The Girl with the Louding Voice is another book that had been on my radar for a while, I’d seen so many people rave about it, having just finished it, it’s easy to see why.
There is so much to say about this book, just read it.
Adunni is 14, her mother has recently died. She dreams of an education, of building a better life for herself and others in her Nigerian village Itaki.
Following the death of her mother, her father instead sells Adunni to become the third wife of a much older man. She finds kindness in one of the other wives Khadija. When tragedy strikes, Adunni flees and is again sold as a house maid to a woman in Lagos called Big Mamma. Adunni, is beaten by her madam and worked to exhaustion. Through all of this she never gives up on her dream of going to school and getting an education.
“That day I tell myself that even if I am not getting in this life. I will finish my primary and secondary and university schooling and become teacher because I don’t just want to be having any kind voice….
“I want a louding voice”. Abi Daré
This book really struck a chord with me and took me back to an incredibly special place that’ll be in my heart forever, The Good Samaritan school in Uganda.
In 2017, I got to go to Uganda with a group who’d been working with the school. Good Samaritan had been set up on land by locals to offer an education to children who’d been orphaned. Over the years it had grown, it had moved from lessons under a tree into lessons in buildings, caring for and educating hundreds of children.
When I rocked up to see how Lancashire teenagers had raised money to build classrooms and dormitories, the majority of the children were orphans, there were also children with families who paid a minimal fee for their children to attend, the equivalent of around £30 per term, the idea that it’d help pay for the upkeep of the school and teacher salaries.
Over the next two weeks, I spent time learning about the school, sitting in classes, getting to know the children and the teachers and of course documenting it for work.
One thing that really stood out is just how much I had taken an education for granted.
I was lucky enough to be born in a country where I had an automatic right to an education, the law would make sure I at least attended.
I don’t think until I rocked up in Uganda that I’d ever fully appreciated how lucky I’d been and that not everyone was afforded that same right. I’m not naïve, I obviously know that we live in a world that is unfair, but I hadn’t fully comprehended what that looked like, especially where education is concerned.
In ‘The Girl with the Louding Voice’, Adunni’s desperation to learn and get an education reminded me of one girl in particular; Milly Mary.
Milly Mary was also 14. Her parents had both died and she’d come to live with her sister. Milly Mary was worried that her sister wouldn’t be able to afford her school fees and that she’d have to leave to school. She wouldn’t have had to leave but despite her being told this by everyone involved at the school, this was her biggest fear and caused her so much anxiety. She dreams of completing her schooling and going to university – again that dream had always been a given for me, provided I didn’t make a mess of it.
Like Adunni, she asked a lot of questions, she wanted to know how everything worked, she wanted to read everything I’d written, hear every interview and watch every video I put together. She’d just sit and soak up the words, wrapping her tongue around new words and asking what certain ones meant. I loved spending time with her and love seeing how she’s getting on.
She wasn’t unique in that school, the kids knew that being in the position to access an education was rare; unfortunately, as this book reminded me, many children the world over living in poverty do not get that chance.
I was struck that by the fact that Milly Mary could have faced the same fate Adunni.
Adunni’s pulled out of school after her mother dies to take care of the house and because her father can’t afford the fees. Adunni’s marriage is arranged so ground rent can be paid. When she goes to work for Big Mama she’s a slave, she’s treated and beaten horrifically. Adunni’s mother had recognised the importance of an education and had drummed it into her daughter that the only way for her to get out of poverty is to get an education, she’s desperate for her daughter to do that.
Adunni wants to become a teacher to give children in her village, particularly girls more options. She wants them to have more choices available, so they aren’t married off to older men.
Some people may be put off by how this book is written, I thought the style made it sound more authentic, I could hear Adunni’s voice. It is unequivocally her story, told through her eyes – given that she’s often left with no choice it’s fitting that it’s her and her voice alone.
I have never wanted to a character to succeed more in achieving her dreams, or maybe I was actually cheering Milly Mary on from six and a half thousand miles away.
Journalist, writer, traveller, music lover, collector of hats, news addict, bookworm