Under the Udala Trees
Author: Chinelo Okparanta
‘Under the Udala Trees’ is the story of Ijeoma, a young Nigerian girl, who discovers love in a girl of some other community, Amina. The novel takes us on a journey wherein Ijeoma tries to reconcile with her life, after her relationship with Amina is exposed to her mother.
About the Author
A Nigerian by birth, Chinelo Okrapanta is currently Assistant Professor of English & Creative Writing (Fiction) at Bucknell University. Her stories have been featured in New Yorker & Granta. She is a recipient of a number of literary awards & has also been a finalist for several others. Under the Udala Trees is her debut novel.
A Love Story under Veil
The novel begins with the Nigerian Civil War going on. Ijeoma’s father gets killed during a bombardment. Ijeoma & her mother are left alone. Forced by circumstances, Ijeoma’s mother sends her away to a teacher’s house. There she meets Amina, who has also been robbed by the war.
The two girls soon find themselves becoming inseparable. But their blossoming love is soon discovered by the teacher & the two are separated. Ijeoma’s mother brings her back & starts her Bible lessons to purify her soul. The 11 year old girl is unable to understand why her love for Amina is termed as Abomination.
Seeking redemption, while questioning the interpretation of the Bible and failing to repress her feelings, Ijeoma stands for those belonging to the LGBT Community & making love under a veil.
This is my first book from the LGBT (Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender) Literature. There could not have been a better time to read this book than the last month, that is, the Pride month- a month of celebration for the LGBT Community. I absolutely adored this book. The psychology of a lesbian girl, her feelings, her fears, her confusion, her longing, her passion, her love & all that constitutes a part of her life, has been portrayed very well.
The writing style of the author is compelling. The plot of the book is not a continuous flow of time. The novel is divided into 6 parts, each part representing a different phase of her life. In each part she is seen in a different role- the role of a young girl, a daughter, a lover, a wife, a mother & a person. I love the way, the story is told.
There are not many characters in this novel. But Ijeoma’s character is one that seems to be a living person. Reading about her is like watching her.
Some of my favorite lines from the text are:
- … Just because the story happened to focus on a certain Adam and Eve did not mean that all other possibilities were forbidden. … Woman was created for man, yes. But why did that mean that woman could not also have been created for another woman? Or man for another man? …
- … There were nights when I dreamed of her, dreams so vivid that when I woke it seemed that the waking was the dream , and the dream, my reality: …
- “.. tell me, how much do you want? How much does it cost to get you to do it tonight?… Tell me, if it’s not enough that I’m your husband, maybe I can pay you to do it. ..”
- I stood just staring .. at the (sewing) machine. .. the handwheel. Just One. Not two. Not like a bicycle. .. the way it would move: .. Needle up, needle down. .. Like an affirmation. .. maybe yes, one wheel was enough. No marriage of two. Just a single person would do.
I loved the poignancy of the text. Keeping in view the fact, that it is a debut novel, I can say that the author is sure to win readers’ hearts in coming years. She is an author to keep an eye on.
My Rating: **** (4/5)
What do you think about this book? Did you read any LGBT Literature this Pride 2017? Do share your views. Thanks.
*I received a copy from the Publisher, to celebrate Pride 2017. Views expressed are entirely personal & unbiased.*