The Girl with the Louding Voice

The Girl with the Louding Voice

by Abi Daré


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“Brave, fresh . . . unforgettable.”The New York Times Book Review

“A celebration of girls who dare to dream.”—Imbolo Mbue, author of Behold the Dreamers (Oprah’s Book Club pick)
Shortlisted for the Desmond Elliott Prize and recommended by The New York TimesMarie ClaireVogueEssence, PopSugar, Daily Mail, Electric LiteratureRed, Stylist, Daily Kos, Library Journal, The Everygirl, and Read It Forward!

The unforgettable, inspiring story of a teenage girl growing up in a rural Nigerian village who longs to get an education so that she can find her “louding voice” and speak up for herself, The Girl with the Louding Voice is a simultaneously heartbreaking and triumphant tale about the power of fighting for your dreams.  Despite the seemingly insurmountable obstacles in her path, Adunni never loses sight of her goal of escaping the life of poverty she was born into so that she can build the future she chooses for herself – and help other girls like her do the same.  Her spirited determination to find joy and hope in even the most difficult circumstances imaginable will “break your heart and then put it back together again” (Jenna Bush Hager on The Today Show) even as Adunni shows us how one courageous young girl can inspire us all to reach for our dreams…and maybe even change the world.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

Adunni’s brave, fresh voice powerfully articulates a resounding anger toward Africa’s toxic patriarchy. . . . Daré draws the reader in with a vivid character whose dire circumstances are contrasted with her natural creativity (she keeps her spirits up by composing comic songs imagining a fabulous future) and her undying will to survive. . . . Throughout her harrowing coming-of-age journey, told with verve and compassion, Adunni never loses the ‘louding voice’ that makes Daré’s story, and her protagonist, so unforgettable.”—The New York Times Book Review

“Inspiring . . . explores a spirit and hope that cannot be contained even in the grimmest of circumstances.”Entertainment Weekly

“It will break your heart and then it will put it back together again.”Jenna Bush Hager on the Today show

“I'm excited about this debut novel from Nigerian author Abi Daré. . . . In Nigeria, and around the world, girls are fighting for their right to learn. I'm grateful to Abi for showing the challenges Nigerian girls face and showcasing the power of their voices.”—Malala Yousafzai

“A courageous story.”The New York Times

“A powerful debut about fighting for our dreams.”PopSugar

“[A] compelling debut.”—Ms., "Feminist Books Coming Out in 2020"

“A bold new storyteller . . . Abi Daré's fearless debut is a celebration of girls who dare to dream and those who help unfurl their wings so that they might soar.”—Imbolo Mbue, New York Times bestselling author of Behold the Dreamers (Oprah’s Book Club pick)

“I’m a big fan of hyper-realistic dialogue and using the sounds of a world to shape the energy of a novel, and so I was immediately drawn to The Girl with the Louding Voice. . . . [Adunni] is a youthful, dynamic guide with serious bite and poetic language.”—Kiley Reid, New York Times bestselling author of Such a Fun Age

“The girl with the louding voice is a character for the ages. Adunni is a girl who narrates her own suffering with levity, who paints depth and texture and beauty into her Nigerian homeland, who tenderly cultivates her own humanity even while everything around her seeks to thwart it. She is an ambassador for girls everywhere. She is important, funny, brave, and enduring. Abi Daré has written an unforgettable novel, by the strength of her own louding voice.”—Jeanine Cummins, New York Times bestselling author of American Dirt

“Abi Daré’s debut novel The Girl with the Louding Voice is a beautifully rendered, achingly real portrait of Adunni, a young woman finding her strength and shaping her destiny in modern-day Nigeria. Adunni’s voice weaves and dances its way across the pages with a rhythm that captivated me, astonished me, and, more than once, broke my heart. Brava to Daré for bringing this compelling character out of the shadows and into our lives.”—Tara Conklin, New York Times bestselling author of The House Girl and The Last Romantics

“A stunning novel—original, beautiful, and powerful. I was utterly captivated by Adunni and her mesmerizing louding voice.”—Rosamund Lupton, New York Times bestselling author of Sister

“A coming-of-age tale like none other you'll read this year, narrated by a young woman you'll never forget. Beautiful, bracing, and arguably as transformative a journey for the reader as for the book's brave heroine.”—Liam Callanan, bestselling author of Paris by the Book

