Under The Udala Trees – summary

Here you have a summary of the book – Under The Udala Trees written by Chinelo Okparanta.

Under The Udala Tree - 002

Under The Udala Trees – summary

Under The Udala Trees is a novel by a Nigerian-American writer, Chinelo Okparanta. The novel was her debut book and was published in 2015. It also won the 2016 Best Lesbian Novel Award. 

Under The Udala Trees tells the story of an Igbo girl, Ijeoma, who lived her life in Ojoto during wartime in Nigeria. The Nigerian Civil War left her father, Uzo, dead, and she was to be catered for by her mother, Adaora. Life became difficult for Adaora after the air raid by the Nigerian Air Force killed her husband. She narrowly escaped being struck dead, so she decided to send her daughter, Ijeoma, to far away Nnewi to live with a schoolmistress. 

Before Ijeoma left, she had to inform her childhood friend, Chibundu about her mother’s plan for her. They kissed passionately under an orange tree before they waved each other goodbye.

As Ijeoma relocated to Nnewi, she got to meet Amina under an udala tree and brought her home to live with the schoolmistress. They both served the Schoolteacher as maids. Adaora visited her daughter frequently in Nnewi and so began to detect the friendship bond between Ijeoma and Amina is amorous.

Amina is a Hausa girl who lived in Nnewi after the war detached her from her parents. Ijeoma and Amina had fallen in love under the same roof with the schoolteacher without her knowledge. Unfortunately, one day, she caught them making love; to end their relationship, considered abnormal in Nigeria, she sent Ijeoma back home to live with her mother in Aba.

Ijeoma’s return to Aba appeared to confirm Adaora’s prior suspicion that her daughter is a lesbian. Hence, she put Ijeoma in a Bible lesson to rid her of the lesbian spirit. Luckily for Ijeoma, she met Amina at an only-girls school, again— Girls Academy —but this time Amina refused to date her. She dated men instead and married a Hausa man after their graduation.

Afterward, Ijeoma helped her mother in her shop, where she met Ndidi, who was also a school teacher, and they got enamored with each other. The school teacher introduced her to an underground lesbian league. They usually gather in an elegant church building at night after daytime church activities.

When the homosexuals’ choice of venue for the gathering was discovered by the people who revile the intrusion of homosexuality in their culture, they burnt down the building and killed many of the homosexual people, including Ndidi’s friend. As a result of the brutal riot against the homosexual community, Ndidi advised Ijeoma to grow used to dating men to look normal in society.

Shortly after that, Chibundu returned to Aba to marry Ijeoma — his childhood crush. Ijeoma had been facing her mother’s anger over her choice not to stop being a lesbian. She tried to bully Ijeoma with her biblical quotes into dating men or marrying one. So, due to her mother’s brutal backlash, Ijeoma finally bowed to her mother’s wish to marry Chibundu, whom she had no feelings for but does conform to the societal norm.

After their marriage, Ijeoma moved with Chibundu to his Port Harcourt residence in Southern Nigeria. She was not happy but had to endure marrying a man to look normal in the homophobic environment. After a while, she gave birth to a girl child, Chidimma, and her mother came to Port Harcourt for omugwo— to help her do house chores and take care of the baby as is the custom in the Igbo tradition.

Ijeoma hadn’t lost her love memories with Ndidi in Aba despite being married to a man. She frequently wrote romantic letters to Ndidi but stopped writing and sending them since the ones she had already sent got no replies from Ndidi. This meant that Ndidi had moved on with her life. She, therefore, hid the unsent letters under her bed, but Chibundu discovered them and told her that he had stolen a couple of the letters from the post office.

Chibundu became violent towards Ijeoma thereafter. He threatened her with death if she failed to bear him a male child. Ijeoma got pregnant again but miscarried it, hence returning to her mother in Aba. Adaora accepted her back home for whoever her daughter was. She tried to reinterpret the Bible she had used against her daughter’s sexuality to favor Ijeoma at this time.


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About the book – Under The Udala Trees

Under The Udala Trees is set during the Nigerian Civil War, also known as the Nigerian-Biafran War in some parts of the same country. “Udala” is an Igbo name for African apple, often called cherry. The novel got its title from the meeting point of Ijeoma and Amina. The story is classified as historical fiction because of its fictional reflection on the war and its horrors. 

The book was published in 2015 and is the first novel by the Nigerian-American author – Chinelo Okparanta. The novel has made progress. it won The Best Lesbian Novel of 2016 in Lambda Literary Awards.



How did the Under The Udala Tree end?

After Uzo was brutally killed by an air raid by the Nigerian force, Adaora found herself in a condition she struggled to cope with. Therefore, she sent her daughter, Ijeoma, to live with a schoolteacher in Nnewi, where Ijeoma fell in love with Amina — a fellow girl and a Hausa.

Society rejected her because of her sexuality, especially when she was caught making love with a fellow girl. Her mother frequently prays for her, hoping Ijeoma would turn a new leaf. However, she was reluctant to change. Eventually, Adaora pressured her into marrying a man she didn’t have any feelings for. She bore him a child and separated from him after the marriage became sour and returned home to date Ndidi.

Who’s the protagonist of Under The Udala Tree?

Ijeoma is the protagonist of the story. The story revolves around her.



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