Okparanta’s first short story collection, Happiness, Like Water, is a perfect example of the power of prose. Her stories shook me in places I thought myself durable beyond doubt. This new work centers around a young Nigerian woman unfortunately blossoming under the chaos of civil war; a fateful friendship with another displaced girl transforms into love, which must be hidden at all costs. If Udala Trees is written with the same clarity that has become Okparanta’s signature, a Lambda Award nomination will surely be hers.
Inspired by Nigeria's folktales and war, Under the Udala Trees is a deeply searching, powerful debut about the dangers of living and loving openly.Ijeoma comes of age as her nation does; born before independence, she is eleven when civil war breaks out in the young republic of Nigeria. Sent away to safety, she meets another displaced child, and the star-crossed pair fall in love. They are from different ethnic communities. They are also both girls.When their love is discovered, Ijeoma learns that she will have to hide this part of herself. But there is a cost to living inside a lie.As Edwidge Danticat has made personal the legacy of Haiti's political coming-of-age, Okparanta's Under the Udala Trees uses one woman's lifetime to examine the ways in which Nigerians continue to struggle toward selfhood. Even as their nation contends with and recovers from the effects of war and division, Nigerian lives are wrecked and lost from taboo and prejudice. But this story offers a glimmer of hope--a future where a woman might just be able to shape her life around truth and love.