“Through Adunni's narration, Daré introduces readers to the full scope of the young woman's widening world. The narrator's attempts to make the unknown familiar often come across like metaphors in poetry. Readers leave Adunni knowing that she has the intellectual resources and the guts to face whatever challenges she must in order to attain her goals.”—Shelf Awareness

“A heartwarming, enlightening novel . . . Through the moving story of a girl’s persistent struggle to acquire an education, The Girl with the Louding Voice brings deep, significant issues into focus.”—BookPage

“Captivating . . . Daré's arresting prose provides a window into the lives of Nigerians of all socioeconomic levels and shows readers the beauty and humor that may be found even in the midst of harrowing experiences.”Booklist

“Heartbreaking and inspiring . . . A moving story of what it means to fight for the right to live the life you choose.”Kirkus Reviews

Library Journal


Desperate for an education, which is the only way to get the "louding" voice that will let her speak for herself, 14-year-old Nigerian Adunni is instead sold by her father to a local man looking for a male heir. Running away to the city, she ends up enslaved to a wealthy family but never gives up her dream. From Nigerian-born, UK-based Daré; winner of the Bath Novel Award (for not-yet-published works) and preempted by the publisher after heady buzz at the London Book Fair.

Kirkus Reviews

A Nigerian teenager determined to get an education escapes an arranged marriage in her village but finds that life in the city is dangerous, too.

Adunni, the 14-year-old protagonist of Daré's moving first novel, longs to be educated and dreams of one day becoming a teacher. "I even been teaching the small boys and girls in the village ABC and 123 on market days," she says. "I like the way their eyes be always so bright, their voices so sharp." But in her village, girls are supposed to marry early, have babies, and take care of the men. With her supportive mother dead and a father who doesn't believe daughters need schooling, she is forced into a brutal, unhappy marriage with a much older man who already has two wives. One wife befriends her and tries to ease Adunni's loneliness and suffering. But when tragedy ensues, Adunni flees to the crowded city of Lagos in hopes of finding a better future. Instead, she ends up as an indentured servant in an abusive household, where her hopes for learning are further stifled. Daré, who grew up in Lagos and now lives in the U.K., paints a bleak and vivid portrait of the expectations and sexual dangers for rural Nigerian girls, who are exploited as workers and punished for having "a louding voice" (meaning they dare to want a say in their own future). Adunni's dialect will be unfamiliar to some readers, but the rhythm of her language grows easier to follow the more you read, and her courage and determination to make her own way in life despite terrible setbacks are heartbreaking and inspiring. Daré provides a valuable reminder of all the young women around the world who are struggling to be heard and how important it is that we listen to them.

A moving story of what it means to fight for the right to live the life you choose.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781524746025
Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date: 02/04/2020
Pages: 384
Sales rank: 5,219
Product dimensions: 6.20(w) x 9.10(h) x 1.50(d)
Lexile: 810L (what's this?)

Read an Excerpt

Chapter 1 

This morning, Papa call me inside the parlor.

He was sitting inside the sofa with no cushion and looking me. Papa have this way of looking me one kind. As if he wants to be flogging me for no reason, as if I am carrying shit inside my cheeks and when I open mouth to talk, the whole place be smelling of it.

"Sah?" I say, kneeling down and putting my hand in my back. "You call me?"

"Come close," Papa say.

I know he want to tell me something bad. I can see it inside his eyes; his eyesballs have the dull of a brown stone that been sitting inside hot sun for too long. He have the same eyes when he was telling me, three years ago, that I must stop my educations. That time, I was the most old of all in my class and all the childrens was always calling me "Aunty." I tell you true, the day I stop school and the day my mama was dead is the worst day of my life.

When Papa ask me to move closer, I am not answering him because our parlor is the small of a Mazda car. Did he want me to move closer and be kneeling inside his mouth? So, I kneel in the same place and wait for him to be talking his mind.

Papa make a noise with his throat and lean on the wood back of the sofa with no cushion. The cushion have spoil because our last born, Kayus, he have done too many piss inside it. Since the boy was a baby, he been pissing as if it is a curse. The piss mess the cushion, so Mama make Kayus to be sleeping on it for pillow.

