The Girl with the Louding Voice by Abi Daré

An indigo blue cover features paper cutout art of red flowers with dictionary pages folded in and the portrait of a young Black woman in profile, wearing a multi patterned top.

by Holly L.

So good. It’s so good.” This was the recommendation from my discriminating and well-read colleague at Miller Branch. I had already gravitated toward this novel based on the cover art alone. The royal blue background offsets bold canary yellow text: The Girl with the Louding Voice by Abi Daré. The all caps letters hinting at what a “louding voice” might look like when spelled out. The artwork appears to be a collage, with red paper flowers adorned with petals cut from the pages of a book, what appears to be a dictionary. Trace the flowers down to their stems and they seem to be blooming from the silhouette of a young woman. We see little else but her elegant profile, pitch black but for some bursts of fuchsia and crimson highlighting her features and hair, her headband and clothing vivid strips resembling Ankara fabric. Her expression is unreadable. Studying this striking cover, I wondered what exactly this girl had to say.

Ready to listen, I donned my earbuds and became quickly engaged by the sonorous voice of the audiobook’s narrator Adjoa Andoh, a veteran of British stage and screen and narrator of many audiobooks. The prologue, an excerpt from the “The Book of Nigerian Facts,” highlights the persistence of widespread poverty in Nigeria despite being it the richest country in Africa due to being a major crude oil exporter. I continued to listen as the first chapter began and I was confronted with a different voice (though the same reader), that of the main character, Adunni. After her father beckons her to come close, the fourteen year-old reflects:

“I know he want to tell me something bad. I can see it inside his eyes; his eyesballs have the dull of a brown stone that been sitting inside hot sun for too long. He have the same eyes when he was telling me, three years ago, that I must stop my educations. That time, I was the most old of all in my class and all the childrens was always calling me “Aunty.” I tell you true, the day I stop school and the day my mama was dead is the worst day of my life.”

Adunni speaks not in the pidgin English that is common in the author’s native Nigeria, but a broken English borne from Daré’s imagination. I admit that it took me several minutes to get used to this dialect but once I acclimated to Adunni’s voice I found myself enthralled by this tenacious and resilient young woman. Rich in determination but poor by birth and circumstance, she lacks what she most passionately desires—an education. 

When the story begins young Adunni learns that her poor father has sold her into marriage with a prosperous and wretched old taxi driver named Morufu. After a few agonizing months as Morufu’s third wife, Adunni flees after a tragic event. She finds her way to bustling Lagos, where she is placed as a maid for a wealthy business owner named Big Madam, an imposing woman whose laugh, “sound like a rumble, a big rock rolling down a mountain.” While she labors around the clock as a domestic servant to Big Madam and her predatory deadbeat husband, Big Daddy, Adunni looks for opportunity wherever she can find it. With the help of Ms. Tia, a kind and well-connected woman, Adunni’s vision of a path toward independence becomes clearer. She begins to stake a place for her own future while paving a way for other young women and girls from small villages like her own. As her mother insisted before passing away in her forties, “your schooling is your voice.” Adunni took this advice to heart, forever insisting on her right to an education. 

I found so much to admire in the character of Adunni, with her seemingly bottomless reserves of strength and optimism despite the ongoing trials that threaten to break her. This is a young woman whose dream of a better life will not be denied, her “louding voice” lifting not only herself up, but anyone willing to share in her story.

I’m so glad I took the time to listen.  

Holly is an Instructor and Research Specialist at the Miller Branch. She enjoys knitting, preferably with a strong cup of tea and Downton Abbey in the queue. 

Voting Matters

by Emily T.

Election Day is fast approaching! 

Are you one of the 46,120 Howard County voters who have already requested their mail-in ballot?1 Because of the pandemic, all Marylanders have more options for how to vote to make the process safer and easier, but election deadlines are hard and fast. So, choose your path early and make sure you have time for the plan that’s best for you.

To help you plan, we’re introducing our new online HCLS Voter Smarts Guide 2020. It’s a comprehensive, nonpartisan collection of resources tailored to our Howard County community.

Use our guide to take the first critical step – make sure you are registered to vote by October 13.

Next comes the Choose Your Own Adventure part. To vote, you have several options:  

1) Mail in a mail-in ballot.

2) Drop off a mail-in ballot at a county drop box,

3) Vote early in person at any Early Voting Center in your county.

4) Vote in person on Election Day at any Voting Center in your county.

Due to the pandemic, all Maryland voters are encouraged to use mail-in ballots, but they WILL NOT be sent out automatically. Go to our guide (linked above) to request your mail-in ballot by the October 20 deadline. Then, return your signed ballot ASAP, no need to wait for election day. 

