One of our recommended books is A GIrl Is a Body of Water by Jennifer Nansubuga Makumbi

A GIRL IS A BODY OF WATER


International-award-winning author Jennifer Nansubuga Makumbi’s novel is a sweeping and powerful portrait of a young girl and her family: who they are, what history has taken from them, and―most importantly―how they find their way back to each other.

In her twelfth year, Kirabo, a young Ugandan girl, confronts a question that has haunted her childhood: who is my mother? Kirabo has been raised by women in the small village of Nattetta―but the absence of her mother follows her like a shadow. Kirabo also feels the emergence of a mysterious second self, a headstrong and confusing force inside her.

more …

International-award-winning author Jennifer Nansubuga Makumbi’s novel is a sweeping and powerful portrait of a young girl and her family: who they are, what history has taken from them, and―most importantly―how they find their way back to each other.

In her twelfth year, Kirabo, a young Ugandan girl, confronts a question that has haunted her childhood: who is my mother? Kirabo has been raised by women in the small village of Nattetta―but the absence of her mother follows her like a shadow. Kirabo also feels the emergence of a mysterious second self, a headstrong and confusing force inside her.

Seeking answers, she begins spending afternoons with Nsuuta, a local witch, trading stories and learning 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 women.

Kirabo’s journey to reconcile her rebellious origins, alongside her desire to reconnect with her mother and to honor her family, 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.

less …
  • Tin House Books
  • Hardcover
  • September 2020
  • 560 Pages
  • 9781951142049

Buy the Book

$27.95

indies Bookstore indies Bookstore

About Jennifer Nansubuga Makumbi

Jennifer Nansubuga Makumbi is a recipient of the Windham-Campbell Prize and her first novel, Kintu, won the Kwani. Manuscript Project Prize and was longlisted for the Etisalat Prize. Her fiction was the global winner of the 2014 Commonwealth Short Story Prize. Jennifer lives in Manchester, UK with her husband and son.

Praise

“A magnificent blend of Ugandan folklore and more modern notions of feminism. . . . This book is a jewel.” – Kirkus Review, Starred Review

“This beautifully rendered saga is a riveting deconstruction of social perceptions of women’s abilities and roles.” Publishers Weekly

“Jennifer Nansubuga Makumbi takes the classic male quest for identity and turns it spectacularly on its head.” – Lily King, author of Writers & Lovers

Discussion Questions

1. What do the origin stories in A Girl Is a Body of Water tell us about the powers of storytelling or the power given to those who create foundational myths and folklore? Why do you think Jennifer Nansubuga Makumbi reclaims mythology for women in the narrative?

2. Women inform much of the action in the novel; how do they work together (or against each other) throughout the novel?

3. Uganda itself emerges as a character in the book. How did the setting and its history inform your reading of the novel? Did you consult a map at any point? Were you curious to read more about Uganda’s history?

4. What role do family secrets and gossip play in this novel? Are there ways in which village gossip unearths truth, or is it always damaging?

5. Discuss the ways in which Makumbi reveals the differences in social class among her characters. What are the different cultural assumptions Kirabo encounters—the girls she meets at boarding school, the family she lives with in the city with her father, and those of the citizens in the small village of Natteta?

6. How do you think this novel would be different if it was written from Giibwa’s perspective? Are there things she understands that Kirabo doesn’t, and vice-versa?

7. Makumbi dedicates A Girl Is a Body of Water to her grandmothers, and Kirabo has many maternal figures in the novel. How is motherhood and maternal care portrayed in this novel?

8. What was it like to be immersed in Makumbi’s inventive writing style and the way she weaves different languages throughout the prose? What sets A Girl Is a Body of Water apart from other multi-generational family sagas you have read?

9. Describe the various portrayals of marriage in the novel. What are some similarities or differences you see across generations?

10. Kirabo comes of age over the course of the novel, but she’s not the only one who experiences great change. What characters change the most in your opinion?