Last year, the weird 2020, I started to consciously look for stories from which I can learn about cultures from Africa. I discovered Ethiopia 🇪🇹 through The Shadow King by Maaza Menginste (my review), Ghana 🇬🇭 by reading Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi (my review) … and I discovered Uganda 🇺🇬 with We Are All Birds of Uganda. Oh, and my travel bug is still very much alive 😀
We Are All Birds of Uganda in a nutshell
The book tells the story of Sameer, a young lawyer living the dream life – he works at a top law firm in London, long hours compensated by big salary, with amazing prospects for the next 2 years. By a certain chain of events, Sameer gets to know better the roots of his family and how his grandparents’ lives were influenced by the political dynamics from Uganda.
The book covers multiple themes, from family conflicts caused by cultural differences to racism, love, and religion. It is also a story about self-discovery and what it means to be caught in the apparently never-ending circle of long nights at work and unhappiness.
We Are All Birds of Uganda was the first book I read about Uganda and its culture. Also, the whole historic context was new to me, I did not even know that Uganda was a British colony … These being said, I enjoyed a lot reading the book, not only through the perspective of the story, but also because of all the knowledge I gained from it. I know, it is a fiction story, but it has strong links to the real turbulent history of Uganda and the phenomenon of twice migration.
As a fun-fact, the writer herself is a lawyer in London who graduated from Cambridge University, just as Sameer. Hafsa Zayyan also comes from an immigrant family – her parents are Nigerian and Pakistani.
Present and past intertwined
The book spans over multiple generations, as the contemporary story of Sameer, the young lawyer, is told in parallel with the story of Sameer’s grandparents. His family is East African Indian, forced to migrate from Uganda to the UK in the 1970s.
An engaging element is that the two stories are narrated using different styles. The narrative blend that involves a switch from one style makes the reading experience more dynamic.
I recommend reading We Are All Birds of Uganda if you are looking for a captivating story that will take you far away, both in time and geography. You will certainly empathize with Sameer and his journey of self-discovery, and you will get a glimpse into the 1970s Uganda by following the journey of his grandfather.
What books have you read that are set in an African country? I’m going to read soon The Girl with the Louding Voice by Abi Daré, set in Nigeria!
‘Till next time … happy reading!
PS: I received a digital copy of this book in January 2020 at my request, via NetGalley, in exchange for an honest review. My review expresses my own thoughts about the story and it is not influenced in any way by the publisher or the author. The book was published on 21th of January 2021.