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Under the Udala Trees

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4.02  ·  Rating details ·  10,971 ratings  ·  1,452 reviews
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
...more
Hardcover, 328 pages
Published September 22nd 2015 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (first published September 3rd 2015)
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Eric Mueller I love the ending! I think the dreams in the epilogue tell more about the narrator than more fighting with Chubundu could ever have told. Ending the s…moreI love the ending! I think the dreams in the epilogue tell more about the narrator than more fighting with Chubundu could ever have told. Ending the story where she did rejects Western forms of storytelling, queers the narrative. It shows that the writer is not willing to cater to the reader. She wants to tell this story her way. (less)
Ellen It does involve codeswitching from English to Igbo (I think) to pidgin. From p31: "Before returning to the gate, she said, in pidgin this time 'Na who…moreIt does involve codeswitching from English to Igbo (I think) to pidgin. From p31: "Before returning to the gate, she said, in pidgin this time 'Na who even tell you say I get wata.'"

Other authors that codeswitch and/or have characters that do: Junot Diaz, Chimamanda Adichie, Zadie Smith, Uwem Akpan, Oscar Hijuelos, Shulem Deen (less)

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Average rating 4.02  · 
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 ·  10,971 ratings  ·  1,452 reviews


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J.L.   Sutton
Jul 13, 2018 rated it it was amazing
“I suppose it's the way we are, humans that we are. Always finding it easier to make ourselves the victim in someone else's tragedy. Though it is true, too, that sometimes it is hard to know to whom the tragedy really belongs.”

Under the Udala Trees by Chinelo Okparanta review – love and conflict during the Nigerian civil war | Fiction | The Guardian

Wow! Chinelo Okparanta’s Under the Udala Trees is amazing! Amid the political upheaval of Nigeria’s civil war and after her father’s death, 11-year old Ijeoma is sent to live with family friends. There she befriends and eventually falls in love with a girl from a differen
...more
Maxwell
Nov 02, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: black-authors, owned
4.5 stars This was a nearly perfect novel. It has what I would call a quiet power to it. Okparanta has created something special here, something that's moving and resilient and important. It's the story of conflict and reconciliation, of a nation at war with itself, of a mother and daughter at war with each other, and ultimately of a girl at war with her identity and how she comes to acceptance. It's beautifully written and told, and I can't wait to read more from this author. Only small complai ...more
Elyse Walters
Aug 18, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: netgalley
This debut novel will reach deep into your heart and mind.... a story which stays forever!

Ijeoma is only 11 years old when her father dies.
As a young child, when one parent dies, ( I know this from experience), they often feel as though they've lost both parents.
Everything changes instantly and dramatically. This happened to Ijeoma.
She and her mother loose their living comforts...from their upper class,
( more elite) home to being rather poor. The entire country is hurting as the Civil
War ha
...more
Jenna is buying a house and mostly too busy for GR ❤ ❀  ❤
Under the Udala Trees is a nice enough story about a young lesbian in Nigeria, where homosexuality is illegal. The story follows Ijeoma through her first feelings for another girl when she is a teenager, through her marriage to a man, and finally to accepting her sexuality, albeit not living openly for apparent reasons. I found the writing too flowery for my taste, and there was constant reference to God and the Bible, including many passages of the Bible which I found boring. I guess for people ...more
☆Pelumi☆
OUT OF FIVE
ACTUAL RATING: 5
PLOT: 5
CHARACTERS: 4
AWESOMENESS: 5
ACCURACY: 50

“Maybe love was some combination of friendship and infatuation. A deeply felt affection accompanied by a certain sort of awe. And by gratitude. And by a desire for a lifetime of togetherness.”

I LOVE THIS, I LOVE THIS!
This is one of those books that I read and I really enjoyed. Not only was it relatable, it was also accurate. Its hard to find really good novels especially debut ones like these with great representation. I'm
...more
Cheryl
Aug 01, 2020 rated it really liked it
I turned the last pages of this book late at night and dreamt of udalas, sweet and tart.

Speaking of dreams, there are quite a few in this novel, as the main character sometimes wrestles with reality through dreams. You know how it is, when you have so much on your mind, so much to philosophize, but there's no one to truly talk to because your inner life must remain a secret?

I breathed in the scent of her, deeply, as if to take in an excess of it, as if to build a reserve for that one day wh
...more
Hugh
Oct 31, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: modern-lit, read-2017
A beautifully crafted tale of forbidden love, mostly set during and immediately after the Biafran war, but inspired by Nigeria's recent decision to outlaw homosexual acts.

