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Under the Udala Trees

by Chinelo Okparanta

A deft balance between love and war, this is a compellingly stylistic depiction of a politically brutal suppression of same-sex relationships, interspersed with allegory, folklore and intransigent religiosity. The dizzying tale powerfully interweaves the internal turmoil and competing societal forces that means choosing between heart and tradition. Determined and daring in the face of hatred and persecution. Gripping storytelling.

Extract

Amina drew her thighs up to her chest and wrapped her arms around her legs.
I scattered the sand, erasing the sketch of the bird. I put down the drawing stick.
To my surprise, she picked it up and began drawing in the sand. She drew two figures who stood holding hands. Clouds made of circles hung above them.
She smiled when she was done, a half-smile.
'It’s a nice picture,' I said, looking at her.
She reached over and placed her hand above mine. 'Maybe just holding hands will be all it takes,' she said. 'Maybe just holding hands will be enough.'
She was cupping handfuls of sand with her free hand now, letting the grains trickle out between her fingers. I replied, 'Yes, maybe just holding hands will be enough.'

Parallels

The Fishermen by Chigozie Obioma
The Secret Lives of Baba Segi’s Wives by Lola Shoneyin
 

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