A Powerful Roar Echoes Through the Din

Beyond the harrowing news of Boko Haram, the world perceives Nigeria as an oil-rich nation. According to Investopedia, the African nation ranked as the ninth largest oil exporter in the world in 2018, making it the only African nation in the Top Ten. Ub terns if GDP, the oil powerhouse is the richest in the African continent. But this glamorous facade belie the deplorable realities that has gripped the country. Nearly half of its over 200 million citizens leave poverty, prompting the destitute to resort to extreme measures in order to survive each day. Despite these desolate conditions, there are voices that refuse to be stymied by an environment that is bereft of hope.

In Abi Daré’s debut work, The Girl With the Louding Voice, readers are transported to the author’s native Nigeria. The novel chronicles the story of fourteen-year-old Adunni who lives with her father and two brothers in a small village a couple of hours away from Lagos. Adunni’s mother was the light of her life, the single most influential figure in her life who taught her to dream, to have an ambition in a ruthless world that easily kills ambitions. Born on the gutters of society, Adunni’s mother wanted her daughter to complete her education so that she can have her own voice.

But before her legacy could be fulfilled, Adunni’s mother passed away. Instead of taking on the role of an intellect her mother envisioned for her, Adunni was left to take on the role of a mother to her younger brother and a housekeeper. They were too stuck in the quagmires of poverty that sending Adunni to school is impossible, a luxury that their meager income cannot afford. Adunni’s prospect for the future sound bleak but the austere environment never held her back from dreaming big or from chasing her dreams.

“I want to tell her that God is not a cement building of stones and sand. That God is not for all that putting inside a house and locking Him there. I want her to know that the only way to know if a person find God and keep Him in their heart is to check how the person is treating other people, if he treats people like Jesus says – with love, patience, kindness, and forgiveness.” ~ Abi Daré, The Girl With the Louding Voice

Being a man stuck in poverty in Nigeria is challenging enough. For young women like Adunni, the gender is a trump card that one doesn’t need but cannot escape. Despite the exponential growth of Nigeria, several parts of the country are steeped in tradition. Without her knowledge, and despite her protests, Adunni was sold by her father into marriage. Child brides have been outlawed in Nigeria but it still remains prevalent because of the present state of the country. The money Adunni’s father gained from selling her was used to pay for the family’s rent, food, and other sustenance.

The Girl With the Louding Voice is a timely and relevant read, capturing within its premises the contemporary picture of young African women. A huge percentage of African women are trapped in patriarchal societies which, for years, has trained and taught them what the roles they play in society are. In far flung and remote parts of the continent, child brides are prevalent despite the enactment of laws that aimed to protect young women from this despicable practice.

The role of Nigerian women was briefly summarized by Adunni’s reflection: “If it takes two people to make a baby, why only one person, the woman, is suffering when the baby is not coming? Is it because she is the one with breast and the stomach for being pregnant? Or because of what? I want to ask, to scream, why are the women in Nigeria seem to be suffering for everything more than men?”

Gender discrimination, rape, and domestic violence are commonplace. However, women’s minds were programmed at a very young age to believe that her personal success is only secondary to a successful marriage. Because it was ingrained to them at childhood, women, even the most successful ones, opt to stay in abusive marriages and relationships. One character’s rumination concisely captures the irony of the situation: “Is it not sad that in this part of our world, a woman’s achievements can be reduced to nothing if she is not married?”

““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 teacher because I don’t just want to be having any kind voice . . . I want a louding voice.” ~ Abi Daré, The Girl With the Louding Voice

The Girl With the Louding Voice was driven by a score of female voices. Whilst Daré coaxed her readers into taking control of their own destinies, she also recognized the presence and influences of other voices. The stories of other women who walked the same path – her mother, Tia, Rebecca – played a seminal role in shaping Adunni’s character. In a highly patriarchal society that tempers the female voices, women must rely on each other in order to usher badly needed reform and changes.

Adunni’s voice is the novel’s centrifugal figure that propelled the narrative. On the backdrop, Daré painted a vivid and glaring picture of contemporary Nigeria; Nigerian writers do interweave rich details of their country into the tapestry of their narratives. In reaching her dream, Adunni must overcome the various evils and concerns that has gripped Nigerian society. Slave trade, child trafficking, underage labor, and corruption remain prevalent. Nigerian senators are among the highest paid in the world, a stark dichotomy to the pandemonium of the slums and villages stricken by poverty.