Ijeoma is an Igbo girl from a middle class family whose world is shaken when her father is killed by a bomb, and her mother is forced to send her out to be a servant girl while she finds a place to survive. Here she meets Amina, a Hausa orphan, and persuades her employers to take her in. They start a lesbian relationship, but
...more
Monica
What an amazing book!! Deeply personal and thoughtful!! A beautiful story, beautifully told. I was not expecting to be so captivated. I think what got me was the humanness of it all. The world building was superb. I knew I was reading about another country entirely with different culture etc and yet I connected with Ijeoma. I understood her points of view and shared many of her perceptions. The first half of the book with the religious dogma was interesting to me, but I was completely detached. ...more
Jennifer
Jun 13, 2017 rated it really liked it
“With a man, life is difficult. Without a man, life is even more difficult. Take it from me."

Like many artists before her, author Chinelo Okparanta took to her craft as a way to address oppressive governmental policies. In 2014, the year before this book was written Okparanta's native Nigeria passed some of the most stringent laws in the world against homosexuality. Those found to be "guilty" of homosexuality could be sentenced to decades in prison or death by stoning.

Okparata's beautiful and h
...more
Emily Coffee and Commentary
A gorgeous, powerful tale of enduring love and courage. This novel is filled with conflicts; between who we are and who we are told we must be, what is written and what is believed, who we love and who we are tied to. Romantic and defiant, this is an essential story, filled with patience, faith, and the will not just to survive, but to bloom into truth and love.
Jill
Aug 24, 2015 rated it really liked it
It is impossible for me to review this book without first addressing the “why” of its genesis. Just last year, Nigeria – the birthplace of Chinelo Okparanta – passed one of the world’s most punitive laws against same-sex relationships, including lengthy prison sentences and in the northern states, death by stoning. As someone who strongly believes that healthy and reciprocal love between two people – regardless of gender – is always a good thing, I can’t help but applaud this young author for pr ...more
Starlah
Jun 05, 2020 rated it it was amazing
During the start of Nigeria's civil war and after her father's death, 11-year old Ijeoma is sent to live with family friends. There she befriends and eventually falls in love with a girl. In a country with some of the strictest laws against homosexuality, there is no acceptance of their relationship. When their relationship is discovered, Ijeoma's mother takes her away from the family friends and pushes her towards a "normal" life. The biggest part of that - marrying a man and having children.

Ij
...more
Adam Dalva
Apr 12, 2017 rated it liked it
Addictive, quick novel that takes on the horrendous homophobic conditions in Nigeria with a decades-spanning narrative. Okparanta is a writer of great restraint, comfortable with quick, punchy scenes and large time jumps, and her plot-work is excellent. You find yourself caring about the lead, her two forbidden affairs with men, and her marriage to a man who she can not possibly love. The husband is a particularly well-mapped character - in a different book, in a different story, his narrative w ...more
Lark Benobi
Nov 09, 2015 rated it really liked it
Under the Udala Trees is restrained compared with almost any other novel I've ever read about a child growing up in time of war. There are terrible things happening throughout the novel, but somewhat obliquely. After reading many memoirs and novels that have no such restraint I kept being surprised when this main character was never raped or maimed or burned at the stake, all things that the author could have chosen to have happen to her protagonist.

The language here is simple and straightforwa
...more
Jane
Sep 19, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
This book was amazing and EVERYONE should read it!

I had Americanah-like chills while reading this. It dealt with so many serious feminist issues, particularly the role of religion and the condemnation of homosexuality. Ijeoma's thoughts and opinions on religion have been buzzing around my own mind lately so it was especially cathartic to read. There's nothing better than an incredibly well-written book that tackles very serious human issues.

I will definitely be reading anything and everything el
...more
Althea Ann
Apr 30, 2015 rated it really liked it
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
...more
Beverly
Mar 12, 2015 rated it really liked it
Poignant and emotionally rich this story captured my attention and heart in many unexpected ways. The author’s storytelling abilities are showcased as she seamlessly weaves together the coming-of-age stories of Nigeria and the main character, Ijeoma. This technique effectively put me into a specific time and place and yet is universally appealing. Ijeoma’s young world is shattered as the civil war kills her father, and her mother sends her away to a safer place. In this new place Ijeoma, an Igbo ...more
BookOfCinz
Sep 22, 2015 rated it liked it
Shelves: underwhelming
Updated May 2021

Legend has it that sprit children, tired of floating aimlessly between the world of the living and that of the dead, take to gather above udala trees.

This is my second time reading this book and I cannot believe I forgot such a beautifully, well written story. Under The Udala Trees opens with Nigeria going to war, we meet Ijeoma who is coming of age when her nation is going through a lot. When the civil war breaks out she loses her father and her mother sends her away to li
...more
Henrietta
Oct 24, 2021 rated it it was amazing
“Let peace be. Let life be”

🌴Themes: homosexuality, culture, civil war, friendship, marriage, religion, fanaticism, love.

🌴I enjoyed reading this book and even though it took more time than usual it held my interest every time I picked it up to continue where I left off.

