Is Love Still Love If It Is Entangled With Violence From a Parent?

In Speak No Evil, Uzodinma Iweala highlights some of the realities of growing up in a Nigerian immigrant household in the U.S.

Things get real for the Ikemadu family when Niru’s dad, Obi, discovers Niru is queer; “It is an abomination!”

The novel tells the heartbreaking story that unfolds.

Uzodinma does a brilliant job of capturing Niru’s intersecting identities along with the themes of power and voice. Everyone who reads this novel will decide for themselves whether “love” that is entangled with violence from a parent is still love.

Speak No Evil is essential reading for second generation Nigerian parents who long to hold on to their parents values but recognize the need to do things differently.

The two teenagers in this story are from privileged backgrounds, yet their experiences are vastly different. The contrast between Niru and his best friend Meredith, a white female, comes to bear in the final chapters of the book.

This story pushes readers to consider several questions.

  1. Who gets to speak?
  2. Who has the power to speak for other people?
  3. Whose experiences are silenced?
  4. Whose experiences are honored?

Ultimately, there is always a “who” that does the speaking, a “who” that does the silencing and a “who” that determines the value of experiences.

The story is set in present day, Washington, D.C. and the sequence of events is not far from what can happen in any U.S. city.

I enjoyed the emphasis on intersectional identities; especially those identities that individuals can’t turn on or off when it benefits them.

I picked up this book because “Uzodinma Iweala, author of Beasts of No Nation (book adapted into a Netflix film)” was on the cover. I knew that I could expect characters that were full of depth and complexity. In the end, I was not disappointed.

I look forward to reading many more by the author.

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