Excerpt from Speak No Evil by Uzodinma Iweala, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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Speak No Evil

by Uzodinma Iweala

Speak No Evil by Uzodinma Iweala X
Speak No Evil by Uzodinma Iweala
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  • First Published:
    Mar 2018, 224 pages
    Mar 2019, 224 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Norah Piehl
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Part I

The snow starts to fall just before Ms. McConnell's Global Literatures class. It is light at first and hangs in the air, refusing to stick to anything, and instead hovers about the bare tree branches shivering outside. I sit down across from the window with my back to the door like the rest of the boys. We all sit close to the door because of the walk across the Cathedral lawn to get to class and because no one wants to be the sole male body surrounded by girls. It never pays to seem like you're trying too hard. Ms. McConnell watches us remove our jackets and place our books on the desks. After the first week of the semester, she gave up on asking us to settle in quickly. Now she waits with one fist gripping her pen and the other resting on her hip until we're ready.

I can't pay attention because Meredith isn't paying attention. She always sits directly across from me with her back to the window and the row of pine trees blocking the view to Wisconsin Avenue. Normally she tries to make me laugh with her near perfect micro-impressions of Ms. McConnell's exaggerated movements, but today she is half turned to the window, her eyes towards the sky. I scan the room. No one pays attention. Some of us focus on the interesting trinkets from Ms. McConnell's world travels. She has spent time in Kenya and India teaching younger kids and older women how to read so bright-colored Kikoi cloths line her bookshelves, which host Guatemalan worry dolls and rusted iron bangles. My classmates think they're real, but I have a cousin in Nigeria who sells freshly made antiques to foreigners seeking to collect their own colonial histories. Sometimes Ms. McConnell burns incense and the room smells of sandalwood or cinnamon. It makes my nostrils tickle.

I see it coming and try to warn Meredith but she's completely lost. Ms. McConnell is silent as she watches Meredith contemplate the snow outside. Our classmates suppress giggles as Meredith chases snowflakes with small cat-like movements of her head. Earth to Meredith, Ms. McConnell says. Meredith starts and hits her knee against the desk in front of her. She yelps and winces. Everyone laughs, even Ms. McConnell, who asks, what could possibly be more interesting than our riveting discussion in this classroom? It's really coming down, Meredith says. Ms. McConnell finally looks out the window and says, holy shit, and we all laugh. Everyone wait here for one second, she adds before she slips into the hallway and the class lapses into uncontrolled chatter.

Adam and Rowan rush to the windows. Fuck yeah, they say almost in sync. I can see the soft flakes falling on the pine branches from where I sit. A strong wind stirs sheets of white in waves and circles. When Ms. McConnell returns, she has a pained look on her face and I know that she's thinking about what a blizzard will do to her syllabus. Rowan looks at her and says, class is officially over. Rowan, Ms. McConnell shouts, but he is already halfway out the door. I think, how the fuck am I going to get home?

You can come to mine, Meredith says as we watch the layers of snow build. I call my mother to ask if I should drive home. If you can manage it, she says. I text my father. He says to just wait at school but I don't want to wait at school. I have spent so many years waiting for people to pick me up from school. Plus I can drive now and the last thing I want is to wait.

The cars on Wisconsin Avenue move at a snail's pace with blinking hazard lights. The side streets are worse. Meredith and I watch from across the road as Adam and Rowan try to move Rowan's car from its tightly wedged spot on the sloping street near the athletics facilities. Its tires spin on the fresh snow before it lurches forward into the car in front with a sickening crush. Adam shouts, Holy fucking fuck! Rowan winds down the window to survey the damage. He drops his head to the steering wheel and screams fuck into the thickening white.

Excerpted from Speak No Evil by Uzodinma Iweala. Copyright © 2018 by Uzodinma Iweala. Excerpted by permission of Harper. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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