“This is not Islam!” “This is not Islam!” – Aisha in Buried Beneath The Baobab Tree
This is the second book I am reading by the author and I was really excited because her first book, ‘I Do Not Come To Your Chance’ happens to be on my “Favorite Books Of All Time” list (click “Favorite Reads” on my homepage to view all my favorites) and I plan to do a reread soonest.
“Buried Beneath The Baobab Tree” is a fictional and Non-Fictional (The Afterword) account of the Boko Haram Terrorists insurgence in Northern Nigeria. The story follows a young unnamed girl fondly called ‘Ya TA’ by her mother. She is an ordinary girl with aspirations to go to university and become a teacher as she patiently awaits the results of the Borno State Scholarship exams which if she is successful, will be the beginning of her journey to fulfill her dreams. The only daughter of her parents with five brothers, her days are spent helping her mother with chores at home, going to school, spending time with her best friend Sarah, visiting her other friend Aisha, a new bride and crushing on Success, the Pastor’s son who is already in university. Living in a safe space where Christians and Muslims alike coexist in perfect harmony, stories of the infamous Boko Haram terrorists and their activities seem like something that is taking place in a faraway land.
Unfortunately, her world is turned upside down when the dreaded Boko Haram terrorists storm her village, killing many and abducting all the young girls and women. Her ordeal while in captivity is the very meat of this book. She is forced to witness and experience terrible acts of violence, assault, rape, murder, forced marriage, slavery, starvation, beatings, brainwashing, etc.
Like most Nigerians, the activities of the Boko Haram only became real to me after the abduction of the 276 Chibok girls from their school as this got a lot of media coverage within and outside the country. It was at this time I learnt that quite a number of villages had been sacked by Boko Haram, taking with them their young girls and women as captives long before the Chibok Girls were abducted. As someone who works with and have always had friends who are Muslim from a young age, I know that what the Boko Haram stand for is extremist and do not represent the average Muslim. Their beliefs and practices are way off what devout Muslims stand for and is a misrepresentation of islam.
This story touched my whole heart and soul. It also got me so angry about how insecure this country is. Years after their abduction, most of the Chibok girls and all the other young women taken from their villages are yet to be recovered from their captors. It is a shame and highly unfortunate that they have to live through this pain, their families waiting and hoping, not knowing if they are alive or dead. I pray that one day this horrible, horrible nightmare will end and people who live in the north eastern region of Nigeria and it’s environs will feel safe once again in their homes, villages and cities.
Adaobi has succeeded in crafting a powerful narrative around this tragedy that feels so real that you can almost touch it. It is so well written with short chapters, bold characters, vivid descriptions of events and heart wrenching scenarios that will keep you spell bound until you turn the last page. Even with all my knowledge about the Boko Haram activities, this well researched fictional account will make you feel as if you are reading yet another true story. I literally finished reading this book in a few hours despite it’s over 300 pages.
I don’t know what I didn’t like about this book. Maybe the graphic scenes where the Boko Haram terrorists inflicted all manner of pain on innocent people but this is a reality. These things actually happened and are still happening, therefore I believe it was important that the author captured this even if some of it was difficult to read.
The afterword written by Vivian Mazza was the icing on the cake. Mazza is an Italian journalist who has documented these happenings, interviewed survivors and worked with families who have lost children, wives, sisters, etc to this terrible atrocity. Her non fictional account drives home the realities on ground and the need to continue to support the course.
I highly recommend this book to every Nigerian to read especially people from other regions of the country. I remember listening to a conversation some years ago where some people actually argued that the Chibok girls abduction was a hoax, a ploy by the people of north eastern Nigeria to get attention or whatever the conspiracy theory was at the time. It is a pity that some people still find it hard to believe that these stories are true. Reading this book may change your mind.
Special thanks to Masobe Books for gifting me a free copy for an honest review.
Rating: 4.5 Stars
Expected Publication Date: October 17, 2019 by Masobe Books
The Author: Adaobi Tricia Obinne Nwaubani (born in 1976) is a Nigerian novelist, humorist, essayist and journalist. Her debut novel, I Do Not Come to you by Chance, won the 2010 Commonwealth Writers’ Prize for Best First Book (Africa), a Betty Trask First Book award,and was named by the Washington Post as one of the Best Books of 2009. Nwaubani is the first contemporary African writer on the global stage to have got an international book deal while still living in her home country.