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~Read Book ☦ A Girl Is a Body of Water ♷ In her twelfth year, Kirabo, a young Ugandan girl, confronts a piercing question that has haunted her childhood: who is my mother? Kirabo has been raised by women in the small village of Nattetta—her grandmother, her best friend, and her many aunts, but the absence of her mother follows her like a shadow Complicating these feelings of abandonment, as Kirabo comes of age she feels the emergence of a mysterious second self, a headstrong and confusing force inside her at odds with her sweet and obedient natureSeeking answers, Kirabo begins spending afternoons with Nsuuta, a local witch, trading stories and learning not only about this force inside her, but about the woman who birthed her, who she learns is alive but not ready to meet Nsuuta also explains that Kirabo has a streak of the “first woman”—an independent, original state that has been all but lost to womenKirabo’s journey to reconcile her rebellious origins, alongside her desire to reconnect with her mother and to honor her family’s expectations, is rich in the folklore of Uganda and an arresting exploration of what it means to be a modern girl in a world that seems determined to silence women Makumbi’s unforgettable novel is a sweeping testament to the true and lasting connections between history, tradition, family, friends, and the promise of a different future
This edition publishing October 1st 2020*An ecopy of this book was kindly provided to me by the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review* Forreviews and book related chat check out my blogFollow me on TwitterFriend me on Goodreads I read Jennifer Nansubuga Makumbi’s Kintu a while ago with my Read Around the World Bookclub and really liked it The author is from Uganda but now lives in Manchester but both Kintu and her new novel First Woman are set in Uganda First Woman is essentially a coming of age story, but it is also waythan that The story starts in 1975, during Amin’s regime and we follow Kirabou’s journey from teenager into womanhood Amin’s presence and the violence of those years are woven in the background, but the foreground is all about Kirabou: her longing for her birth mother, her sexual awakening, her place in the world As with Kintu, Ugandan myth plays a huge part in this novel and I would say that even though you don’t need any knowledge of it to enjoy the novel, reading up about it would give you a deeper understanding A truly feminist novel with some wonderful women characters and relationships The book was set for a June release and only after reading it, did I realise that it has been pushed to October, I keep forgetting to check the change in dates due to the pandemic. This review is of what may be a prefinaleditedversion of this book provided to me via Net Galley.A Girl is a Body of Water by Jennifer Nansubuga Makumbi is essentially a comingofage story set in Uganda in the 1970s The story begins with Kirabo Nnamiiro, a smart, feisty, twelveyearold girl who consults a blind elderly neighbor, Nsuutalabeled by the village as a witch, to help search for her mother and also to help her to deal with the conflicting emotions wracking her teenage body that make her feel squeezed inside this body as if there is no space The relationship Kirabo develops with Nsuuta is complicated by the contentious relationship between Nsuuta and Kirabo's grandmother, Muka Miiro, an intriguing relationship which becomes the centerpiece of the story at one point The book is simple in structure yet filled with such beautiful detail, colorful depictions, and such complex relationships thatonce you get into it it is impossible to stop reading until you know how where the journey ends It got off to a slow start For example, in the beginning we meet a large chorus of cousins, most of whom do not feature in the rest of the book And in early meetings between Kirabo and Nsuuta, their exchange is so filled with undertones of an unspoken history, readers may find it hard to get immersed in their discussions That said, readers who persevere will be well rewarded As the book continues, we journey with Kirabo through many changes She leaves her rural home where her grandfather, Miiro, commands great respect as a wealthy farmer and moves to the city where she sees her relative wealth in a different light and her dress, which she had thought so pretty, now [feels] drab As the book progresses, Kirabo learns her family secrets, falls in love, goes to a prestigious allgirls boarding school, and endures great emotional pain and betrayal until we leave her at nineteen matured, assertive, and about to embark on a significant new journey Kirabo has a large closeknit extended family, and so A Girl is a Body of Water includes a large cast of characters that is sometimes difficult to follow There were a couple of characters who were drawn in a harshly negative light and given no real opportunity for redemption, but the main cast is truly appealing, realistic, and nuanced and most readers will relate to Kirabo's adventurous spirit, the fun and rebellious aunt Abi, and the gentle interior under Grandmother's sternness, and .In addition to being a coming of age story, A Girl is a Body of Water takes a serious look at a number of issues which were front and center for women in the 1970s and remain so today Women’s rights and the feminist movement (mwenkanonkano) are a central theme as Kirabo questions her place in the world and the contrast between the opportunities afforded to and the expectations placed on her and those available to her male counterparts Nsuuta shows her the power of storytelling to build community but also to change a narrative to suit the storyteller's purpose and often to redefine women's position in the world, making them rootless They discuss ideas such as the way that women are brought up to treat sex as sacred while men treat it as a snack and how since Boys and men were [portrayed as] wolvesit fell on girls not to awaken the animal in men In the early sections of the book when Kirabo is twelve, it seems unrealistic that she truly understands some of these concepts and the discussions come across as Makumbi trying to make a point, however, overall, the ideas are woven tightly into the narrative and do not stand out as being preachy In addition, the book attempts a balanced look at the treatment of women and includes a number of men who make a conscious effort to treat women respectively and as equals, although Kirabo realizes that even these men view some women worthy of respect and others, disposable The book is set during Idi Amin's presidency and as a result, the scourge of unrest, war, and clan rivalry touches the character's lives Makumbi avoids making this a political commentary, only including the impact of the war as much as it disrupts the family's life At the forefront are the relationships among the characters, fierce loyalties, tight friendships, blind love, and betrayal The story also