The Girl with the Louding Voice
By Hollen Wheeler
Africa is commonly referred to as the forgotten continent. Nigerian author Abi Daré underscores in her debut novel, The Girl with the Louding Voice, that modern day Nigeria is no exception. Adunni is the child protagonist who narrates her story with broken English throughout the book. Despite her hardships, her hope for a better future for herself is palpable.
Born into poverty in the remote Nigerian village of Ikati, Adunni’s mother works overtime to make sure her only daughter is afforded an education. When her mom dies unexpectedly, Adunni is undone but her mother’s desire for her education and caring for others is ingrained in Adunni’s ethos.
Her dad, who habitually drinks away any extra money, will not continue Adunni’s education. To offset the rent costs, he betroths his 14-year-old daughter to a middle-aged cab driver where she becomes his third wife and is expected to produce a son.
“I want to ask, to scream,” thinks Adunni, “why are the women in Nigeria seem to be suffering for everything more than men?”
Through one of her mom’s connections, Adunni makes a narrow escape to Lagos, the largest city in Nigeria, where she becomes an unpaid housemaid for a violent, wealthy businesswoman and her handsy, deadbeat husband. Habitually, Big Madam verbally and physically abuses Adunni. A neighbor, Ms. Tia, takes a shine to Adunni and her goal to be educated. Ms. Tia secretly helps Adunni improve her English and with the paperwork to apply for a scholarship that will pay for her continuing education and get her away from Big Madam’s home.
“My mama say education will give me a voice,” says Adunni to Ms. Tia. “I want more than just a voice, 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.”
Daré’s book, released in 2020, has received international acclaim as a coming-of-age, empowerment story for girls living in poverty-stricken, patriarchal societies. Many reviewers of the book recommend the audio version as hearing Adunni’s voice in first person brings to light her spirit and determination.
To learn about a nonprofit in Castle Pines that is helping promote education in the African country of Malawi (see related story on page 33.)