I recently finished “The Girl with the Louding Voice” by Abi Dare and wanted to recommend it to you if you haven’t heard of it. I spotted it when I was voting to for the Goodreads Choice Awards. It came up again on the New York Times list of Best Books of 2020. The cover is colorful and I was intrigued by the title. I wanted to find out what a “louding” voice was. So I ordered it from the library and waited until it was available.
I started reading it as soon as I got it and had a hard time putting it down. Reading “The Girl with the Louding Voice” is as close as I will ever get to knowing what it is like to be poor and female in Nigeria. Adunni is a 14 year old girl who is sold by her father to be the third wife of a much older man. Although Adunni’s mother wanted her to go to school, her mother is dead and her father either can’t or won’t find work. Adunni’s bride price allows her father and two brothers to find financial stability.
Despite being a bride at such a young age, Adunni does not give up her dream of going to school so she can have a “louding voice” and make a difference for other poor girls in Nigeria. After her sister-wife dies, Adunni knows she will be held responsible for the death, so she runs away. She essentially is sold into slavery in a home in Lagos, Nigeria. She works from five in the morning until midnight and is regularly beaten by her mistress. Her master regularly rapes the girls who work, so Adunni has to be clever to avoid him.
Her life is a misery, but Adunni continues to dream with the help of a few friends. One of her friends finds out about a scholarship that will help Adunni complete her elementary education. Adunni enlists another friend to help her improve her English enough to be able to write the scholarship essay. Will Adunni seize this chance to change her life or will she remain an uneducated slave?
“The Girl with the Louding Voice” is powerfully written around this central character. You really get a sense of the obstacles in front of Adunni, from her poverty to the sexist African society. Women are not allowed to own businesses in their names and men are never prosecuted for raping or beating women. Even Adunni’s mistress becomes a sympathetic character as we see all the ways that life is difficult for a woman in Nigeria.
Abi Dare writes “The Girl with the Louding Voice” in an authentic, “louding” voice of her own. Abi is from Lagos, Nigeria but she used education to move to the United Kingdom, where she now lives. Her writing is vivid and evocative, but also simple. After all, it is told from the viewpoint of a 14 year old girl who manages to dream even when every dream seems snatched away.
This book is a good book to read if you are interested in learning more about a very foreign culture. You will find yourself wondering how Adunni keeps her dreams alive and cheer for her as she learns to speak with her louding voice.