We have a tee-vee in our parlor; it didn't work. Born-boy, our first born, he find the tee-vee inside dustbin two years back when he was working a job as dustbin collector officer in the next village. We are only putting it there for fashion. It is looking good, sitting like a handsome prince inside our parlor, in the corner beside the front door. We are even putting small flower vase on top it; be like a crown on the prince head. When we have a visitor, Papa will be doing as if it is working and be saying, "Adunni, come and put evening news for Mr. Bada to watch." And me, I will be responding, "Papa, the remote-controlling is missing." Then Papa will shake his head and say to Mr. Bada, "Those useless childrens, they have lost the remote-controlling again. Come, let us sit outside, drink and forget the sorrows of our country, Nigeria."

Mr. Bada must be a big fool if he didn't know that it is a lie.

We have one standing fan too, two of the fan blade is missing so it is always blowing air, which is making the whole parlor too hot. Papa like to be sitting in front of the fan in the evening, crossing his feets at his ankles and drinking from the bottle that have become his wife since Mama have dead.

"Adunni, your mama have dead," Papa say after a moment. I can smell the drink on his body as he is talking. Even when Papa didn't drink, his skin and sweat still smell.

"Yes, Papa. I know," I say. Why is he telling me something I have already know? Something that have cause a hole inside my heart and fill it with block of pain that I am dragging with me to everywhere? How can I ever be forgetting how my mama was coughing blood, red and thick with spit bubbles, inside my hand every day for three months? When I am closing my eyes to sleep at night, I still see the blood, sometimes I taste the salt of it.

"I know, Papa," I say again. "Have another something bad happen?"

Papa sigh. "They have told us to be going."

"To be going to where?" Sometimes I have worry for Papa. Since Mama have dead, he keep saying things that didn't make sense, and sometimes he talk to hisself, cry to hisself too when he think nobody is hearing.

"You want me to fetch water for your morning baff?" I ask. "There is morning food too, fresh bread with sweet groundnut."

"Community rent is thirty thousan' naira," Papa say. "If we cannot pay the moneys, we must find another place to live." Thirty thousand naira is very plenty moneys. I know Papa cannot find that moneys even if he is searching the whole of the Nigeria because even my school fees moneys of seven thousand, Papa didn't have. It was Mama who was paying for school fees and rent moneys and feeding money and everything money before she was dead.

"Where we will find that kind money?" I ask.

"Morufu," Papa say. "You know him? He come here yesterday. To see me."

"Morufu the taxi driver?" Morufu is a old man taxi driver in our village with the face of a he-goat. Apart from his two wifes, Morufu is having four childrens that didn't go to school. They just be running around the village stream in their dirty pant, pulling sugar cartons with string, playing suwe and clapping their hand until the skin about to peel off. Why was Morufu visiting our house? What was he finding?

"Yes," Papa say with a tight smile. "He is a good man, that Morufu. He surprise me yesterday when he say he will pay community rent for us. All the thirty thousan'."

"That is good?" I ask the question because it didn't make sense. Because I know that no man will be paying for another somebody's rent unless he is wanting something. Why will Morufu pay our community rent? What was he wanting? Or is he owing Papa moneys from before in the past? I look my papa, my eyes filling with hope that it is not the thing I am thinking. "Papa?"

"Yes." Papa wait, swallow spit and wipe his front head sweat. "The rent moneys is . . . is among your owo-ori."

"My owo-ori? You mean my bride-price?" 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 a 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. I don't want to marry any mens or any boys or any another person forever, so I ask Papa again, talking real slow so he will be catching every word I am saying and not mistaking me in his answer: "Papa, is this bride-price for me or for another person?"

And my papa, he nod his head slowly slow, not minding the tears standing in my eyes or the opening wide of my mouth, as he is saying: "The bride-price is for you, Adunni. You will be marrying Morufu next week."

Chapter 2

When the sun climb down from the sky and hide hisself deep in the crack of the night, I sit up on my raffia mat, kick Kayus leg away from my feets, and rest my back on the wall of our room.

