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Book Review: The Girl with the Louding Voice by Abi Dare


My friend Kim recommended this book for a book club read, and I was intrigued by the title. Set in Nigeria, the words on the pages of this novel whisk you away to a compelling place with a narrator who speaks a pidgin style of English. Her way of expressing herself takes getting used to, but once you get into the groove of her communication style, the way she speaks makes her words even more memorable and endearing.


The heart of the story is the journey of a young girl named Adunni. Her mother's dying wish before she passed away was that Adunni get an education so that she can make a difference in the world and have a "louding voice." Adunni clings to this wish and is determined to learn and grow in spite of all of the trials and obstacles that loom along her path from a deadbeat father, to oppressive village traditions, to an awful working situation. But amidst all of these things pushing against her--she is buoyed up by the strongest life vest available to humans--relationships. She finds hope in her friendships with her brother, with Kadija, with Kofi, and especially with her mentor Miss Tia.


Abi Dare highlights the interconnected nature of people and how our actions and words can bind us together or tear us apart. Most importantly though, she brings difficult social conventions in Nigeria out of the shadows and underscores how education can be the strongest tool to empower girls to control their own destiny. Here is an interview with the author which I enjoyed:

In the book, Adunni talks about her mother making a common Nigerian food called a Puff Puff. I have included a recipe here so you can try some authentic Nigerian fare yourself!

Recipe for Puff Puff Ingredients

  • 2 cups flour

  • 1¼ cups Water

  • 2 Teaspoons Yeast

  • 1 Teaspoon Nutmeg

  • ½ Teaspoon Salt

  • ¼ Cup Sugar + 1 teaspoon sugar for proofing the yeast

  • Enough Oil for deep frying

Instructions

  • Mix half of a cup of warm water, 1 teaspoon of sugar and the yeast in a bowl. Cover with a lid and set aside until the yeast becomes bubbly. About 4-6 minutes.

  • In another bowl, mix the dry ingredients - Flour, Sugar, Salt, and Nutmeg.

  • Pour the proofed yeast and the remainng one cup water together with the dry ingredients and mix until the batter is lump-free.

  • Cover the dough and allow it to rise for 1 hour. (The risen dough has a distinct sweet smell, which will make you know the dough is ready for frying)

  • Preheat the oil in a pan deep and wide enough to accomodate the puff puff balls (about 360°F ) and scoop a little bit of dough and drop the batter by spoonfuls into the oil.

  • Fry both sides until golden brown. If you are finding it hard to turn the puff puff while frying you can just press down the balls a little bit with your frying spoon before turning it.

  • Remove from heat. Drain on a paper towel and enjoy while still hot or warm.

Recipe credit: https://cheflolaskitchen.com/african-puff-puff/ One of my favorite quotes of the book: 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 people's when she is 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."

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