Speak No Evil

Speak No Evil

by Uzodinma Iweala

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Overview

Winner of the Gold Nautilus Award for Fiction | A Lambda Literary Award Finalist | A Barbara Gittings Literature 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

Editorial Reviews

The Financial Times

How would Iweala top [Beasts of No Nation]? The answer is by moving us to a different kind of war zone.... Though the destination of this story is tragically unsurprising, it has the stomach-churning pace of a Greek tragedy. Iweala’s scope is modest — those handful of streets, 10 or so scenes, a couple of hundred pages — but the novel burns with teenage intensity.... It is a quieter achievement than Beasts; but no less sincere.

Entertainment Weekly

Iweala is a unique and surprising writer.... Iweala’s forceful writing, defined by sentences of only a handful of words that move at an accelerated clip, shines when he digs into Niru’s psyche. He has a rare gift for capturing stream-of-consciousness thought, tackling it at a pace that’s quick but authentic.

Wall Street Journal

Beasts of No Nation was an impressive achievement.... Though it takes place in seemingly safe D.C. rather than a war-torn African nation, Speak No Evil is a more ambitious and riskier novel, with a deeper understanding of its characters’ conflicted hearts. Mr. Iweala’s novel weaves together sexual, religious and political strands as it builds to a devastating climax.

New York Times Book Review

Iweala writes with such ease about adolescents and adolescence that Speak No Evil could well be a young adult novel. At the same time, he toys with other well-defined forms: the immigrant novel, the gay coming-of-age novel, the novel of being black in America. The resulting book is a hybrid of all these. If he’s something of a remix artist, Iweala remains faithful to the conventions of these forms, a writer so adept that the book’s climax feels both surprising and wholly inevitable.

Marlon James

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 on Beasts of No Nation

A startling debut.

Washington Post Book World on Beasts of No Nation

A tour de force.

New York Times on Beasts of No Nation

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.

New Yorker on Beasts of No Nation

A startling debut.

The New York Times Book Review - Rumaan Alam

Niru's homosexuality is very much the book's subject, and the text is interested in dualities—Americans and Africans, white and black, gay and straight, devout and skeptic, the black immigrant and the black American…while always returning to the question of what his gayness says about who Niru is. Iweala writes with such ease about adolescents and adolescence that Speak No Evil could well be a young adult novel. At the same time he toys with other well-defined forms: the immigrant novel, the gay coming-of-age novel, the novel of being black in America. The resulting book is a hybrid of all these. If he's something of a remix artist, Iweala remains faithful to the conventions of these forms, a writer so adept that the book's climax feels both surprising and wholly inevitable.

Gary Shteyngart

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.

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.

Paste Magazine

A haunting story about identity and power.

Vogue

A timely story of friendship, secrets, and consequences.

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.” 

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.

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.

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.

starred review Booklist

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.

AV Club

An evocative narrative and stark dialogue keeps Uzodinma Iweala’s Speak No Evil from a single dull moment.... His characters’ rawness and beauty overwhelm page by page, looping their two stories into one heartbreaking narrative, one that embodies and echoes the pains of current, broader inequalities.

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.

Library Journal

★ 11/15/2017
In Iweala's long-awaited follow-up to the multi-award-winning Beasts of No Nation, published in 2005 and made into a film released in 2015, a Harvard-bound Nigerian American teenager at a prestigious Washington, DC, school faces escalating issues of splintered identity. Not only is Niru black in a white world and an immigrant in America, but he's facing the realization that he is gay. Best friend Meredith is supportive, but Niru's religious parents explode when they find out; his mother may prevent his father from beating him, but she fully supports the plan to send him back to Nigeria to undergo spiritual cleansing. The trip is torture for Niru not only because his parents refuse to accept him ("What if I don't need help?" he asks them in anguish) but because Nigeria isn't home for him as it is for his father, who serves as heavyhanded escort. Back in America, Niru continues to seethe with doubt and longing as 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. VERDICT Highly recommended. [See Prepub Alert, 9/11/17.]—Barbara Hoffert,Library Journal

School Library Journal

★ 11/01/2018

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

Kirkus Reviews

2018-01-23
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.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780062792068
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date: 03/06/2018
Edition description: Large Print
Pages: 272
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.54(d)
Lexile: 960L (what's this?)

Customer Reviews