In 2014 the President of Nigeria, Goodluck Jonathan signed into law an act making homosexuality punishable by 14 years in prison. In Nigeria’s north, homosexuality is punishable by death by stoning. Under the Udala Trees confronts the issues of being a lesbian woman in Nigeria where social rejection and death are potential consequences.
Ijeoma is 11 when brutal war breaks out between Nigeria and Biafra. When her father is killed in a Nigerian bombing raid Ijeoma’s mother sends her to work as a house girl for a grammar school teacher. There she meets Amina, a girl who becomes her first love and who influences the rest of Ijeoma’s life.
Ijoema’s story is of a girl discovering her sexuality while realising that her feelings are unacceptable to the world around her. Condemnation from others, including her mother and her God leads her to question herself. Guilt gets in the way of her happiness, and with time becomes a seeming insurmountable obstacle.
Robin Miles has narrated other excellent audiobooks by successful Nigerian authors, including Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s Half of a Yellow Sun and NoViolet Bulawayo’s We Need New Names. Her narration of Under the Udala Trees is absolutely authentic. Her Ibo and pidgin is consistent and well spoken. There are occasional songs in the story which Miles does an incredible job of recreating.
Coming from a culture where storytelling has primarily been an oral tradition this audiobook is a wonderful rendering of a contemporary Nigerian story.
Under the Udala Trees • by Chinelo Okparanta • narrated by Robin Miles • published by Blackstone Audio • September 22, 2015 • ISBN 9781504666275