🌴For one I liked the character of Ijeoma
I liked how she was curious and how her mind wondered about things even when she’s praying ; “What kinds of things occupied Him up there in heaven and kept Him from answering our prayers?
...more
jo
Sep 22, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: africa, lesbian, queer, audio
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Fariha
Jun 09, 2022 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I think I wanted to love this book because of the premise and the setting of it, but turns out, I only liked it – which is fair enough.

The book is set in Nigeria during the Biafran war where Ijeoma, a 11-year-old girl lives with her loving family. The war turns her world upside down, where eventually her path crosses with Amina, which leads to the start of her journey (or shall I say struggle) to understand her own sexuality through embracing a girl’s love. The plot moves through her childhood
...more
Alma Alma
Jul 09, 2017 rated it liked it
I think that the trouble with many of the comments about this book are less about the actual book itself and more with the idea of it and what it 'represents'. Firstly, I think it's unfair for Nigerian authors to be constantly likened to Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. Because it homogenizes their personal stories and distinct styles of writing. Before Under the Udala Trees I read The Fishermen which was also deeply moving and lyrical. But I hated when it was likened to Chimamanda's work as it seems t ...more
Missy J
2.5*

For several months I was really looking forward to this book, but ultimately, I'm afraid to say it was disappointing. This novel tackles a big issue - how homosexuality is not tolerated in Nigerian society and that gays and lesbians live in fear of being killed because of their sexual orientation. Unfortunately, the characters in this novel were so flat and the execution of the story line quite sloppy. Characters were thrown into the story when they had a purpose and when that purpose was se
...more
Bill Khaemba
So grateful that books that touch on this sensitive subject (especially in the African continent) bring forth characters that are rarely seen in most mediums. The main voice Ijeoma comes to terms with her sexuality amidst the 1968 Biafran civil war and the external vs internal conflict carries weight and shapes her adulthood choices. It paints the atmosphere beautifully and the characters grew organically but it was fine for me, something was missing for me, I appreciated it for what it was and ...more
Robert
Nov 19, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A great coming of age novel, which takes place during the biafran war. In a word: poignant.

*update*

The reason why this review is so brief is because it was written on my mobile, on a boat with limited bandwidth.

Ace
Mar 12, 2016 rated it really liked it
Beautifully written and narrated love story. More thoughts when I stop crying...
Richard Derus
Jun 09, 2021 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Real Rating: 4.5* of five, rounded down because been there, done that

JUNE 2021 NEWS! $2.99 on Kindle!

USE THAT LIBRARY, Y'ALL...AND *ASK* IF THEY DON'T ALREADY HAVE THE BOOK YOU'RE LOOKING FOR!

My Review
: First, read this:
It was 1967 when the war barged in and installed itself all over the place.
–and–
Maybe love was some combination of friendship and infatuation. A deeply felt affection accompanied by a certain sort of awe. And by gratitude. And by a desire for a lifetime of togetherness.
–and–
Also,
...more
Bookishrealm
Update 2/8/18: Here's my full review! http://www.bookishrealmreviews.com/20...

First let me say that I actually picked his book up on a whim. I had no idea what it was about and why so many people loved it. I needed another audiobook to listen to at work and this book stood out to me amongst all of the other books. I can't believe that I didn't read this book last year. It was truly amazing. I couldn't have asked for more. The writing was elegant, simple yet created this passionate and heartbreak
...more
Jessica Woodbury
This is a beautiful book and an important one. There is this idea I keep encountering among straight people that queer people have no more problems or complications in their lives. The whole world is still a dangerous place for queer people and this book is a good reminder, particularly its brutal reminder of Nigeria's current anti-gay laws.

This is a beautiful story but a hard one to read. If you are weary of books about queer suffering, you may want to wait until you feel you can manage it. Th
...more
Lisa
Nov 27, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: audiobook
[3.5] Under the Udala Trees is a coming of age story about a girl/woman who is struggling to be herself in a virulently homophobic Nigeria - from the late 60s to present. Much of the novel consists of pages of Ijeoma's numbing routine, but there are enough moving and eye opening moments to make this well worth reading. ...more
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Chinelo Okparanta was born in Port Harcourt, Nigeria, and relocated to the United States at the age of ten. She received her BS from The Pennsylvania State University, her MA from Rutgers University, and her MFA from the University of Iowa. She was one of Granta's six New Voices for 2012 and her stories have appeared in Granta, The New Yorker, Tin House, Subtropics, and elsewhere. ...more

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“Maybe love was some combination of friendship and infatuation. A deeply felt affection accompanied by a certain sort of awe. And by gratitude. And by a desire for a lifetime of togetherness.” 32 likes
“I suppose it's the way we are, humans that we are. Always finding it easier to make ourselves the victim in someone else's tragedy.

Though it is true, too, that sometimes it is hard to know to whom the tragedy really belongs.”
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