The Girl With The Louding Voice
By: Abi Dare
Growing up in the US in the 80s and 90s, girls were told that our generation would be able to have it all. We were given opportunities that our own mothers did not have and many of us went on to graduate school and thriving, successful careers. We were the generation of women that really changed everything. We were told that we could have a career, while raising a family, running a household and doing all of the other things that we do every day to be successful human beings. I have struggled with this notion time and again because I did have a career and I couldn’t do it all. The reality of it is that it is not easy. Yes, we have the opportunity to have it all, but it often comes at a price. My amazing friends who have careers, children, and run a household, often struggle to find time for themselves and it can take a toll on everyone in their lives. What we forget is that we have opportunities. We can go to school, we can get amazing educations, and we can hold successful high-ranking positions in our careers. Our country is set up now so that almost anyone who wants an education can get one.
While this week’s book pick takes place in a completely different culture than ours, as a woman I identified with the book’s heroine, Adunni. Adunni is a 14-year-old girl living in a small village near Lagos, Nigeria. Adunni believes that the way she can change her life is to get an education. Education will open the doors to a job and a job will give her a better life. In the opening chapter of The Girl With The Louding Voice, Adunni’s father tells her that he has sold her into marriage. Adunni will be marrying an older man from the village named Morufu. The man already has two wives and several children but no sons, and he wants Adunni to bear him a son as soon as possible. While Adunni is a fictional character, the story is a very common one in Nigeria.
Adunni lives with her father and two brothers; her mother has recently died. The family is very poor and cannot pay their rent. Adunni’s father sees Adunni as his opportunity to pay his debts and live a good life. While becoming a bride in her village is an honor, Adunni does not share this feeling because she wants to finish her education and become a schoolteacher. She wants to help educate other young girls in her village so that they too will have a choice.
“My heart is starting to break because I am only fourteen years going fifteen and I am not marrying any foolish stupid old man because I am wanting to go back to school and learn teacher work and become an adult woman and have moneys to be driving car and living in fine house with cushion sofa and be helping my papa and my two brothers.”
When Adunni’s mother died, she made Adunni’s father promise that he would let Adunni finish her education. Unfortunately, there is no money left for school fees and her Papa feels he has no other choice. Selling off young girls is common practice in their village so why should there be any problem with it? Papa feels that educating a young girl does nothing but give her a stubborn head.
Adunni is married to Morofu the following week and so begins her journey to change her destiny. She is promised to Morofu with the idea that she will bear him a son and the pressure is on her to produce. Adunni decides that she will not accept her fate. After living with Morofu and his family for several months, an incident occurs that forces Adunni to flee. With no one to turn to, Adunni finds herself being sold again, this time to a wealthy woman in Lagos, where she will be a housemaid. Thinking she is taking a step forward, she has actually taken two steps back. Being a housemaid in Nigeria can be the worst thing for a young girl. They are mistreated, beaten, abused and their pay is non-existent.
The Girl With The Louding Voice is a story of pain, loss, resilience, and triumph. Adunni is just one of many young women who has a dream and is determined to pursue it without ever wavering on her beliefs no matter how many people try to put her down. She is one of the most inspiring characters that I have ever read. Even though Adunni’s English is broken, you can tell not only how smart she is but also what incredible grit she has. Every time she is pushed down she gets back up and tries harder. She is determined to find her way – reading everything she can get her hands on in her mistress’ house. Through the kindness of some friends she meets along the way, Adunni is able to work toward charting a course to a better future.
This story takes place in Nigeria in 2015, yet you would think it was a hundred years ago. A woman’s only purpose is to bear children and if they try to escape they are beaten and sometimes even killed. In south-eastern Nigeria today, there is a long tradition of selling off young girls to be married for money. This has become known as a “money marriage”. The practice is illegal but still remains widespread. Often the bride is sold for no more than $50. If the money is not paid before the marriage, the wedding will not take place. The tradition dates back 2500 years. Many people including young women in Nigeria feel that the bride price is not such a terrible thing but actually an honor. Young women feel great recognition to be picked as if they are one of the lucky ones. The scary thing is that Nigeria is not the only country that has this custom. Many countries throughout Africa still carry out this tradition.
In the prologue, Abi Dare explains that Nigeria is the seventh most populous county in the world as well as the richest country in Africa. Of the 180 million people in Nigeria, over 100 million live in poverty surviving on less than $1 per day. With this extreme poverty, which tends to be more common in the villages, there are not many ways for a family to bring in income. It makes sense to believe that until the division of wealth and ability to make money changes, the money marriages will continue to exist. Thank you Abi Dare for bringing this book and this important topic to our attention. Thank you for creating a courageous character like Adunni and most importantly, thank you for giving Adunni a “louding voice.”
The Girl With The Louding Voice
Publication Date: February 25, 2020