Excerpt from Buried Beneath the Baobab Tree by Adaobi Tricia Nwaubani, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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Buried Beneath the Baobab Tree

by Adaobi Tricia Nwaubani

Buried Beneath the Baobab Tree by Adaobi Tricia Nwaubani X
Buried Beneath the Baobab Tree by Adaobi Tricia Nwaubani
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  • Published:
    Sep 2018, 336 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Karen Lewis
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Principal is standing in front of my house. I nearly drop to the ground and die.

What could have brought this revered man here?

After a greeting and a curtsy, I lead him into the living room to see Papa. He insists that I stay with them.

Papa stands from his mat. His eyebrows are furrowed.

He silences his radio.

"You're welcome," Papa says once. "You are welcome," he says twice. "You are welcome," he says again and again.

My school fees were late again this term but Papa eventually paid, for sure, so Principal is not here to collect a debt.

But what else?

"Your daughter has been selected for the Borno State government scholarship program for exceptional children from disadvantaged homes," Principal says. "Anything—anything—she wishes to study right up to master's degree level, the government is willing to pay."


By morning, every boy and girl in my school knows.

By afternoon, every father and mother in the village knows.


"You're so lucky!"

"We're so proud of you!"

"I'll miss you when you go," Sarah says. "Make sure you don't forget me."

"I'll never, ever forget you," I say.

I reach for her hand.

Sarah's scores may not have qualified her to sit for the scholarship exam, but she will still be my best friend.


I won't abandon someone with whom I've exchanged secrets and clothes and riddles since I was old enough to pronounce words, simply because I am the first child from this village to ever win a government scholarship.


By next term, I will be in a different world, although on this same planet—in a special boarding school for exceptional girls instead of a village school. One of my sweetest dreams is about to become reality, and yet my heart aches.

It aches for the life I will leave behind.

Laughing with Sarah on our walk to school every morning.

Watching Jacob giggle as he chases lizards around the backyard.

Munching the handful of Buttermint sweets that Papa buys for me whenever he returns from the market after selling his produce. That's how Mama knows the time is right to ask for a new wrapper fabric.

Helping Mama to cook and clean and wash and scrub. How is she going to cope with her Ya Ta gone?

"Don't let that worry you," she says. "Just think how much more help you will be to me when you finish university and get a good job."

Mama is right.

If the vulture satisfies me, then the peacock will pass me by.


I will earn enough money to ensure that Jacob goes from secondary school to university.

I will have enough to buy a new mattress for Mama to rest her weary back.

And then, if there is still money left over from my salary, I will buy a bicycle for Papa, and an endless supply of batteries for his radio.

I will buy Sarah a new pair of shoes, with heels higher than those of the women in Aisha's DVDs. And as many pink packets of pads as she needs.


"Nigeria's President Goodluck Jonathan has announced the sack of his military high command. No reason was given, but the dismissals come amid growing concern about the military's failure to end the Islamist-led insurgency in northern Nigeria. Mr Jonathan imposed a state of emergency in three northern Nigerian states in May 2013, giving the military wide-ranging powers to end the insurgency. Several months later, it seems to have had little effect in curbing Boko Haram."

"Thank God that we now have a different set of officers in charge of the army," Papa says. "The other ones must have been doing nothing."

Excerpted from the book Buried Beneath the Baobab Tree by Adaobi Tricia Nwaubani. Copyright © 2018 by Adaobi Tricia Nwaubani. Reprinted with permission of Katherine Tegen Books / HarperCollins Children's Books.

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