: Makumbi (J.)

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437pp., hardback, d.w., London, 2020


A novel about a girl growing up in a small Ugandan village as her country is transformed by the dictatorship of Idi Amin.

"The First Woman is captivating, wise, humorous and tender: Makumbi has come back stronger than ever. This is a tale about Kirabo and her family, and her place in the world as she searches for her mother and a true sense of belonging. But most of all, this is a book about the stories that define us, and those we tell to redefine ourselves. A riveting read." Maaza Mengiste, author of The Shadow King

"The First Woman is a wonder, as clear, vivid, moving, powerful, and captivatingly unpredictable as water itself - from the "irate noises" of Nnankya's stream to the "theatrical" rains of Nattetta with which Makumbi's women wash, delight, and sate themselves. With wry wisdom, great humor, and deep complexity, Makumbi has created a feminist coming-of-age classic for the ages ... Being surrounded by Makumbi's women - young and old - as they each struggle in different ways to clarify and achieve mwenkanonkano, feels like love, feels like learning - and best of all it often feels, as she puts it, 'like mischief'!" Namwali Serpell, author of The Old Drift

"Makumbi's prose is irresistible and poignant, with remarkable wit, heart and charm - poetic and nuanced, brilliant and sly, openhearted and cunning, balancing discordant truths in wise ruminations. The First Woman rewards the reader with one of the most outstanding heroines and the incredible honor of journeying by her side.' New York Times

Jennifer Nansubuga Makumbi is a Ugandan novelist and short story writer. Her first novel, Kintu won the Kwani Manuscript Project in 2013. She was awarded the 2014 Commonwealth Short Story Prize for her story "Let's Tell This Story Properly", which featured in her first short story collection, Manchester Happened. She was awarded the Windham-Campbell Prize for Fiction 2018, and lives in Manchester, where she lectures in Creative Writing at Manchester Metropolitan University.