My head been stoning my mind with many questions since this morning, questions that are not having answers. What is it meaning, to be the wife of a man with two wifes and four childrens? What is making Morufu to want another wife on top the already two? And Papa, why is he wanting to sell me to a old man with no any thinking of how I am feeling? Why didn't he keep the promise he make to Mama before she dead?

I rub my chest, where the too many questions is causing a sore, climb to my feets with a sigh, and walk to the window. Outside, the moon is red, hanging too low the sky, be as if God pluck out his angry eye and throw it inside our compound.

There are fireflies in the air this night, their body is flashing a light of many colors: green and blue and yellow, every one of them dancing and blinking in the dark. Long ago, Mama tell me that fireflies are always bringing good messages to peoples at night. "A firefly is the eyesballs of a angel," she say. "See that one there, the one perching on the leaf of that tree, Adunni. That one be bringing a message of moneys for us." I didn't sure what message that firefly was wanting to bring that long time ago, but I know it didn't bring no money.

When Mama was dead, a light off itself inside of me. I keep myself in that dark for many months until one day Kayus find me in the room where I was sorrowing and weeping, and with his eyes round, full of fear, he beg me to stop my crying because my crying is causing him a heart pain.

That day, I pick up my sorrow and lock it in my heart so that I can be strong and care for Kayus and Papa. But sometimes, like today, the sorrow climb out of my heart and stick his tongue in my face.

When I close my eyes on some days, I see my mama as a rose flower: a yellow and red and purple rose with shining leafs. And if I sniff a deep sniff, I can catch her smell too. That sweet smell of a rosebush sitting around a mint tree, of the coconut soap in her hair just after a washing at Agan waterfalls.

My mama was having long hair which she will plait with black threads and roll around her head like a thick rope, looking like two or three small tires around her head. Sometimes she will remove the threads, let the hair climb down to her back so that I can brush it with her wooden brush. Sometimes, she will take the brush from my hand, make me to sit on a bench in the outside by the well, and twist up my own hair with so much coconut oil that I go about the whole village smelling like a frying food.

She didn't old, my mama, only forty-something years of age before she die, and every day I feel a paining in my spirit for her quiet laugh and voice, for the soft of her arms, for her eyes that say more things than her mouth ever speak.

She didn't sick for too long, thank God. Just six and half months of coughing and coughing until the cough eat up her whole flesh and make her shoulders be like the handle of our parlor door.

Before that devil sickness, Mama was always keeping busy. Always doing the-this and the-that for the everybody in the village. She will fry one hundred puff-puffs every day to sell in Ikati market, sometimes picking fifty of it, the best of the gold-brown ones from the hot oil, and tell me to take it to Iya, one old woman living in Agan village.

I didn't too sure of how Iya and Mama are knowing each other, or what is her real name because "Iya" is a Yoruba word for old woman. All I know is my mama was always sending me to give food to Iya and all the older womens who are sick in the village around Ikati: hot amala and okra soup with crayfish or beans and dodo, the plantain soft, oily.

One time, I bring puff-puff to Iya, after Mama was too sick to travel far, and when I reach home that night and ask Mama why she keep sending food to peoples when she is feeling too sick to travel far, Mama say, "Adunni, you must do good for other peoples, even if you are not well, even if the whole world around you is not well."

It was Mama who show me how to pray to God, to put thread in my hair, to wash my cloth with no soap, and to change my under-cloth when my monthly visitor was first coming.

My throat tight itself as I hear her voice in my head now, the faint and weak of it, as she was begging Papa to don't give me to any man for marriage if she die of this sickness. I hear Papa's voice too, shaking with fear but fighting to be strong as he was answering her: "Stop this nonsense dying talk. Nobody is dying anything. Adunni will not marry any man, you hear me? She will go to school and do what you want, I swear to you! Just do quick and better yourself!"

But Mama didn't do quick and better herself. She was dead two days after Papa make that promise, and now I am marrying a old man because Papa is forgetting all the things he make promise to Mama. I am marrying Morufu because Papa is needing moneys for food and community rent and nonsense.

I taste the salt of my tears at the memorying of it all, and when I go back to my mat and close my eyes, I see Mama as a rose flower. But this rose is no more having yellow and red and purple colors with shining leafs. This flower be the brown of a wet leaf that suffer a stamping from the dirty feets of a man that forget the promise he make to his dead wife.

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