touches on the complexities of inheritance in a country where maintaining land ownership within a family is paramount The story is deeply steeped in Ugandan landscape, culture, lifestyle, and language The narrative and the dialog are both written with nuances of what I assume is Ugandan speech, and this is as it should be While certain turns of phrase or customs may seem unusual to Western readers, this is an added bonus for those readersexposure to something new; a learning opportunity encapsulated in an engaging novel.A Girl is a Body of Water takes an unbiased and unapologetic look at gender, class, religion, and colorrelated challenges of growing up as a young woman in 1970 in Uganda in a way that will resonate with many readers and make us question how much we have really evolved. *Thanks to Tin House Goodreads for an advance copy! Makumbi has done it again What a genius I just finished this novel and while I'm letting its words marinate inside me, I feel inspired and empowered to do something, you know? I want to achieve a goal It's always a joy to see a master storyteller at work and Makumbi is just *chef's kiss* A Girl Is a Body of Water is a beautifully written book that sketches the story of a girl in 1970’s Uganda struggling to discover who she is amid the overbearing clutches of a patriarchal society Early in the book you come to care for Kirabo, our main character, rooting for her as she navigates the myriad influences of time and place Storytelling exerts a powerful influence upon the characters in this book, whether that be for better or for worse Rich in its depiction of Ugandan culture in the 70’s, you become immersed in its wisdom and deceit If the intricacies of cultures beyond the western world interest you, you may enjoy this book Given the vast differences between western and Ugandan culture, this story convincingly shows how much our human needs and desires transcend time and culture. A Girl is a Body of Water by Jennifer Nansubuga Makumbi was billed to me as a story of a young girl from Uganda, her family relationships, and the culture and expectations through which she struggles I struggled with this novel mainly because of difficulty keeping the many characters straight and not being able to engage with Kirabo, the voice of the novel While introducing a huge number of characters does reflect the many influences that Kirabo must maintain and consider and who have a part to play in her development, for me, it became oft putting I received my copy of this through Good Reads Early Reader program While I have enjoyed many novels exploring a differing cultural setting, this particular novel could not reach me. Instagram || Twitter || Facebook |||| PinterestI am such a sucker for epic sagas that follow someone's growth over time, so when I realized that A GIRL IS A BODY OF WATER was such a story revolving around a Ugandan girl's coming of age, I was so excited I don't really think the blurb on the back of the book fully tells you what the book is going to be about, though I was left with the impression that we were going to follow Kirabo around as an older child, but we actually stay with her as she becomes a teenager and then, an adult There's also a section where we getinsight on her grandmother, Muka Miiro, and the village witch, Nsuuta, as well.Kirabo is a child in rural Uganda who has grown up without a mother She's mostly been raised by her grandmother, who is very traditional and correct, and Kirabo's wild, tomboyish ways playing with boys, demanding to be the center of attention, climbing trees, etc are a source of frustration to her, which end up being why Kirabo takes such an interest in Nsuuta She tells her that she feels like there are two of her a good version and a bad version and it's far too easy to let the bad version take control.We see Kirabo with her friend, their eventual falling out, her first love, her life in Catholic boarding school, and then, once she comes home again, how she navigates the mazes of what it means to be a woman in a patriarchal society and also what family means and how many forms it can take Based on this book, it seems that women in this society are largely defined by the role they serve to men They lose their first and last names when they marry, they are expected to play hard to get and be chaste, bonuses are awarded to the family if she abstains until marriage, and girls are only sent to school to become marriageable and drop out and leave their careers for their husbands.I think some people are going to fall into the trap of reading this and feeling superior about their own society's gender norms and expectations, but that would be a foolish mistake to make, because many of these problems continue to plague Western countries as well The only difference is that the biases have becomeinsidious asattention is brought to them Women are still blamed for abuse and cheating, and women are often expected to leave careers for men or continue working while also expected to shoulder the bulk of the housework and child care (often with little or no support from employers) Friendships are still torn apart over boys, and it's often the girls who are blamed for cheating boyfriends and straying husbands instead of the man, who can't help himself.The feminist themes in this book and the strong women were wonderful I loved how the book examined things like privilege, colorism, relationships, and marriage, and I liked that it did all that while providing a fascinating insight into Ugandan culture and history I don't actually know that much about Uganda, so it was really fascinating to read about how it was negatively impacted by colonialism, their war with Tanzania, and how the traditional beliefs mixed with and/or superseded the christian ones that were imposed on them from England Even though the patriarchal rules and expectations are harsh, it was surprisingly refreshing to see how the women still found ways to seize power from within, and how Kirabo, as part of a newer generation, was able to push the boundaries still further because of the efforts of the strong women preceding her.I honestly won't be surprised if this becomes a movie or a miniseries It's the type of book that gets people talking because there aren't a lot of books out there like it, and it's fun to read because it has a fascinating story and great characters The beginning is a little slow, but once Kirabo becomes a teenager, it gets so, so good I'm definitely going to be recommending this one to all my friends!Thanks to the publisher for sending me a copy in exchange for an honest review! 4.5 stars A powerful combination of the archetypal coming of age narrative and culturespecific language and traditions The pacing is exquisite; the characters and their relationships are nuanced and believable Makumbi is a skilled storyteller who celebrates womanhood in all of its stages A fantastic read.Thank you to Tin House Books and NetGalley for N Advance Release Copy in exchange for an honest review.