IWEALA, Uzodinma. Speak No Evil

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  • Author(s): Christgau, Georgia
  • Source:
    School Library Journal. Nov, 2018, Vol. 64 Issue 11, p81, 2 p.


Booklist Reviews 2017 December #1

*Starred Review* When Harvard-bound, Washington, D.C., prep-school senior Niru's parents discover the gay-dating app his best friend, Meredith, downloaded for him on his phone, everything blows up in his face like he knew it would. Although his Nigerian parents are fiercely loving, they are but bound by their faith, his father especially so, to reject Niru's queerness and seek religious therapy for his "condition," both locally and in their ancestral home. In his third book, Iweala—author of the multiple-award-winning novel Beasts of No Nation (2005) and Our Kind of People (2012), a nonfiction book about people living with AIDS in Nigeria—delivers with immediate poignancy Niru's struggles between rejecting his parents' constrictions and yearning for them; between embracing his sexuality and believing there's a cure for it, and that it should be cured at all. Through Niru's narration, which forms the bulk of the book, he, his parents, and his brother, who's away at college but a constant presence in Niru's thoughts, become full and realistically nuanced characters. A later shift in narration allows a different and perhaps more complete picture of Niru, which Iweala also handles elegantly. Portraying cross-generational and -cultural misunderstandings with anything but simplicity, Iweala tells an essential American story. Copyright 2017 Booklist Reviews.

LJ Reviews 2017 October #1

Iweala boomed into our consciousness in 2005 with his debut novel, Beasts of No Nation, a multi-award-winning and multi-best-booked title that got its author named a Granta Best of Young American Novelists. It was worth the wait for his second novel, featuring a Harvard-bound Nigerian American teenager at a prestigious Washington, DC, school, who wrestles with the recognition that he is gay. His friend Meredith is supportive, but the disapproval of his religious family leads to rapidly unwinding tragedy. Don't miss; there's gorgeous writing, crucial issues, and edge-of-seat emotions. With a 50,000-copy first printing

Copyright 2017 Library Journal.

LJ Reviews 2017 November #2

In Iweala's long-awaited follow-up to the multi-award-winning Beasts of No Nation, published in 2005 and made into a film released in 2015, a Harvard-bound Nigerian American teenager at a prestigious Washington, DC, school faces escalating issues of splintered identity. Not only is Niru black in a white world and an immigrant in America, but he's facing the realization that he is gay. Best friend Meredith is supportive, but Niru's religious parents explode when they find out; his mother may prevent his father from beating him, but she fully supports the plan to send him back to Nigeria to undergo spiritual cleansing. The trip is torture for Niru not only because his parents refuse to accept him ("What if I don't need help?" he asks them in anguish) but because Nigeria isn't home for him as it is for his father, who serves as heavyhanded escort. Back in America, Niru continues to seethe with doubt and longing as Iweala unwinds crucial issues of choice and the burden of playing multiple parts; says Niru, "It's too confusing for me to live all these lives when I want only one." Throughout a narrative spiraling toward tragedy, Niru's pain is so palpable it will make you gasp. VERDICT Highly recommended. [See Prepub Alert, 9/11/17.]—Barbara Hoffert,Library Journal

Copyright 2017 Library Journal.

PW Reviews 2017 December #1

In Uzodinma's staggering sophomore novel (after Beasts of No Nation), the untimely disclosure of a secret shared between two teens from different backgrounds sets off a cascade of heartbreaking consequences. The first of the book's two sections follows Niru, a Nigerian-American high school senior and track star heading off to Harvard in the fall. He lives in Washington, D.C., with his immigrant parents, who are loving but traditional and strict. When they discover Tinder and Grindr messages from boys on Niru's phone—apps Niru's (white) best friend, Meredith, installed on a whim—a shocking, violent event occurs. To "undo this psychological and spiritual corruption," Niru's father beats him, then takes him to Nigeria to rid him of the "evil demonic spirit." When Niru returns to school, he vows to stop his "sinful" behavior and make his father proud. But his desires still torment him—especially after he meets a handsome college-aged dancer named Damien. In the book's devastating second half, a broken and haunted Meredith looks back on that tumultuous time six years later. Her Washington insider parents are moving to Massachusetts, and she's returned from New York to help them move—and take care of unfinished business. The revelation of what happened the last time she saw Niru is devastating and speaks volumes about white heterosexual privilege. This novel is notable both for the raw force of Iweala's prose and the moving, powerful story. (Mar.)

Copyright 2017 Publishers Weekly.