Adunni is a fourteen year-old girl who really wants an education. Growing up in her village in Nigeria, she is the only daughter of a broke father and knows she is valuable commodity. She’s sold as a third wife to an old man but when tragedy strikes in her new home, she’s secretly sold as a domestic servant to a wealthy household in Lagos, where no-one will talk about her predecessor, Rebecca…
Adunni is repeatedly told that she is nothing but she won’t be silenced. Adunni is determined to find her voice, regardless of who stands in her way. She will speak for herself and for all the girls like Rebecca before, and for all the girls who follow.
Wow oh wow. What a debut novel.
I’ve read some incredible debut novels this year including Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi and I really didn’t think anything would rival it. However, this novel ties in at a close second.
The reason why this novel really touched me is because I studied the importance of Black women using their voice for my dissertation.
Society is often hell-bent on silencing women and degrading them to into mere objects by telling them that they are solely for sexual or viewing pleasure. However, more often than not, a Black woman is doubly oppressed, not just for her gender but also for her race. “The angry Black woman’ label is fortified as a quick but powerful stereotype, used by the privileged, knowing that it will place Black women as the perpetrator rather than the victim.
However, this novel is set in Nigeria where racism isn’t as much of an issue – maybe in it’s child form of colourism. Adunni’s story addresses sexism in that women are expected to be nothing more than child bearing vessels that look after the husband and the house. The Girl with the Louding Voice also focuses on form of discrimination that is often overlooked because of capitalism – classism.
The novel even starts with this quote:
“As the 6th largest crude oil exporter in the world, and with a GDP of $568.5 billion, Nigeria is the richest country in Africa. Sadly, over 100 million Nigerians live in poverty, surviving on less than $1 a day.”
Adunni’s story is about finding your voice and using it to set yourself free. To never allowing the perils of society to silence you. The writing style isn’t too clunky. I found it easy to follow and understand, despite Adunni’s lack of grammar and understanding of certain words – it was a very clever portrayal by Abi Daré.
Adunni is the most inspiring protagonist I’ve read about it in a while – she forces you to ask yourself what’s holding you back from addressing injustices that you see everyday.
“If you don’t take control of your voice, someone else will shape it for you.” – Michelle Obama, O2 Arena Becoming Tour
I was in awe at how Adunni refused to let anyone take her power away from her. She used her voice whenever she could to stand up for those less privileged than her.
She fought against all odds and she experiences some horrific circumstances – some of which are absolutely heart-breaking to read about.
TW: Rape, Sexual Assault, Verbal Abuse, Physical Abuse.
However, she never gives up. She continues to fight for her dream. A dream that we’re so lucky to have for free. I know at that age I didn’t understand how privileged I was to have free education.
It wasn’t until I reached university did I truly understand just how lucky I was. My ancestors would have loved to be in my position. Hell, Adunni would have loved to be in my position.
Adunni’s story was a sharp reminder of how much I have to be grateful for. The way she spoke up whenever she felt like something was unfair left my silently cheering her in my head, despite knowing what was coming next.
Adunni’s life wasn’t just simply a story. Abi Daré used Adunni to speak for thousands of girls in Nigeria sold into domestic slavery. She used her words as a weapon to address an injustice. It’s wasn’t just Adunni’s story, I felt. I heard all the other girls that have been and probably still are experiencing what Adunni had to go through. Even though, I was aware that Adunni is a fictional character. She wasn’t at the same time. There was truth behind every injustice Adunni faced and within the hope woven into the pages.
I think what I learnt the most and what I urge you all to think about is…just how many times have you used your voice to help those less fortunate than you?
How many times have you challenged the very structure of society, even though it may benefit you?
Now I know it may not be easy. Some may say it’s easier said than done. But I’m not asking anyone to do anything crazy. I’m simply asking you to use your voice.
For instance, let’s quickly talk about this A-Level Scandal that’s happening right now in the UK. For those that don’t know due to COVID, A-Level Students have had their grades suggested by their teachers who were meant to make a judgement depending on the student’s previous assessment marks and their attitude to learning. The government then used a moderation process based on the area of the school rather than the abilities of the student.
So, if a school happens to be in a deprived area, regardless of whether you’ve been a straight A student you’re whole life. You were likely to come out with a B or maybe even a C.
This is classism at it’s finest.
“Pupils in lower socioeconomic backgrounds were most likely to have the grades proposed by their teachers overruled, while those in wealthier areas were less likely to be downgraded, according to the analysis…
For students from disadvantaged backgrounds on the cusp of attending higher education, more than one in 10 of those assessed as receiving C grades by their teachers had their final result lowered by at least one grade, compared with 8% for those from non-disadvantaged backgrounds.” – The Guardian
If you’re not angry, I suggest you read those statistics again. It’s a horrific scandal that should make you want to speak out like Adunni and demand justice for all those A-Level students who had dreams of going to higher institutes of education.
This is only just one example of the injustices that are occurring in the UK. We could talk about the BBC using discriminatory language and refusing to apologise for a while, despite the amount of complaints they received. We could also talk about the disgusting show of ‘journalism’ where reporters watched as dinghy boats carrying around 15-20 people made desperate and dangerous attempts to cross the English Channel.
There’s millions more around the world. It’s constantly happening. It’s a never ending cycle. And there’s a risk of becoming overwhelmed if you look at the bigger picture.
My advice…or something I learnt from Adunni is to take every injustice at a time. Start with something that’s around you, a local injustice that you can get involved in. Every little helps. Her dedication to seeking justice for predecessor, Rebecca, is an example of that.
If I can’t inspire you to help out, then I ask you to use Adunni’s story to understand what I’m trying to say. She didn’t let her position in society silence her and believe me life tried to make her quit on herself. Nearly everyone in her life told her she was going to amount to nothing but she proved them all wrong. She never let that stop her. She taught herself what she needed to know and wasn’t afraid to ask for help.
She was always thinking of other people
“Not his-story,” I say. “My own will be called her-story. Adunni’s story.”
She fought to take control of her life and she succeeded in using her voice. The one thing nobody can control.
She’s a reminder that no matter how tough things will get…keep fighting. Don’t give up.
Use your voice.
It’s the most powerful weapon you have.