The landscape of the story was further enhanced by some details of Nigerian culture. One facet of Nigerian culture that was vividly captured by the novel was the importance of pregnancy and having children. For the traditionalist, child-bearing is so important that couples often resort to faith healers and pastors to ward off spirits that prevent pregnancy. For a very superstitious country, it is no surprise to learn that Nigeria is home to some of the richest pastors in the world. The importance of having a son was also underlined in the narrative.

All throughout the text, Daré repeatedly underscored a profound fact – the importance of education in fulfilling one’s dreams. The key role education plays in lifting one’s station in life was continuously reiterated. Education is the proverbial ticket that will take one away from an impoverished life. It is this that has fueled Adunni’s drive. She was quoted saying: “I want a louding voice. I want to enter a room and people will hear me even before I open my mouth to be speaking. I want to live in this life and help many people so that when I grow old and die, I will still be living through the people I am helping.” 

“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 voice, because I know that when I finish my education, I will find a way to help them to go to school.” ~ Abi Daré, The Girl With the Louding Voice

Abi Daré’s writing gave the narrative a nostalgic atmosphere. The form and structure of the story gave it a distinct texture. By breaking paradigms of grammar, Daré gave Adunni’s voice a more intimate and appealing tone. The story’s structure also echoed Adunni’s realization: Now I know that speaking good English is not the measure of intelligent mind and brain. English is only a language, like Yoruba, and Igbo and Hausa. Nothing about it is special, nothing about it makes anybody have sense.”

Daré reminded her readers that their destiny’s are on their hands. One is not obliged to walk the path one’s ancestor built for him or her. One can pave his or her own path. Poverty and a disadvantageous background are no obstacles for those who dream big. They are palpable obstacles that one must hurdle. With the right attitude and with tenacity, one can overcome these challenges. One must never lose sight of the goal. 

The Girl With the Louding Voice is a gripping tale about a young woman’s indomitable courage to overcome the disadvantages thrown her way in order to realize her own dreams. Adunni’s story is one of hope, one that beacons through the darkness sweeping contemporary Nigeria. If it is any indication, Nigerians are known to be among the most optimistic people in the world. Adunni is the epitome of this national identity. She is a young woman full of verve. She possesses a “louding” voice, a voice and a profound story that reverberates not just in Nigeria but all over the globe.

Ratings:

97%

Characters (30%) – 30%
Plot (30%) – 28%
Writing (25%) – 24%
Overall Impact (15%) – 15%

I am really impressed with Nigerian authors. This year alone, I think I have read the works of at least eight Nigerian authors. Each one has impressed me with their powerful depiction of their country. The same can be said with Abi Daré’s debut work, The Girl With the Louding Voice. Adunni’s story is like a beacon that shines brightly throughout the darkness that Nigerian society is wrapped in. Indeed, she is the girl with the “louding” voice.

P.S. Philippines and Nigeria houses some of the most optimistic people in the world. Ironically, they also share the same corrupt practices which has hindered the growth and development of its people.

Book Specs

Author: Abi Daré
Publisher: Dutton
Publishing Date: 2020
Number of Pages: 361
Genre: Bildungsroman

Synopsis

Adunni is a fourteen-year-old Nigerian girl who knows what she wants: an education.

The only daughter of a broke father, she is a valuable commodity. removed from school and sold as a third wife to an old man, Adunni finds that her life amounts to this: four goats, two bags of rice, some chickens, and a new TV. When unspeakable tragedy swiftly strikes in her new home, she is secretly sold as a domestic servant to a household in the wealthy enclaves of Lagos, where no one will talk about the strange disappearance of her predecessor, Rebecca. No one but Adunni…

As a yielding daughter, subservient wife, and a powerless servant, Adunni is repeatedly told that she is nothing. But Adunni won’t be silenced. She is determined to find her voice –  in a whisper, in song, in broken English – until she can speak for herself, for the girls like Rebecca who came before, and for all the girls who will follow.

About the Author

Abi Daré grew up in Lagos, Nigeria before moving to the United Kingdom, where she has lived for the past eighteen years. Daré took up law at the University of Wolverhampton. She has earned a Master of Science in International Project Management from Glasgow Caledonian University and a Master of Arts in Creative Writing at Birkbeck University of London.

Before the successful publication of her debut work The Girl With the Louding Voice in 2020, its unpublished manuscripts won the 2018 Bath Novel Award and was also chosen as a finalist in the 2018 The Literary Consultancy Pen Factor competition.

Daré currently resides in Essex with her husband and two children.