Under the Udala Trees
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Long-listed for the Center for Fiction First Novel Prize
Nominated for the 2015 NAACP Image Awards (Outstanding Literary Work of Fiction)
Nominated for the 2015 Nigerian Writers Awards (Young Motivational Writer of the Year)
New York Times Book Review Editors' Choice
Inspired by Nigeria's folktales and its 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 eleven when civil war breaks out in the young republic of Nigeria. Sent away to safety, she meets another displaced child and they, star-crossed, fall in love. They are from different ethnic communities. They are also both girls.
to pray our sadnesses away.” I was thinking of the ways in which I could dance or fast or pray this sadness away when Mama spoke. In the distance voices were rising and falling, children shouting at one another. “I’ve been thinking,” Mama said. “Your grandparents—my parents—have that house in Aba. It’s still there. If there’s a place for me to go, that should be it.” There was a dull, faraway look in her eyes, and a quiet laziness to the way she spoke, as if at any moment her words would fade
they would not be staying long. Mama went out to the front yard to greet them. She embraced Mrs. Ejiofor first. I watched from the parlor window. “Unu a biana! Nno nu! Welcome o!” She stepped aside and did the same with Mr. Ejiofor. She had hardly finished exchanging greetings with Chibundu’s parents when I watched Chibundu race to the front of the house, across the veranda, and through the front door. “Ije!” he called out, his nickname for me. He found me standing by the parlor window. “Why
stool, the comb we shared, some hairpins, our body cream, and a small mirror. We had just dried ourselves with our towels when Amina lifted the mirror. Our towels were tied around our chests, extending down to our thighs. She leaned so that her face came close to the kerosene lantern. Its rays illuminated her face. She tugged at the loose braids on her head. “Does it look all right?” she asked. I went closer to her, ran my fingers through her braids. Those were the braids that I had plaited for
She stayed just looking at me a moment, then she said, “Anyway, I came because I was wondering if you’d like to go again to the river. I’d like it if you could.” “Of course,” I replied. There was nothing I would have loved more to do. 32 SCHOOL HAD NOT yet resumed. It had been an ordinary day, and now Amina and I sat on the steps of the veranda of her dorm building, about to eat. There was an ashy smell coming out of the bowls of rice and beans. “It’s too burnt,” I said. She was the one who
to be done around here! Why have you two not taken the time to fix up the place? Well, we can certainly take care of all of this now. There’s really no better cure for depression than hard work. We have our work cut out for us, but believe me, once things start to look nicer around here, you will surely start to feel better!” Afternoon. Lunchtime. The thick scent of garri and Mama’s okra soup. “Look at you looking so miserable. When I was your age, I was wearing my marriage like a badge of