There was something about the writing of this account of growing up female in 1970s – 80s Uganda that struck me as different but I couldn’t quite place it. And then I read an interview with the author wherein she explained that as an African writer writing in English, you have a choice. Are you writing for an English-speaking audience, for whom explanations may be needed, or are you writing for your people? Makumbi chose the latter, and the book becomes all the much richer because of that choice.
Yes, this is the era of Idi Amin, but that is not Kirabo’s story. Instead we meet her as a young girl on the brink of puberty, and part of an extended family/tribe. How the characters all connect is something to piece together as we go along, as is the chief mystery of her young life, for she does not know who her mother is. She is not lacking for female love and support, however, but still, it would be nice to know. Be that as it may, she is destined to go boarding school, for both she and her family expect much of her.
It was easy to get swept into her world, and there are far worse upbringings to be had. Reader’s note: there is a list of the chief characters on the last page, which is entirely the wrong place to have it. It is a large cast of characters and many similar names/nicknames, and it really would have nice to have come upon it earlier on, AHEM.