Chinelo Okparanta’s Under the Udala Trees has been listed as one of the 25 most impactful works of LGBTQ literature in the last twenty years. The list, compiled by The New York Times under the title “20 Years of L.G.B.T.Q. Lit: A Timeline,” includes such LGBTQ classics and crowd favourites as James Baldwin’s Giovanni’s Room, Larry Kramer’s Faggots, David Ebershoff’s The Danish Girl, Alan Hollinghurst’s The Line of Beauty, Colm Toibin’s The Master, and Hana Yanagihara’s A Little Life.

Published in 2015, Under the Udala Trees is Chinelo’s first novel and second book of fiction. Beginning during the brutal Biafran war in Nigeria, the novel follows a young woman as she navigates her sexuality in a world suffocated by religion and expectations. A finalist for the 2017 International Dublin Literary Award, it won the 2016 LAMBDA Literary Award for Lesbian Fiction and earned Chinelo a place on Granta‘s prestigious 2017 list of the Best of Young American Novelists.

The novel was further nominated for the 2015 NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Literary Work of Fiction and longlisted for the Center for Fiction First Novel Prize. A New York Times Book Review Editors’ Choice, it appeared on many lists: NPR’s Best Books of 2015, the Los Angeles Times 56 Fabulous Works of Fiction and Poetry for the Holidays, the Wall Street Journal‘s 15 Books to Read This Fall, The Millions Most Anticipated Reads for 2015, The Root‘s 15 Powerful Works of Fiction by Black Authors in 2015, Autostraddle‘s Top 10 Queer and Feminist Books of 2015, Cosmopolitan Magazine’s 24 Books to Read This Fall, and Gawker‘s 9 Must-Reads for Fall.

Here is a description by its publishers.

Inspired by Nigeria’s folktales and its 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 they, star-crossed, 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 also wrecked and lost from taboo and prejudice. This story offers a glimmer of hope — a future where a woman might just be able to shape her life around truth and love.

Acclaimed by Vogue, the Financial Times, and many others, Chinelo Okparanta continues to distill “experience into something crystalline, stark but lustrous” (New York Times Book Review). Under the Udala Trees marks the further rise of a star whose “tales will break your heart open” (New York Daily News).

Chinelo’s first book of fiction is the 2013 short story collection Happiness, Like Water, which also won the LAMBDA Literary Award for Lesbian Fiction in 2014.

This recognition is of huge importance and is timely in this period when writers of LGBTQ literature are coming under persecution in her home country of Nigeria which has an anti-gay law prescribing 14 years in jail for perceived offenders. Having famously declared herself “an activist and an artist” at the 2016 Ake Book and Arts Festival, Chinelo’s prioritization of activism in her art isn’t where her impact ends. Using her position, she continues to do astonishing underground work for persecuted LGBTQ artists in her home country Nigeria.

Brittle Paper is grateful for this and for her work with upcoming writers. Congratulations, Chinelo!

See the full list HERE.

Buy Under the Udala Trees HERE.

Tags: , , , , , , ,

About Otosirieze Obi-Young

View all posts by Otosirieze Obi-Young
Otosirieze Obi-Young’s writing has been shortlisted for the 2016 Miles Morland Writing Scholarship, the 2017 Gerald Kraak Award, and nominated for a 2015 Pushcart Prize. His fiction has appeared in Transition (“A Tenderer Blessing,” 2015), The Threepenny Review (“Mulumba,” 2016), and Pride and Prejudice: African Perspectives on Gender, Social Justice and Sexuality (“You Sing of a Longing,” 2017), an anthology of The Jacana Literary Foundation and The Other Foundation. His work further appears in Interdisciplinary Academic Essays, Africa in Dialogue, and Brittle Paper, where he is submissions editor. He is the editor of the Art Naija Series: a sequence of concept-based e-anthologies of writing and visual art focusing on different aspects of Nigerianness. The first anthology, Enter Naija: The Book of Places (Oct., 2016) focuses on cities. The second, Work Naija: The Book of Vocations (June, 2017) focuses on professions. He attended the University of Nigeria, Nsukka and currently teaches English at another Nigerian university. When bored, he blogs pop culture at naijakulture.blogspot.com or just Googles Rihanna.

One Response to “Chinelo Okparanta’s Under The Udala Trees Named Among the 25 Most Impactful LGBTQ Works of the Last 20 Years” Subscribe

  1. Simeon Mpamugoh 2017/06/28 at 13:04 #

    Congrats, She was also shortlisted for the 2014 Etisalat prize for literature.

Leave a Reply

I hold a doctorate in English from Duke University and recently joined the Marquette University English faculty as an Assistant Professor. I love teaching African fiction and contemporary British novels. Brittle Paper is the virtual space/station where I play and experiment with ideas on how to reinvent African fiction and literary culture.

Subscribe to Blog via Email

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Archives

The Brittle Paper Literary Awards: New Date for the Announcement of Winners

The announcement of the winners of the inaugural Brittle Paper Literary Awards was scheduled for 23 September 2017. However, a change […]

The Reviews Are In! | Namwali Serpell Has High Praise for Jennifer Makumbi’s Kintu

Screen-Shot-2017-09-20-at-4.57.42-PM-e1505944728679 copy

Jennifer Makumbi’s Kintu is one of the hit novels of 2017. A historical drama, it tells the story of an 18th […]

New Website Collects Everything Binyavanga Wainaina Has Written Since the Late 1990s

A new Website has collected everything published by Binyavanga Wainaina since his writing career began in the late 1990s. The […]

Opportunity for All Writers | Submit to Vanguard Literary Services’ HIV/AIDS Awareness Anthology

To mark the 2017 World HIV/AIDS Day on December 1, Vanguard Literary Services, a bookselling company in Nigeria, has called […]

The Graywolf Press Africa Prize Launches with Igoni A. Barrett as Judge

igoni a. barrett

A new award just dropped: the Graywolf Press Africa Prize, for “a first novel manuscript by an African author primarily residing […]

Nnedi Okorafor Celebrates Everyday African Life in New Superhero Comic

okorafor comics

A little over two years ago, South African Sci-fi writer Lauren Beukes collaborated with D. C. Comics on a Wonder […]