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Under the Udala Trees by Chinelo Okparanta

Under the Udala Trees (2015)

by Chinelo Okparanta

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Showing 1-5 of 11 (next | show all)
i really liked this, while also really wanting more from it. the writing is strong (although inconsistent stylistically) and the story is important. i liked the introjection of folk stories and tales throughout, even if i couldn't always tell exactly what okpranta was getting at with each of them.

the book falls flat to me on character development, which i find extremely important and really would have given the story much more depth. that was the main issue i had with it, that i didn't really feel like i knew any of the characters, and reading more of the book didn't help me to know them any better.

"Papa's name, Uzo, meant 'door,' or 'the way.' It was a solid kind of name, strong-like and self-reliant, unlike mine, Ijeoma (which was just a wish: 'safe journey'), or Mama's, Adaora (which was just saying that she was the daughter of all, daughter of the community, which was really what all daughters were, when you thought about it).
Uzo. It was the kind of name I'd have liked to fold up and hold in the palm of my hand, if names could be folded and held that way. So that if I were ever lost, all I'd have to do would be to open up my palm and allow the name, like a torchlight, to show me the way."

"But it had been some time since we'd had any bread or tea or Kellogg's cornflakes, or Peak milk or Carnation evaporated milk. And as for eggs, they were a thing like peace of mind, like calm, even like a smile. They were a thing we had begun to have only once in a while."

"I breathed in the scent of her, deeply, as if to take in the excess of it, as if to build a reserve for that one day when she would be gone."

"Sometimes we get confused about what happiness really means. Sometimes we get confused about what path to take to get to happiness." ( )
1 vote elisa.saphier | Dec 2, 2016 |
Narrated by Ijeoma, Under the Udala Trees starts off when she is just eleven years old and living in the war ridden republic of Nigeria in the late 1960’s.

When Ijeoma’s father is killed in an air bombing, her mother is left grief ridden and depressed, barely able to care for herself let alone her daughter. She sends Ijeoma off to live with a couple in another village. Ijeoma lives there almost two years before her mother comes back to get her. What she finds in this village is a friendship and eventually romantic feelings for a girl named Amina.

Author Chinelo Okparanta pens an interesting novel and I enjoyed the way Nigeria comes to life within these pages. I was curious as to where Ijeoma’s story would go as the book spans her young years into adulthood. Her mom was against her love affair with any woman, calling it an abomination. She would read bible passages to her daughter in hopes of Ijeoma’s repenting for her sins.

I found this the saddest part of the story, that Ijeoma’s mother did not support or accept her for who she really was. All her life she knew she was gay and but her mom fought against it. The mom’s denial was a very strong aspect of her personality. Religion is a central part of the story as Ijeoma quotes the same bible passages her mother does, and knows they apply to her as well.

This was the story of a young woman who struggles with the pressure to conform to her mother’s and to societies expectations but all the while knows her true self. While I didn’t fall in love with any of these characters, I breezed right through Under the Udala Trees and found it to be an interesting read.

Disclaimer: This review is my honest opinion. I did not receive any kind of compensation for reading and reviewing this book. I am under no obligation to write a positive review. I obtained my free review copy of Under the Udala Trees by Chinelo Okparanta via AmazonVine.
https://bookwormnai.wordpress.com/2016/10/23/under-the-udala-trees-by-chinelo-okparanta/ ( )
  bookworm_naida | Oct 23, 2016 |
This book felt more like a memoir than fiction. It was beautifully written, especially in the beginning. But when Ijeoma has to give up her lover, go back to her mother, and finally marry, the emotion of the first half disappeared and it felt almost formulaic - too wrapped up. Can't help but speculate that perhaps this really happened: the emotion went away. ( )
  bobbieharv | Apr 20, 2016 |
So...I am not a fan of war books, and this book begins during Nigeria's late-1960s war. Why don't I do war novels? Death, abandonment, destruction, disrupted potential, etc etc etc. I would, honestly, rather just read a memoir of the real thing. Which sounds crazy, but I prefer real horribleness to fictional horribleness.

So, after those things all happen, this novel moves on in time. Ijeoma moves back with her mother, in a new town with a new life. She then goes to boarding school, and again back to her mother. But though the war is over, they have survived, and her mother has built them a good life, Ijeoma is still living her own war. She is a lesbian. And gays and lesbians are hated in Nigeria--they can be killed with virtual immunity, and are outcasts if they are known. And as of 2014 this was still the law per the author's note.

A little hopeful, but largely depressing--not because of anything the author does, just because that's how it is :( ( )
  Dreesie | Apr 12, 2016 |
I was inspired to pick this up by the blurb claiming that it was "inspired by Nigeria's folktales." Well, that's not quite true. Certainly, the characters are all Nigerian, and there are a few traditional tales told, over the course of the book - but the story itself is clearly based on true events, not on folktales.

I was actually nearly convinced that this was a memoir, it rings so true. It's not, but the author has stated that some details are based on her mother's experiences in Nigeria. It feels like a family story.

I'd be surprised if no one else has yet described the book as the "Oranges are Not the Only Fruit" for Nigeria. Like that book, it's a coming-of-age story; a personal, painful look at what it is like to first fall in love with another woman, in an environment where lesbians are treated harshly (in this book, even killed) and denounced by so-called Christianity.

The book is written in a very accessible, deceptively simple style. it's emotionally moving - but you'll also come away from the book feeling like you've truly gained an insight as to what it was like to live in 1960-1970's Nigeria.

Many thanks to Houghton Mifflin Harcourt and NetGalley for the opportunity to read. As always, my opinions are solely my own. ( )
  AltheaAnn | Feb 9, 2016 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Chinelo Okparantaprimary authorall editionscalculated
Sullivan, MichaelaCover designersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Swim Ink 2Cover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Faith is the assured expectation of things hoped for, the evident demonstration of realities, though not beheld.

-- Hebrews 11:1
For Constance, Chinbueze, Chineye, Chidinma

And for Obiora
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0544003446, Hardcover)

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. 
When their love is discovered, Ijeoma learns that she will have to hide this part of herself. But there is a cost to living inside a lie.     
As Edwidge Danticat has made personal the legacy of Haiti’s political coming of age, Okparanta’s Under the Udala Trees uses one woman’s lifetime to examine the ways in which Nigerians continue to struggle toward selfhood. Even as their nation contends with and recovers from the effects of war and division, Nigerian lives are also wrecked and lost from taboo and prejudice. This story offers a glimmer of hope — a future where a woman might just be able to shape her life around truth and love. 
Acclaimed by Vogue, the Financial Times, and many others, Chinelo Okparanta continues to distill “experience into something crystalline, stark but lustrous” (New York Times Book Review). Under the Udala Trees marks the further rise of a star whose “tales will break your heart open” (New York Daily News). 

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 06 Jul 2015 07:42:02 -0400)

A young Nigerian girl, displaced during their civil war, begins a powerful love affair with another refugee girl from a different ethnic community until the pair are discovered and must learn the cost of living a lie amidst taboos and prejudices.

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