The Girl with the Louding Voice
By: Abi Daré
Published: February 4th, 2020
From the Cover:
Adunni is a fourteen-year-old Nigerian girl who knows what she wants: an education. This, her mother has told her, is the only way to get a “louding voice”—the ability to speak for herself and decide her own future. But instead, Adunni’s father sells her to be the third wife of a local man who is eager for her to bear him a son and heir.
When Adunni runs away to the city, hoping to make a better life, she finds that the only other option before her is servitude to a wealthy family. As a yielding daughter, a subservient wife, and a powerless slave, Adunni is told, by words and deeds, that she is nothing.
But while misfortunes might muffle her voice for a time, they cannot mute it. And when she realizes that she must stand up not only for herself, but for other girls, for the ones who came before her and were lost, and for the next girls, who will inevitably follow; she finds the resolve to speak, however she can—in a whisper, in song, in broken English—until she is heard.
Before reading this book, I knew little more about it than what I had read online with its acclaimed reception, and the synopsis from the coverslip. As soon as I started reading, I was taken aback by the writing. Some background first: This is a novel written from the first-person perspective of a fourteen-year-old Nigerian girl named Adunni. Adunni lives in a rural village and her education is abruptly ended after her mother dies and her father can no longer afford to pay her school fees. Her English is rudimentary so the novel itself is written in the vernacular to reflect Adunni’s voice. This was difficult to adjust to initially and in some ways I found it distracting. But I understand why Daré chose to write the novel in this way, and I appreciate that choice. Adunni’s voice changes from the beginning of the novel to the end, from rudimentary English to eloquence. With these changes, she discovers her own strength and courage. It’s a beautiful journey, but it’s not without distress and suffering.
Daré highlights the fraught experiences of a young girl growing up in poverty in rural Nigeria. There’s the never-ending fight for women and girls to obtain the same education as their male peers. There’s the ways in which young girls are sold to older men (sometimes even as a second or third wife) so that the girl’s family can use the brideprice to survive another year. There’s the lack of adequate maternal health care, leading to pregnancy and childbirth being one of the most dangerous and fearful times in a woman’s life. There’s the way women’s bodies are devalued, leaving them at greater risk of rape and physical abuse. There’s the increase prevalence of human trafficking, especially of young children from rural villages to large cities.
However, Daré writes Adunni’s story as redemptive overall. She overcomes so many odds and obstacles to achieve her dream. She even finds support from unlikely sources along the way. In some ways, this plot line felt predictable. However, I found the novel portrayed a narrative that is important to hear and largely untouched in the fiction genre. As a Nigerian woman herself, Daré gives a “louding voice” to Adunni and the many girls like her. This is a challenging, heavy, compelling, hopeful, and redemptive novel that will open your eyes and your heart.