Book Review: Speak no evil by Uzodinma Iweala


Review of Speak no evil by Uzodinma Iweala.

A revelation shared between two privileged teenagers from very different backgrounds sets off a chain of events with devastating consequences.

On the surface, Niru leads a charmed life. Raised by two attentive parents in Washington, D.C., he’s a top student and a track star at his prestigious private high school. Bound for Harvard in the fall, his prospects are bright. But Niru has a painful secret: he is queer—an abominable sin to his conservative Nigerian parents. No one knows except Meredith, his best friend, the daughter of prominent Washington insiders—and the one person who seems not to judge him.

When his father accidentally discovers Niru is gay, the fallout is brutal and swift. Coping with troubles of her own, however, Meredith finds that she has little left emotionally to offer him. As the two friends struggle to reconcile their desires against the expectations and institutions that seek to define them, they find themselves speeding toward a future more violent and senseless than they can imagine.

My Review of Speak no evil by Uzodinma Iweala.

This book is a beautiful, heart-wrenching, coming-of-age story of a Nigerian boy, Niru, living in the U. S., who is struggling to accept his sexual identity. After reading and watching Beasts of no nation, written by the same author, I knew I would binge-read whatever Iweala writes, because of his sublime expertise.

Niru is a quiet boy, who is almost suffocated by pressure from within him and without because there is always a cause of worry that disrupts his peace and makes him feel less of himself. And it doesn’t help that his parents are strict disciplinarians who would rather things go their way than consider what the poor boy truly feels. All they want for him is to be like OJ, their smart, brilliant, handsome, and everything-a-source-of pride-would-look-like first son.

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Niru is constantly in a battle with himself, and with the world, trying so hard to fit into OJ’s shoes, to be more OJ like OJ.
Because being OJ means you’re loved, accepted, and cherished. But being Niru leaves you dejected and permanently remaining that dumbbell of a son.

As a student in Washington DC, he also faces the racial discrimination that comes with being an African in an American school, and he has no friends except for Meredith.
Everything changes when he comes out to Meredith. From his parents finding out he is gay, to him going for deliverance sessions, to things falling more apart, to him meeting Damien, a guy he falls in love with, to the relationship with his parents straining to its elastic limit.

Review of Speak no evil by Uzodinma Iweala.

All Niru wants is to be himself. To be loved, to be acknowledged, to be appreciated. To be loved just because he is Niru and not OJ, and can never be OJ. He wants to be talked to with respect like he matters.

Most times parents do the most. They seek perfection from their children like it’s some sort of a reward for being birthed into this world, and it is wrong. The children did not ask to be born, if anything parents should be grateful to them for coming into their lives. Children deserve love and respect. They look up to their parents for guidance, love, for protection, but most times, they get hostility in return.

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Niru’s father reminds me so much of Eugene Achike from Adichie’s Purple Hibiscus. They have so much in common. They are both perfectionists, and they expect nothing less than the best from their kids. For Niru, he is facing a traumatic existential crisis, because he’s still trying to grasp who he is and what he stands for. The teenage years are very delicate and important because they are the years teenagers learn more about themselves. But neither Niru’s father nor mother care enough to help him in his journey of self-discovery.

Review of Speak no evil by Uzodinma Iweala.

There’s also the issue of comparison. Everyone is unique in their own way. But Niru’s father compares him to OJ every single time. To Niru’s parents, OJ is their trophy son, and if Niru isn’t working so hard to meet OJ’s standards, then he’s a failure. People should understand that humans are beings with different characters and attributes, and everybody should be allowed to exist in their own skin. No human is perfect and so, nobody should expect perfection from anybody.

There’s the issue of over-spirituality. When Niru’s father finds out he is gay, he puts him on a flight to their hometown in Nigeria for deliverance and spiritual cleansing, subjecting the poor boy to a more traumatic experience. Sexual orientation has nothing to do with spirituality, so Africans should stop attributing spirituality to every single problem they face.

Read Also Book Review: God’s children are little broken things by Arinze Ifeakandu.

Most children turn out to be horrible adults because there was no love at home and they were severely abused as kids. This book reveals what a dysfunctional family looks like and also sheds light on racism and how people of color suffer a great deal in America.

Review of Speak no evil by Uzodinma Iweala.

This book shreds my heart in ways I cannot explain because I don’t expect what happens at the end to happen. I feel for Niru, for his Harvard dream, for everything he wishes to be, that he is not, and will never be. I’ll rate it as 4.7/5.

Have you read the book? What do you think about it? Please share your thoughts with me in the comment section. Don’t forget to subscribe to my newsletter, follow me on all social media platforms, and share with your friends. Thank you for visiting Bookish Pixie.

Speak no evil by Uzodinma Iweala.
Speak no evil by Uzodinma Iweala.

14 thoughts on “Book Review: Speak no evil by Uzodinma Iweala”

  1. Great review. Now looking forward to reading this book. Also any recommendations on how to get these amazing books you review for free? 🌜


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