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review 2017-03-29 23:28
Tropical Fish by Doreen Baingana
Tropical Fish: Tales From Entebbe - Doreen Baingana

This is a collection of eight short stories about the lives of three sisters as girls and young women growing up in Uganda. It's not an "awareness novel" - the stories are about relationships and the characters' inner lives, not "Africa issues," though one does deal with AIDS through a very personal lens. This was the most remarkable story in the collection to me, with more intense emotions than are found in the others. Overall, the writing is adequate, but I did not find this collection particularly noteworthy or memorable.

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review 2015-08-11 15:31
Uganda Be Kidding Me - Chelsea Handler
Uganda Be Kidding Me

The Characters:

Chelsea Handler and a host of friends, family and random people me while traveling.

The Story:

Chelsea is crazy and I mean that in the best way possible. I am unsure how much of these stories are fabrication and how much is truth but I honestly doubt even Chelsea knows. Her alcohol laden tales are a delight to listen to.

I’d love to travel with her one day.

The Random Thoughts:



4 Stars
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review 2014-09-15 03:02
All Our Names by Dinaw Mengestu
All Our Names - Dinaw Mengestu

If I were to sum up this novel in one word, it would be enigmatic. It is a short book, though not a fast read, centering around an unnamed young man from Ethiopia; alternate chapters present his life in Uganda, narrated by himself, and his later experiences in the U.S., narrated by a young social worker named Helen. To confuse matters further, Helen knows him as “Isaac” – an identity he assumed from his best friend in Uganda – so that both threads revolve around the narrator’s relationship with an Isaac, but they aren’t the same person.

 

Confused yet?

 

Surprisingly, I liked the dual narration in this book; though the narrators do sound alike, the American thread doesn’t seem unnecessary or mundane as such threads often do in lesser books. Perhaps this is because for Mengestu, a black man who immigrated to Chicago at the age of two, the story of a white woman in the small-town Midwest is no more a retreat to his comfort zone than the story of young men caught up in an African revolution. Both stories are reflective and closely-observed, both also melancholy and dreamlike: only about 4 people in the Ugandan story have names; Helen lives in the town of Laurel but never tells us which state. The result is a story that, while vivid in the small details and grounded in the reality of human psychology, also feels a bit untethered from specific places and times.

 

This is a story of relationships: in Helen’s chapters, it’s the dynamic of an interracial relationship soon after the civil rights movement, a relationship she enters as much from boredom and a desire to rebel as from simple attraction. In “Isaac’s,” it’s the relationship with the friend he meets while both are pretending to be students in Kampala. While it’s never explicitly sexual, there’s an emotional charge to their bond that goes beyond simple friendship. The book is at its best when it delves into these bonds and the characters’ complex motivations and responses. It’s at its worst when it assumes readers will intuit just as the characters do. For instance, here’s Helen on her mother’s reaction to her boss: “She asked me repeatedly if David was a special friend—a hope abruptly relinquished once she met him.” End of explanation; we never do learn what makes David so ineligible.

 

But while I may not always have understood what the author was getting at, I found this book worthwhile because the writing itself is excellent, and the characters complex and convincing. This would be a very easy book to re-read, and I’d recommend it to those interested in literary fiction.

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review 2014-07-18 22:59
Girl Soldier
Girl Soldier: A Story of Hope for Northern Uganda's Children - Faith J.H. McDonnell,Grace Akallo

from the Publisher's Description: "For several decades a brutal army of rebels has been raiding villages in northern Uganda, kidnapping children and turning them into soldiers or wives of commanders. More than 30,000 children have been abducted over the last twenty years and forced to commit unspeakable crimes. Grace Akallo was one of these. Her story, which is the story of many Ugandan children, recounts her terrifying experience."

 

The book has two authors/narrators, Faith and Grace, who alternate chapters. Faith provides straight-forward, historical background information on Uganda and the country's leading political, religious, and historical figures like Idi Amin and Joseph Kony. Faith's chapters are obviously meticulously researched and help the reader understand the roots of the civil war.

 

Grace, on the other hand, is a former child soldier who takes the reader on a disturbing, frightening journey from the time Grace was kidnapped by the Lord's Resistance Army in the middle of the night, to her harrowing experiences as a child soldier, to her final walk to freedom. Ultimately, it is Grace's faith that sees her through.

 

While I found the alternating chapters off-putting, other people might enjoy the emotional break between the chapters of Grace's harrowing tale. One thing's for certain: Grace Akallo has an important and heart breaking story to tell. 

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review 2014-07-15 00:00
Uganda Be Kidding Me
Uganda Be Kidding Me - Chelsea Handler Chelsea Handler's books are always a light-hearted romp that breaks up the mood after reading heavier, more serious novels. I'm never quite sure what people expect from her books when I scan through the reviews but I appreciate that I hear her voice in her writing which is a nice change from other celebrity 'tell alls'.
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