Adunni is a fourteen-year-old girl who lives in a small village in Nigeria. Her mother is dead, and her father has just arranged a marriage for her with a much older man who already has two wives. The man wants a son and Adunni's father wants the money her bride-price will bring. What does Adunni want?
"My heart is starting to break because I am only fourteen going fifteen and I am not marrying any foolish stupid old man because I am wanting to go back to school and learn teacher work and become a adult woman....I don't want to marry any mens or any boys or any other person forever....That day, I tell myself that even if I am not getting anything in this life, I will go to school. I will finish my primary and secondary and university schooling and become a teacher because I don't just want to be having any kind voice....I want a louding voice."
But Adunni's journey isn't easy. First she's sold as a wife to Morufu, then as a domestic servant to a wealthy household in Lagos where she's not treated very well. Despite the struggle of being a young girl in a country that doesn't seem to value her, she meets a few kind people along the way who offer help and encouragement. Kofi, the chef at Big Madam's, tells her about a scholarship that would enable her to continue her schooling; and Tia, a wealthy London-educated neighbor, agrees to help her with her English and her scholarship essay. Even with their help, life for Adunni is still a struggle. But she never gives up on her dream. I loved that about her.
"A day will come when my voice will sound so loud all over Nigeria and the world of it, when I will be able to make a way for other girls to have their own louding voices.... A day will come...."
Girls in Nigeria don't seem to have a voice when it comes to making decisions about their own lives, which makes this coming-of-age story such a compelling one. I really liked Adunni's 'louding' voice and I think Abi Dare is a remarkable writer. I'm so glad she highlights the plight of Nigerian girls like Adunni in this book, how so many are devalued unless they're married, and how men often seem to think they can use them for their own pleasure and then toss them aside. I find it heartbreaking that there are still cultures in the world today where marrying off young girls is more important than educating them. I hope books like this one help change that someday.
Melody and I read this one together--which always makes a book more fun! Check out her questions to me below, then go check out her review of this captivating book.
Melody's questions to me:
Q. What do you think of Khadija's death and Bamidele running off from his deeds and responsibilities? In your view, do you think there's closure to this case?
A. Khadija's death was so senseless and unnecessary it broke my heart. The fact that she felt her future (and her family's dependence on her husband for food) was at risk if she didn't give him a son made her do something stupid, and she paid for it with her life. I'm not surprised her lover Bamidele ran off and left her to die. And the fact that he'll never have to pay for his part in her death is just another example of how unvalued women are in certain parts of the world.
Q. Why do you think Ms. Tia wants to help Adunni and what have they learned from each other through their own issues?
A. I think Tia is the kind of person who wants to make a difference in the world and who genuinely tries to be a good person, and that's why she talked to Adunni in the first place and agreed to help her learn better English. Also, having grown up in England, I think Tia saw Adunni not just as a maid, but as a real person when the other Nigerian women just dismissed her. But I think Tia's the one who ended up learning more about life, and what's truly important, from the time she spent with Adunni than anything Adunni learned from her. But I did really like their friendship.
Other good reads set in Africa: