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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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  • First Published:
    Sep 2018, 336 pages
    Mar 2020, 336 pages


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Book Reviewed by:
Karen Lewis
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Print Excerpt

Thank God.

Like Papa, I believe that President Jonathan has chosen new officers who are better prepared and qualified to defeat Boko Haram.

It should now be only a matter of time before the terrorists disappear.


Papa never allows anyone from his family to queue up with the rest of the village when the doctors and nurses from Maiduguri arrive with syringes and stethoscopes in their white van.

"They always bring bad news," he says.

He insists that his mother was healthy until the free health check people appeared, perfectly fine until she received her test results.

Next thing, she was groaning on a mat in the backyard. Then she was traveling to and from the teaching hospital in Maiduguri. Finally, Papa sold our TV set, and still had no money left to pay our fees for an entire year.

Meanwhile, the free health check doctors and nurses had disappeared with their white van. After delivering their bad news, they did not hang around to watch Papa's mother shrivel up in the backyard and die.

"I am not happy about this medical test," Papa says. "I don't want my daughter to do it."

"It is a requirement for every child who gets the scholarship," Principal says. "You need to do it quickly if you're serious about her resuming at the special school next term. The government needs to see the results of her medical tests before they can issue her admission."






Whooping Cough





From dusk to dawn, my mind runs through the list of diseases I have learned about in science class and from the gory posters on the walls of the general hospital in nearby Gwoza.

Which one of them might keep me from attending the special school?

What might the doctors and nurses find hiding in my body?

Dysentery, malaria, chicken pox—the three major sicknesses I have suffered since birth. Polio passed through our village once and left ten families with cripples, but it did not knock on Papa's door.

I pray that we are as lucky this time. I hope that Papa is wrong about medical tests.

For nothing must come between me and my Borno State government scholarship.


The nurse at the Gwoza General Hospital says that my pregnancy test result will be sent directly to my new school. Thus ends my jittering.

The scholarship board is on the lookout for hidden embryos, not viruses or microbes. I am one hundred percent certain that everything will come out fine.


The man in the seat in front of me is nodding off. Papa sits beside me listening to his radio. I stare out the window of the bus, just in case something interesting happens on the journey from Gwoza to Damboa, where we board a smaller vehicle that will take us to our village.

Eventually, my diligence pays off, and cows surround our vehicle.

The bus driver weaves the vehicle past the huge horns and robust rumps while the bulky creatures make their way from one side of the road to the other. I marvel at how far Fulani herdsmen are prepared to traverse while grazing their cattle.

When they're in search of greener pastures, Papa says they sometimes roam as far as the southeast of Nigeria, where the Igbo people live, and even to the southwest, where the Yoruba people live.

If only I could sit atop one of the bulls and ride along. What an adventure that would be!

The man in the seat in front of me raises his head and rubs his eyes. He looks lazily out the window. Suddenly, he screams.

"Never drive close to the cows! Never drive close to the cows! The spirit of Boko Haram can enter the cows, so you should always wait for the cows to cross the road!"

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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