Buried Beneath the Baobab Tree

Buried Beneath the Baobab Tree

Based on interviews with young women who were kidnapped by Boko Haram, this poignant novel by Adaobi Tricia Nwaubani tells the timely story of one girl who was taken from her home in Nigeria and her harrowing fight for survival. Includes an afterword by award-winning journalist Viviana Mazza.

A new pair of shoes, a university degree, a husband—these are the things that a girl dreams of in a Nigerian village. And with a government scholarship right around the corner, everyone can see that these dreams aren’t too far out of reach.

But the girl’s dreams turn to nightmares when her village is attacked by Boko Haram, a terrorist group, in the middle of the night. Kidnapped, she is taken with other girls and women into the forest where she is forced to follow her captors’ radical beliefs and watch as her best friend slowly accepts everything she’s been told.

Still, the girl defends her existence. As impossible as escape may seem, her life—her future—is hers to fight for.--from the publisher

336 pages               978-0062696724        Ages  14 to Adult


“Many analysts believe that Boko Haram emerged as a consequence of deep religious and ethnic cleavages that have long troubled Nigeria. The British, during their nearly half century of rule, merged various territories and peoples that had little in common other than geographic proximity. Nigeria comprises nearly 350 ethnic groups, including the Hausa and Fulani (29 percent), the Yoruba (21 percent), the Igbo (18 percent), the Ijaw (10 percent), and the Kanuri (4 percent).

At the same time, the country is roughly split between the Muslim-dominated north and Christian-dominated south. The two largest religious groups have, for decades, generally abided by an informal power-rotation agreement for the presidency, but political friction remains a significant factor in ongoing unrest.

Nigeria’s record of political corruption and inequality have also contributed to the group’s rise, analysts say. Despite being Africa’s biggest economy and home to a wealth of natural resources, Nigeria has one of the continent’s poorest populations. Roughly half of its two hundred million people live on less than $1.90 per day; poverty is higher in the Muslim-majority northern regions. Oil has played a major role in driving economic inequality across the country: A small number of elites has long maintained a tight hold on oil revenues, and corrupt government ministers have been charged with embezzling tens of billions of dollars from the sector.

‘The emergence of Boko Haram signifies the maturation of long-festering extremist impulses that run deep in the social reality of northern Nigeria,’ writes analyst Chris Ngwodo. ‘The group itself is an effect and not a cause; it is a symptom of decades of failed government and elite delinquency finally ripening into social chaos.’

Since gaining independence in 1960, Nigeria has suffered waves of political instability, including at least half a dozen coups, decades of military rule, and a civil war (1967–1970) that claimed up to two million lives, many perishing from a blockade-induced famine.”

-- from “Nigeria’s Battle With Boko Haram” a Council on Foreign Relations backgrounder by Claire Felter, last updated 8/8/18


“And, even though Abraham is running a temperature and can’t join Papa at the farm today, my immediate older brother, Isaac, is the one who forfeits attending school, not me. To ensure that all clearing and plowing is completed on schedule, Isaac exchanges his notebooks for a hoe and cutlass, while I am free to go and learn.

I thank God for Papa.

Unlike many other girls in our village whose parents do not think that sending a girl to school is important since she will end up getting married and taking all her father’s years of investment to another man’s house, Papa wants me educated.

He wants me to grow up and be like the women wearing white coats in the Maiduguri General Hospital, or like those he hears on his radio discussing important topics, or like those who come to our church from time to time to talk to the congregation about the importance of sending girls to school.”

In 2014, 276 Nigerian schoolgirls were kidnapped by the terrorist group known as Boko Haram. In doing some online research, I learned that Boko Haram is not the group’s actual self-proclaimed name. “Boko Haram” loosely translated, means “Western education is a sin.”

Based upon the information retrieved from some of the teenage girls who were fortunate enough to eventually escape alive, BURIED BENEATH THE BAOBAB TREE is the account of a fictional teenage Nigerian girl who is captured by that terrorist group. In short, striking chapters, Nigerian writer and journalist Adaobi Tricia Nwaubani immerses us in the horrors of that kidnapping and the girls’ captivity.

BURIED BENEATH THE BAOBAB TREE begins with our immersion into the narrator’s daily life. It is fascinating to see the extent to which low-tech traditional village culture is interwoven with modern information technology and western ideas.

In the attack surrounding her capture and that of her close friends and other females in her village, the narrator witnesses the slaughter of her older brothers and her beloved Papa. (Her mother is away from the village, visiting relatives, when the attack occurs.) Enslaved and indoctrinated before being given over to one of the young terrorists, she is then serially raped by her so-called husband.

Days before the kidnapping, the narrator had learned that she had been selected for a government scholarship program that would provide her a free education up through a master’s program. The next semester she was to attend a special boarding school for exceptional girls instead of the village school. While that educational dream quickly recedes into the past, we recognize that the narrator is an exceptionally intelligent and perceptive young woman. This makes for a very reliable narrator.

Having grown up in a rural village that is home to both Christians and Muslims, the narrator readily recognizes the difference between the beliefs of her Muslim friends and neighbors and those of the radical Islam that is force-fed to her during her captivity. We hear her frustrated conversations with her close girlfriend who is successfully brainwashed, partnered, converted, and eventually sent off somewhere with a suicide vest and a promise of paradise.

I knew of the 2014 kidnapping, but I really didn’t know much about it. While it was often an emotionally-tough read, young people who dare to experience BURIED BENEATH THE BAOBAB TREE will learn about this horrific (and ongoing) tragedy and will become significantly enlightened about the vast gulf between the precepts of Islam and the perverted beliefs of radical Islamic terrorists.

336 pages                  978-0-06-269672-4              Ages  14 and up

Recommended by:  Richie Partington, MLIS, California USA

See more of his recommendations:  Richie's Picks http://richiespicks.pbworks.com

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