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Speak No Evil
Cover of Speak No Evil
Speak No Evil
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Winner of the American Library Association's Barbara Gittings Literature Award | A Lambda Literary Award Finalist | An Indie Next Pick | A Barnes and Noble Best Book of the Month | A Library Journal Best Book of the Year

"A lovely slender volume that packs in entire worlds with complete mastery. Speak No Evil explains so much about our times and yet is never anything less than a scintillating, page-turning read."—Gary Shteyngart

"A wrenching, tightly woven story about many kinds of love and many kinds of violence. Speak No Evil probes deeply but also with compassion the cruelties of a loving home. Iweala's characters confront you in close-up, as viscerally, bodily alive as any in contemporary fiction."—Larissa MacFarquhar

In the long-anticipated novel from the author of the critically acclaimed Beasts of No Nation, 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. Neither will escape unscathed.

In the tradition of Junot Diaz's The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie's Americanah, Speak No Evil explores what it means to be different in a fundamentally conformist society and how that difference plays out in our inner and outer struggles. It is a novel about the power of words and self-identification, about who gets to speak and who has the power to speak for other people. As heart-wrenching and timely as his breakout debut, Beasts of No Nation, Uzodinma Iweala's second novel cuts to the core of our humanity and leaves us reeling in its wake.

One of Bustle's 35 Most Anticipated Fiction Books Of 2018 | One of Paste's 25 Most Anticipated Books of 2018 | One of The Boston Globe's 25 Books We Can't Wait to Read in 2018

Winner of the American Library Association's Barbara Gittings Literature Award | A Lambda Literary Award Finalist | An Indie Next Pick | A Barnes and Noble Best Book of the Month | A Library Journal Best Book of the Year

"A lovely slender volume that packs in entire worlds with complete mastery. Speak No Evil explains so much about our times and yet is never anything less than a scintillating, page-turning read."—Gary Shteyngart

"A wrenching, tightly woven story about many kinds of love and many kinds of violence. Speak No Evil probes deeply but also with compassion the cruelties of a loving home. Iweala's characters confront you in close-up, as viscerally, bodily alive as any in contemporary fiction."—Larissa MacFarquhar

In the long-anticipated novel from the author of the critically acclaimed Beasts of No Nation, 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. Neither will escape unscathed.

In the tradition of Junot Diaz's The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie's Americanah, Speak No Evil explores what it means to be different in a fundamentally conformist society and how that difference plays out in our inner and outer struggles. It is a novel about the power of words and self-identification, about who gets to speak and who has the power to speak for other people. As heart-wrenching and timely as his breakout debut, Beasts of No Nation, Uzodinma Iweala's second novel cuts to the core of our humanity and leaves us reeling in its wake.

One of Bustle's 35 Most Anticipated Fiction Books Of 2018 | One of Paste's 25 Most Anticipated Books of 2018 | One of The Boston Globe's 25 Books We Can't Wait to Read in 2018

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About the Author-
  • Uzodinma Iweala received the Los Angeles Times Art Seidenbaum Award for First Fiction, the Sue Kaufman Prize for First Fiction from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, the New York Public Library Young Lions Fiction Award, and the John Llewellyn Rhys Prize, all for Beasts of No Nation. He was also selected as one of Granta's Best Young American Novelists. A graduate of Harvard University and the Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons, he lives in New York City and Lagos, Nigeria.

Reviews-
  • Library Journal

    October 1, 2017

    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, LLC Used with permission.

  • Publisher's Weekly

    Starred review from December 4, 2017
    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.

  • Kirkus

    February 1, 2018
    Iweala's second novel, after Beasts of No Nation (2005), is a coming-of-age tale about immigrant identity and sexuality in America.Niru, an ambitious teenager, is in his senior year at a private high school in the suburbs of Washington, D.C. Driven by his demanding Nigerian parents, he strives for success in both sports and academics. As he prepares to attend Harvard next year, trains to impress his track coach, and struggles to make a space for himself among his mostly white peers, he deftly reconciles his conflicting identities as the son of wealthy Nigerian immigrants and as an American teenager. There's turmoil rippling beneath his life's surface, though. When his closest friend, the attractive Meredith, tries to hook up with him, he panics and admits to himself that he's attracted to men. Meredith excitedly tries to help him embrace his sexuality, but Niru's impulses are unacceptable to his conservative Christian parents. After discovering flirtatious conversations with men on the boy's phone, Niru's father, Obi, takes him back to Nigeria to "cure" his son of what he considers "sinful nonsense." The scenes of Niru's clashes with his father are the most affecting moments in the novel: by depicting the fervor and violence of Obi's anger about Niru's queerness, Iweala does a stunning job of depicting the danger that many black youth face in trying to honor their sexual identities. Despite trying to suppress his desires and simplify his family life, Niru meets the seductive Damien. The two begin a tentative and tender relationship, but this is not a triumphant novel about Niru's embracing his sexual identity. Instead, Iweala gives us a novel of keen insight into the mental and emotional turmoil that attends an adolescent's discovery of his sexuality. Unfortunately, the book seems to lose steam toward its conclusion. Niru's relationship with Damien is not explored as fully as it could be, while the implications of his parents' pressure aren't entirely untangled. The novel resolves with the sudden and disjunctive insertion of another character's perspective, sabotaging the development of Niru's own subjectivity.This is a deeply felt and perceptive novel that does not fulfill its promise.