If, on the other (sanitized) hand, you choose to vote at an in-person Voting Center, check out our COVID-19 section for the CDC Recommendations for voters. We also have Voting Tips & Accessibility information with FAQ for before, during, and after you vote.  

Beyond logistics, maybe you’re looking for reliable information about all the issues at stake this election. Fortunately, the HCLS Voter Smarts Guide 2020 also connects you to trustworthy fact-checking websites and Informed Voter Resources & Guides with nonpartisan, well researched databases that lay out candidates’ positions and the pros/cons of any issue. 

Some things have to be different for the 2020 election. But one thing is downright fundamental as always – your vote matters. So, get out there – or stay in – and vote! 

Emily is a Children’s Instructor & Research Specialist at HCLS Elkridge Branch. She’ll be making “I Voted” s’mores with her kids to celebrate dropping off her mail-in ballot. 

Libraries Stand Against Racism

Black box with white text that reads, Libraries Stand Against Racism atop red text that reads, Anywhere. Anytime.

My heart aches at the cruel and inhumane acts routinely inflicted upon my Black brothers and sisters and all people of color. Tears stream from my eyes because statements like this continue to be issued in the aftermath of senseless killings like those of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery and Breonna Taylor. I wail as committees are formed to check the box so we can bird watch in public parks and not endure what Christian Cooper endured. My gut wrenches because conversations must held to see that our children have the protections denied Aiyana Jones at seven years of age. My soul is in a state of unrest to see people of all races and ethnicities in harm’s way and being harmed as they peacefully protest in support of respect, equal justice and equal treatment for all. The statements, committees and conversations should and must continue, but we must also move past them, standing against racism and hatred each time it is in our midst, and strategizing and enacting change until America’s promises ring true for all citizens.  

Learning of one another, our shared history, and the peaceful steps we can all take is essential to reaching this goal. In line with its mission of high-quality education for all, Howard County Library System (HCLS) dove into the topics of systemic racism with the Undesign the Redline exhibit and Color of Law author Richard Rothstein event (in person and on our HiJinx podcast), and racial justice with Waking Up White author Debby Irving and educator Lisa Gray. HCLS condemns racism, hatred and violence. Today, HCLS invites you to join us in committing to and engaging in an educational pursuit for justice. 

Public libraries across the country have the responsibility to advance social equity. HCLS stands united with the Urban Libraries Council and the American Library Association in condemning racist incidents and behavior that targets individuals and communities. 

HCLS is one of more than 160 North American public library systems that have shown their strong commitment to ending structural racism by signing ULC’s Statement on Race and Social Equity, which asserts that “libraries can help achieve true and sustained equity through an intentional, systemic and transformative library-community partnership.”  

The American Library Association unequivocally condemns racism and endorses recent statements by the Asian/Pacific American Librarians Association and the Black Caucus of the American Library Association

Desmond Tutu, Archbishop Emeritus of Cape Town and Nobel Peace Laureate once said, “If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor. If an elephant has its foot on the tail of a mouse and you say that you are neutral, the mouse will not appreciate your neutrality.” 

I implore you not to be neutral. The cost for neutrality is simply too high. It’s incalculable. I invite you to take the deep pain felt in our community and use it to fuel positive change. Peacefully learn, grow, share, support and act. Our talented team will continue to add to the list of materials below and on our website curated for all ages in various formats. Read. Watch. Listen. Share. Act.  

Sincerely, 

Tonya Aikens 
President and CEO 
Howard County Library System 

Read 

Anti-racist books 

Anti-racist reading list from Ibram X. Kendi  

Social Justice Books – Young Adult Fiction 

20 Social Justice Books for Young Adults and Middle Grades 

31 Children’s books to support conversations on race, racism and resistance 

Watch 

https://www.kanopy.com/category/29286

Learn 

What White People Can Do for Racial Justice 

HOUSING 

Listen 

Howard County Library System’s HiJinx podcast, Episode 19: Seeing Red, focused on the Undesign the Redline exhibit. This episode featured Richard Rothstein, author of The Color of Law, a forgotten history of how our government segregated America, and Braden Crooks, co-founder and partner of Designing the We which created Undesign the Redline. Tune in here via SoundCloud or listen on iTunes

How Racist Property Laws Formed The Neighborhoods We Live In Today on The Kojo Nnamdi Show. Listen

Watch 

Designing the WE co-founder April De Simone gives a tour of Undesign the Redline in Washington, DC. Watch