Friday, November 18, 2011

Book Review: World of Our Own and other stories

World of Our Own and other stories is a short story collection born out of the 2nd FEMRITE residency for African women writers that was held in January 2011 in Jinja, Uganda. The residency is open to all African women writers. Participants were from Ghana, South Africa, Nigeria, Tanzania, Kenya, Zambia, and of course Uganda. The 2nd FEMRITE residency was supported by Commonwealth Foundation and Swedish Institute and two of the facilitators were from Sweden.

One might argue that the diverse backgrounds of the writers are responsible for the uniqueness of each story. True as that may be, the different spice in each story is also attributed to the well honed craft displayed by most of the writers. Albeit being universal, the themes explored therein have been written about before, so kudos to the writers for putting fresh embellishments on them to sustain the readers’ interest.

Page from 'World of our Own' showing the title story
They include war and its effects, racism and segregation, love and marriage, power and ambition, culture, tradition, modernization, and politics. One would be ill advised to skip any of the stories, since each has something memorable about it. Even the ones that start out predictable pull up a tramp card unexpectedly.
The title story by Elizabeth Namakula Lenana is an example of this. It is a story about rehabilitating child soldiers, and it shows you what could go right or wrong with such a noble endeavour.  Some would argue that the tragedy of African child soldier is an overly done subject, but this story will tell you that it hasn’t; every child soldier has their own story to tell. And you will agree, as you see the grotesque colours of life through the eyes of Okello and Rocky. 
The Fulani by Nigerian Yaba Badoe is written with the skill of an orator spinning a tale. It is a modern love story with ties of the mystical traditional heritage, and the result is entrancing. ‘As If’ by Hilda Twongyeirwe is a seemingly mundane scene, that explores conflicts as deep as home and international politics. Colleen HiggsChasing Butterflies’ is a memorable snapshot; it captures tidbits of the past and weaves them into the present to create the perfect picture.
Book cover: 'World of Our Own'
Mamle Kabu’sColour Seperation’ is a well written easy read that captures you from the first word and only lets you go until the last. The nameless main character’s narrative is easy, candid, and earnest; it is that quality that makes you turn the pages in Mamle Kabu’s story. ‘Leaving Oxford Street’ by Molara Wood has an interesting twist to racial segregation. ‘Burial Rites for Tisa’ by Mary M.Sililo is a serious sad story that you would not expect to be amusing till you have finished it.
Lillian Tindyebwa’s ‘Endless Distance’ is a story about the affluent and the bitter truth that vice thrives even among rich Kampala suburbia lives. ‘Master Class’ by Kerstin Norbog is about the intrinsic nature of music, teaching, and learning. It was translated into English from Swedish by B. J Epstein.
Undoubtedly, World of Our Own and other stories deserves to be on a reading list. Simple yet not simplistic; it meets the bar of good art. It also gives glaring comparisons of fiction writing in Uganda vis avis fiction writing in other African countries. If this is what some of the African women writers have to offer, it makes one wonder what else is out there.       

By Lillian A. Aujo

No comments:

Post a Comment