WE ARE ALL BIRDS OF UGANDA BY HAFSA ZAYYAN | BOOK REVIEW
TITLE : We Are All Birds Of Uganda
AUTHOR : Hafsa Zayyan
GENRE : Historical Fiction, Literary Fiction, Cultural Fiction, Eastern African Fiction
FR RATING : ⭐⭐⭐⭐(4 – 4.5 Stars)
DATE OF PUBLISHING : 21st January 2021
DISCLAIMER : Thank you, Random House UK, Cornerstone and Merky Books for providing me with an ARC of this book. I am leaving this review voluntarily.
We Are All Birds Of Uganda by Hafsa Zayyan is an emotionally resonant story of two different men and how their lives intersect in unexpected ways, changing lives forever. We follow Hasan during 1960’s Uganda through his love letters that are to his wife. Hasan talks about his experiences living in Uganda as a successful businessman in Kampala. As a son of Indian immigrants, he talks about the Asian community, their lives, the new anti-immigrant sentiment on the rise, and the growing racial division that endangers their livelihood. In the present day, we follow Sameer, a highly successful lawyer in London. Despite his success, he feels burned out and not having any direction in life. He battles with family expectations and his choices for life. This creates issues in his family and makes him do something unexpected that changes his life forever, changing his reality.
The story covers themes like religion, love, loss, and family relationships. It also focuses on telling the story of the expulsion of the East African Indians from Uganda by the dictator General Idi Amin. As the fear and the instability they faced are very prevalent in the storytelling, it also takes us close to their experiences, making us feel what the characters were feeling. Racism, bullying, and the expulsion of ethnic minorities are all exceptionally portrayed through different characters’ perspectives. This gives us a well-rounded understanding of the circumstances and the personal grievances.
I loved how wonderfully paced the story was by taking us through both the character’s journeys, helping us understand the nuances of the culture and lifestyle without rushing through it. It is unapologetically human and honest, and I love that. The story is multi-faceted in many ways and tackles racism exhibited by the privileged in both societies, and the internalized racism in Asian communities. It brings us the perspectives from the victim’s side as well giving the readers a broader understanding of the people and their backgrounds.
I loved the characters, both Hasan and Sameer. They were imperfect and often blind to what was going on around them. Until things hit them, they were optimistic and were surprised by the events that plagued their world. The sudden shift in their world view helps us understand the naivety of their beliefs. Hasan’s thoughts often disgusted me and I could see some of my fellow Indians I knew personally in him. The Indian attitude towards our black brothers and sisters was so relatable, as India has a huge colorism issue. This is something I hope we never have to face in the future. Sameer is too naïve in thinking about racism because he never faced them personally and when he experiences them, he finds himself struggling to acknowledge the reality. I loved how Maryam and Jeremiah provide a different point-of-view to what Sameer has known and lived by, and it helps us understand the situation better. Sameer’s quest for his identity and how hard he tries to figure it comes through his POV. I found his courage to move forward and stand up for what’s right to be admirable.
The writing is honest and sympathetic and moved me in ways, I didn’t even think possible. I felt every struggle, every fear, and every uncertainty the characters’ felt, and I have to give credit to the beautiful and powerfully evocative writing of Hafsa Zayyan. From how she used the letters as a tool to bring forward a historical account to the forefront to the emotionally resonating and subtle narrative of Sameer’s perspective, it was exceptionally executed. I can say with absolute certainty that I love this book, and I love that it shed light on historical events that I wasn’t aware of before reading this book. It makes me happy to see this book and what the author is trying to do to bring authentic and realistic stories that will change our world view for the better.
My only complaint is the ending of the book. I have loved open endings before, and it totally depends on the book and the situation. But in this one, I wasn’t satisfied by it and I would have loved to see something of a conclusion to the one we got. Aside from that, I loved everything this story set out to do and I enjoyed reading it.
Overall, We Are All Birds Of Uganda is a beautiful story of identity, love, and family that brings both the past and the present to weave a spell-binding experience. It is a poignant and honest story that will touch your heart. If you love historical fiction and literary fiction style stories from a cultural standpoint, I would highly recommend checking this one out. It was a great book and I rated it 4 – 4.5 stars.
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Two lives, generations apart, set to collide with life-changing consequences…
Uganda, the late 1960s. Hasan, the son of an Indian immigrant, runs a successful business in Kampala together with his extended family. But Hasan is heartbroken as he struggles to cope with the untimely death of his wife. With anti-immigrant sentiment on the rise, growing racial divides threaten to uproot everything he and his family have worked so hard to build.
London, present day. Sameer is a Cambridge graduate and high-flying lawyer, on track for a life-changing promotion. But, despite his success, Sameer feels lost. The life he’s longed for is only making him miserable. After a tragedy calls him back to the family home in Leicester, Sameer finds himself caught between a future he’s always believed he wanted, and a past he struggles to fit back into.
Moving between two continents over a troubled century, We Are All Birds of Uganda is a multi-layered, moving and immensely resonant novel of generational love, loss and what it means to find home. It is the first work of fiction by Hafsa Zayyan, co-winner of the inaugural #Merky Books New Writers’ Prize, and the most exciting young novelists of today.
Source : Goodreads