3 Stars Reviews

Book Review: Under the Udala Trees by Chinelo Okparanta

Ijeoma is coming of age during the Nigerian Civil War, a conflict that devastates her home and her family. Sent away by her mother for her own safety, Ijeoma finds herself embarking on a passionate love affair with another girl. She quickly learns the consequences of expressing this part of her identity and struggles to navigate the violent prejudices of her people.

This was a really moving story with an incredibly rich and descriptive narrative that captured the beauty of Nigeria and its people, but also the difficulties of being queer in a very religious and homophobic country. It was very refreshing to read a non-Western queer narrative. I enjoyed the journey of self-discovery that Ijeoma went on and her subsequent growth into a woman and mother. I particularly liked how Okparanta wove traditional Nigerian folktales throughout the narrative, and how she interspersed the English dialogue with Igbo and pidgin which aided the richness of the story. There wasn’t anything I particularly disliked or didn’t enjoy about this novel, but it didn’t draw me in like a four- or five-star read might have. However, I do still highly recommend it as it’s an excellent example of non-Western LGBT+ literature.

Rating: 3 / 5 stars

Read for the Magical Readathon, Muggle Studies exam.

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