‘Today Show’s’ Jenna Bush Hager Announces Her February Book Club Pick

It’s that time again! Jenna Bush Hager of the Today Show and Today with Hoda and Jenna just kicked off February with her latest pick for her book club, Read With Jenna. This novel focuses on a courageous 14-year-old girl with extraordinary resilience, making for an inspiring and empowering read.

“Today Show’s” Jenna Bush Hager | Nathan Congleton/NBCU Photo Bank/NBCUniversal via Getty Images via Getty Images

December mission

Hager joined former First Lady Michelle Obama and the Obama Foundation, as well as actress Julia Roberts, in their initiative to motivate girls to stay in school. The group traveled to Vietnam to talk in person with female students on their educational mission.

“There are a lot of girls who aren’t in school, but as many people who won’t take that as an answer, who want to see these girls succeed,” Hager said in October, according to People. “There are these incredible, resilient people that are up for the challenge.”

The project was a passion of the former First Lady which began during her husband’s presidency. “We are gonna shine a light on you and the work that’s going on here … so that there are people around the world, who understand that when you educate a girl, you’ll give them power and a voice and an opportunity to improve their lives and the lives of their families and the lives of their communities,” Obama told a classroom of girls in Southern Vietnam in December, according to Fox40.

Debut novel

Selecting “The Girl With The Louding Voice” by Abi Daré, Hager chose the author’s debut novel for its young heroine. “It’s about this young girl, Adunni, whose voice, from the time she is born, is strong, loud and clear but because of where she is born and the circumstances of her life, she doesn’t yet know how to use it,” Hager said, according to Today.com.

The story finds Adunni still recovering from the death of her mother while living in a small Nigerian village. The teenager is forced into marriage by her father as a monetary exchange, making her unable to complete her education. The novel follows Adunni through many trials she must endure, yet her strong spirit and the memory of her mother’s encouragement to make something of her life keep her determined to overcome unthinkable obstacles.

Hager’s trip to Vietnam inspired her February pick, where she saw the book as a voice advocating for women’s rights around the globe. “Some of the things we take for granted,” Hager said. “She doesn’t get an education, she isn’t allowed to learn. Although it’s the fictional story of one young girl in Nigeria, it really is the story of so many others.”

Author’s inspiration

Debut novelist Daré wrote from her own experience growing up in Lagos, Nigeria, saying that early on she had empathy for the young women working in her home.

“I used to wonder why many of them were not allowed to sit at the dining table with the family or to watch TV and most importantly, to go to school,” Daré said. “I had questions I couldn’t voice.”

Daré’s inspiration for Adunni’s story came from a conversation with her 8-year-old daughter. “I recall asking her, quite politely, to help with off-loading the dishwasher, do some chores in the kitchen and she responded with a series of moans and a barrage of excuses,” the author shared. “I felt quite frustrated because I said to her, ‘Do you know that young girls like you would be working for families like ours in Nigeria?'”

“That night, I read about a 13-year-old girl who had been scalded with boiling hot water by the woman who employed her,” Daré revealed. “I thought to myself, ‘I need to give her a voice, she needs to be human, she needs to be somebody that we can talk about.’ And then from there, I started the journey of writing ‘The Girl With the Louding Voice’.”

With her own background and knowledge of life for young girls across the globe, Daré was able to bring the character of Adunni to life. “It was very strange. It felt like she was sitting in front of me and saying, ‘This is how you should write it.’ I would sort of rewrite it until I felt that act (was) satisfied,” Daré told Today.

Hager was completely moved by the book, hearing the emotion of the main character. “It’s her (Adunni’s) voice,” Hager said. “While reading, there were times when I felt like Adunni was whispering, singing and in parts, crying to me.”

“The Girl With the Louding Voice” hits book stands on February 4.