    COPYRIGHT(2018) Kirkus Reviews, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

  • School Library Journal

    November 1, 2018

    Niru laughs with his older brother about their father's "Nigeriatoma"-a word they made up to explain the "acute swelling of ego and pride" that turns Obi into a grandiose and aggressive man when he visits his native Nigeria. In the words of poet Paul Lawrence Dunbar, in America, Obi "wears the mask" among the professional elite of Washington, DC. Modest and deferential, he and his wife Ify, a doctor, raise two sons who quietly excel. That is, until Niru, a high school senior, teetotaler, and track star headed for Harvard, admits that he's gay. While Ify surreptitiously schools herself online about parenting a gay child, Obi rushes Niru back to Nigeria for deprogramming by an Igbo priest. But Meredith-Niru's white female American best friend-helps Niru stay out of the closet, calling Obi's emergency Nigerian trip a "kidnapping." Iweala's (Beasts of No Nation) second novel is no less ambitious than his breakout debut. When someone drugs Meredith's drink at a graduation party, Niru must decide whether to risk his own safety to secure Meredith's. This work takes on not only the "beasts" of generational conflict and homophobia but also the hefty price of an interracial friendship in a violent American culture that proves more dangerous to Niru than his father's zipped-up rage. VERDICT A must-have.-Georgia Christgau, Middle College High School, Long Island City, NY

    Copyright 2018 School Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

  • Marlon James, Booker Award-winning author of A Brief History of Seven Killings "Speak No Evil is the rarest of novels: the one you start out just to read, then end up sinking so deeply into it, seeing yourself so clearly in it, that the novel starts reading you."
  • The New Yorker "The classic coming-out narrative describes how the central character makes a leap from one identity to another, into a different, freer life, while the classic immigrant novel depicts what it's like to straddle two worlds, old and new, with a foothold in each. Speak No Evil is both and neither.... The soul of Speak No Evil is the tortuous, exquisitely rendered relationship between Niru and his father."
  • Gary Shteyngart, author of Little Failure "A lovely slender volume that packs in entire worlds with complete mastery. Speak No Evil explains so much about our times and yet is never anything less than a scintillating, page-turning read."
  • Larissa MacFarquhar "A wrenching, tightly woven story about many kinds of love and many kinds of violence. Speak No Evil probes deeply but also with compassion the cruelties of a loving home. Iweala's characters confront you in close-up, as viscerally, bodily alive as any in contemporary fiction."
  • Library Journal, starred review "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.... Highly recommended."
  • Publishers Weekly, starred review "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.... Speaks volumes about white heterosexual privilege.... Notable both for the raw force of Iweala's prose and the moving, powerful story."
  • Seattle Times "A searing take on the notion of home, and the struggle to be at home with oneself.... Speak No Evil deals with less epic subject matter [than Beasts of No Nation], but there's subtle power in its intimacy and in its depictions of the violence we do to each other and to ourselves."
  • Booklist, starred review "Delivers with immediate poignancy Niru's struggles.... 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."
  • Washington Blade "Heart-wrenching .... A visceral but compassionate portrait of what it means to be different within a family, let alone society at large."
  • Lambda Literary "Iweala stirringly brings to life a young man at war with himself in this moving new novel.... Speak No Evil isn't an easy read. It is, however, compelling, sensitively told, and satisfying."
  • Paste Magazine "A haunting story about identity and power."
  • Dallas Morning News "The story unspools as quickly as running star Niru can clip around the track, building into a classical tragedy with modern flair.... The talented Iweala has fashioned a heart-rending story of teenage love that turns on the technological trappings and persistent prejudices of contemporary life."
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