In 2014 I was studying international development and project management at Humber College. In April of that year, 276 females were kidnapped from a school in Nigeria. You might remember it being referred to as the Chibok schoolgirls kidnapping (Chibok was the town they were living and attending school in). I still remember this event, as everyone in my program was talking about it.
Every now and then you’ll see some news surface about what happened to these girls. Over the past four years, some of them have escaped or been rescued, but over 100 of the girls are still missing.
Even though I paid close attention to this tragic event when it first occurred, over the years, I will admit, I forgot about it.
That is, until I got my hands on a copy of Buried Beneath the Baobab Tree, by Adaobi Tricia Nwaubani. This novel, while technically marketed for young adults, is a must-read for people of all ages. It is an important re-telling of the tragic incident that occurred on the night of April 14, 2014 in Nigeria.
The author, a Nigerian writer and journalist, teamed up with Viviana Mazza, an Italian journalist (who wrote the book’s afterword), to tell this story. They wanted the world to know what happened to the schoolgirls, so they would not be forgotten.
In order to do the story justice, they interviewed family members of the kidnapped girls, as well as some of the girls who managed to escape. They handled the information, and emotions, incredibly well, and were able to craft a beautiful, heart-breaking novel.
Buried Beneath the Baobab Tree is told in short vignettes, which make it an addictive read. The story, while based on interviews, focuses on two fictional girls—best friends—who are kidnapped together, but ultimatley forced apart by Boko Haram.
Throughout the book many difficult topics are addressed: forced marriages, suicide bombings, religious conversion (not by choice), gender-based restrictions, and sexual assault and harassment. Feminine hygiene, an often overlooked topic, was also addressed. The pain the girls went through, both physically and emotionally, while menstruating was heartbreaking.
That being said, the story also touches on family relationships, friendships, and the strong, relentlessness sense of hope that helps humans survive, even in dire situations.
This book is not easy to read. However, it is incredibly important. The situations and events discussed are very real, and are happening to people every day. The narrative is uncomfortable and harrowing, but also uplifting. It will definitely pull at your heartstrings, open up important conversations, and leave you reeling with emotions.
Thank you Harper Collins Canada for sending me a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. Buried Beneath the Baobab Tree goes on sale September 4, 2018.