“If you’ve ever wondered if love can conquer all, read [this] stunning coming-of-age debut.” — Marie Claire
A New York Times Book Review Editors’ Choice
Named a Best Book of the Year by
NPR * BuzzFeed * Bustle * Shelf Awareness * Publishers Lunch
“[This] love story has hypnotic power.”—The New Yorker
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. But when their love is discovered, Ijeoma learns that she will have to hide this part of herself—and there is a cost to living inside a lie.
Inspired by Nigeria’s folktales and its war, Chinelo Okparanta shows us, in “graceful and precise” prose (New York Times Book Review), how the struggles and divisions of a nation are inscribed on the souls of its citizens. “Powerful and heartbreaking, Under the Udala Trees is a deeply moving commentary on identity, prejudice, and forbidden love” (BuzzFeed).
“An important and timely read, imbued with both political ferocity and mythic beauty.” — Bustle
“A real talent. [Under the Udala Trees is] the kind of book that should have come with a cold compress kit. It’s sad and sensual and full of heat.” — John Freeman, Electric Literature
“Demands not just to be read, but felt.” — Edwidge Danticat
Okparanta's excellent debut novel is a heartbreaker. Ijeoma is a young girl in civil war-torn Ojoto, Nigeria. When the war takes her father, and her mother can no longer care for her, she is sent away to family friends in the city of Aba. While with them, Ijeoma, part of the Igbo tribe, meets Amina, an orphan from the Hausa tribe. Despite the heavy cultural and religious taboos, the girls fall in love and begin to explore their sexuality. This behavior comes to an abrupt halt when they are caught and Ijeoma returns to her mother, who inundates her in religious instruction. Ijeoma and Amina attend the same school and wrestle the conflict between their attraction and the pressures upon them. After Amina marries a man, Ijeoma is devastated, but soon meets another woman, Ndidi. Eventually, caving to pressure, Ijeoma marries her childhood friend Chibundu and tries to be a happy wife but as time passes, Ijeoma must contend with her feelings for Ndidi, which she must keep secret, and finally make a fateful decision. Okparanta's characters are just as compelling as teenagers as they are as adults and readers will be swept up in this tale of the power of love.