The coronavirus pandemic has caused a frustrating, confusing, and scary summer for many readers in developed countries who throw themselves into novels as an escape. The Girl with the Louding Voice, Abi Daré’s debut novel, is a stunning tale about the everyday life of a young Nigerian girl named Adunni. This story of unwavering hope and unconventional love explores several social justice issues, as well as the realities of living in a very traditional and patriarchal culture in the bustling landscape of Nigeria.
The fight against child marriage, domestic and sexual abuse, and violence against women has not disappeared in light of the coronavirus pandemic. According to the Global Partnership to End Child Marriage, child brides and their children have experienced additional challenges due to the pandemic, such as loss of income, higher risk for household violence, and so on.
Adunni’s mother has recently passed away and her world has turned upside down. She’s no longer attending school, she’s now the primary caregiver of younger brother, and her mother is no longer there to prevent her father from marrying her off. Since the family has lost their primary source of income, the fastest way for the family to make money is Adunni’s dowry.
Unfortunately for her father, Adunni has much bigger dreams. She wants to learn and be a teacher. Instead of running a home and having babies, Adunni travels to Lagos to become a housemaid to the sometimes-frightening Big Madam and Big Daddy.
Daré fills the novel with smells that make your mouth water and sounds that immerse you into a world to which you may not have been exposed. The vendors in the streets of Lagos shout in your face and Daré’s descriptions of Adunni’s mother’s famous puff-puff make you want to take a bite out of the book.
Daré contrasts these vibrant images with the harsh reality of Nigerian women through Adunni’s eyes. We see women desperately try to get pregnant, keep from getting pregnant, and die in childbirth, and we want to throw away the patriarchal traditions that cause physical, social, and psychological damage.
According to the Global Partnership to End Child Marriage, these struggles are not uncommon for young girls in Nigeria. Nearly half of all Nigerian girls are married before they turn 18. Their education is cut short so they can have children and become proper wives in the eyes of their community. In addition to this, one in three Nigerian women experience domestic violence. Adunni’s dream of becoming a teacher and empowering other young women is a spark of change that should not only be made in her life, but throughout the entire country of Nigeria.
There is so much rapidly changing in our world due to coronavirus. Unfortunately, for people like Adunni, the coronavirus pandemic has brought even more uncertainty to their tumultuous lives. Daré’s novel allows readers to learn about the crises in Nigeria, learn about how to live through uncertainty, and reminds women how to better ourselves for ourselves.
Assistant fiction editor, Rachel Tallon, is in her third year of pursuing a B.A. in creative writing at Lake Superior State University and will graduate in spring 2021. She is currently a quality assurance intern at Tipping Point Solutions. While at LSSU, she had two poems and a short story published in Snowdrifts and won the 2020 LSSU Short Story Contest. Her current professional goals include to finish the first draft of her novel, to start outlining a collection of short stories, and to grow the quality assurance department at Tipping Point Solutions.