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Under the Udala Trees

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3.96  ·  Rating details ·  5,103 ratings  ·  788 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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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)
Amber Dunten I hated it. I felt like the story just stopped in the middle. After slogging through that miserable marriage, I felt deprived of my just reward when I…moreI hated it. I felt like the story just stopped in the middle. After slogging through that miserable marriage, I felt deprived of my just reward when I didn't get to hear about everything that was going to happen next, and it just cut to... "Epilogue."(less)

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3.96  · 
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 ·  5,103 ratings  ·  788 reviews


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J.L.   Sutton
Jul 13, 2018 rated it it was amazing
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 different ethnic tribe. In a country with some of the strictest laws against homosexuality, there is virtually no acceptance of such a relationship. When Ijeoma’s relationship is discovered, her mother reclaims her and pressures her to ...more
Maxwell
Nov 02, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2016, i-own-it
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
Hugh
Oct 31, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-2017, modern-lit
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
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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
Jane
Sep 19, 2015 rated it it was amazing
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
Lark Benobi
Nov 09, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: africa, nigeria, 2015
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
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
Ryan Dejonghe
Sep 18, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
“E’li, E’li, la’ma sab ach tha’ni? My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” is the question Ijeoma asks in the novel UNDER THE UDALA TREES by Chinelo Okparanta. The year was 1968. Her father was killed in Nigeria’s violent assimilation of Biafra, her mother—at the end of her wits. Tears will fall from your eyes as Ijeoma prays, “Dear God, I want to be happy. Please help me to be happy.”

THE MOTHER, THE HUSBAND, THE CHILD

Not knowing what to do, Ijeoma’s mother sent her away, to be properly cared
...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
Emer
"If you set off on a witch-hunt, you will find a witch.
When you find her, she will be dressed like any other person. But to you, her skin will glow in stripes of white and black. You will see her broom, and you will hear her witch-cry, and you will feel the effects of her spells on you.
No matter how unlike a witch she is, there she will be, a witch, before your eyes."

Beautifully heartfelt and poignant story about a young girl growing up in Nigeria and repercussions of what happens when she fal
...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
jo
Sep 22, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: africa, queer, audio
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
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...
Yannick Serres
Jul 31, 2015 rated it it was amazing
This book will get you through a flow of emotions.

Story of a young Nigerian girl living with the fact that she has to marry a man she doesn’t love, because it’s not right to be with a woman. Oppressed by her mother and the bible to not make another mistake regarding the person she makes love with, Ijeoma will be ‘forced’ to marry a young man and to make kids for him. She leaves two women she loved for something that is supposed to be the right thing to do.

The story seems so real and you can feel
...more
Alice  Heiserman
Sep 29, 2015 rated it it was amazing
This is the story of lesbian love in Nigeria but it is so much more. It evokes the folktales and the contrast between a Christian upbringing and the way of the heart in a young woman wh is forced to hide her love and lover due to the constraints of her family and society--including different ethnic tribes. The writing is exquisite and evocative. The style does not bog down in the rich descriptions of the country or the characters but pulls the reader along rooting for the main character, first w ...more
Yanira
Oct 04, 2015 rated it it was amazing
I was in a funk when I picked up this book. I am very particular with what I read and I could not find something to read where I felt invested. This book changed that, because it is the type of book that stays with you for a long time. It is the type of book that begs to be read twice, the type of book you tell your friends about. It is beautiful in language and the sentences read like music lyrics.


A must read. I heard in an interview that she has received threats due to the subject of the book
...more
Paul Fulcher
Apr 17, 2017 rated it liked it
By 1968, Nigeria was already winning and everything had already changed.

But there were to be more changes.

There is no way to tell the story of what happened with Amina without first telling the story of Mama's sending me off. Likewise there is no way to tell the story of Mama's sending me off without also telling of Papa's refusal to go to the bunker. Without his refusal, the sending away might never have occurred, and of the sending away had not occurred, them I might never have met Amina.

If
...more
Natasha
Aug 15, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Received as an ARC from the publisher.
Beautiful, but heart wrenching. Couldn't put this book down after the first half.
Clif Hostetler
Oct 10, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: novel
This novel tells the story of LGBTQ life in Nigeria. The location provides poignancy because, as elaborated in THIS LINK, the country does not allow or recognize LGBT rights, and violence against LGBT people is frequent. Both male and female same-sex sexual activity is illegal in Nigeria. The maximum punishment in the twelve northern states that have adopted Shari'a law is death by stoning. In southern Nigeria and under the secular criminal laws of northern Nigeria, the maximum punishment for sa ...more
Viv JM
3.5 stars

I had high expectations of this book and, although I liked it, I didn't love it. It begins at the time of the Biafran war in Nigeria, and the protagonist, Ijeoma, is coming of age as a young lesbian in a deeply religious society that shuns homosexuality. We follow her in coming to terms with who she is, and there is a generally hopeful and optimistic vibe about the book (especially the ending), despite the difficulties Ijeoma encounters along the way, both in her own family and in socie
...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
Naz (Read Diverse Books)
Sep 06, 2015 rated it really liked it
Full review in my blog: http://wp.me/p7a9pe-5d

“Under the Udala Trees” beautifully and boldly lends its voice to Nigeria’s LGBT community, which is critically important if the country is ever going to make progress in LGBT rights.
Candace White
Sep 29, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Loved everything about this book! It was hard to put down!
Chaitali Sen
Sep 17, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
This book is flawless.
Stacey
My love for this book contains multitudes.
Renita D'Silva
Jun 10, 2018 rated it really liked it
Beautiful. Brilliantly written. Hopeful. Heartwarming.
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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.
“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.” 18 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.”
8 likes
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