As the summer holiday creeps ever closer, it’s very nearly time to launch our Summer Reading Challenge. This year we are going to Read around the World, reading one book from each continent. So I thought I’d recommend this powerful and moving story of a courageous young girl from Nigeria. The Girl with the Louding Voice is the story of Adunni, a fourteen year old, sold by her layabout father to become the third wife of a local taxi driver, in order to pay off his debts and pay the rent. Throughout the many ups and downs of her life Adunni is determined not to give up on her dream of going to school to become a teacher. She clings to the idea of becoming a girl with a “louding voice”. Her hardworking mother, before her death, had championed her right to education, “Your schooling is your voice, child. It will be speaking for you even if you didn’t open your mouth to speak”.
And so we root for Adunni from the very start of the novel. Her voice is unique, not quite Pidgin English but a non-standard English of her own, which is at times humorous and light-hearted. Of Big Madam, the employer she is enslaved to as a housemaid, she says, ”there is one gold gele on her head, and it is looking like she just gum a ceiling fan on a hat and put it on her head”. It is astonishing that despite the trauma and violence that is dealt Adunni, she remains so positive. Such is the normalisation of the abuse of women.
Big Madam is one of several seemingly powerful women in the story, who suffer at the hands of men. Adunni is worth a lot to her father, she pays off his debt, and to her new husband, who wants a son, but is traded like cheap property. Big Madam is a wildly successful business woman, whose husband is a philanderer, but “…she needs him more than he needs her. 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?” observes Adunni.
This is a novel of hope and inspiration but one which also underlines the trauma of girls forced into marriage and domestic slavery in Nigeria. Some chapters begin with excerpts from The Book of Nigerian Facts, a fictional book, but the facts are true and serve to highlight the gap between rich and poor, city and village life in Nigeria. In Adunni, the author provides a voice for all the young women around the world who are struggling to be heard.
Recommended for Year 9 and above.
Look out for details of the AGGS Summer Reading Challenge, Read around the World, in June.