The Ugandan-born writer, whose new book deals with her country’s origin stories, on feminism and the importance of home
Jennifer Nansubuga Makumbi was born in Kampala, Uganda, in 1967, and now lives in Manchester. Her first novel, Kintu, was longlisted for the Etisalat prize in 2014 and she won the Commonwealth Short Story prize in the same year. Her first short story collection, Manchester Happened, was published in 2019. She was awarded the prestigious Windham-Campbell prize for fiction in 2018. Her new book, The First Woman, is a powerful feminist rendition of Ugandan origin tales, charting the young girl Kirabo’s journey to find her place in the world.
“How does it feel to have a mother?” is one of the questions at the core of the book.I didn’t meet my mother until I was perhaps 10 and used to have to think about that question. As a child, I lived with my dad, but he was brutalised during Idi Amin’s regime and lost his mind, so I went to live with my aunt aged about 10. I wanted to explore the idea that if you don’t have a mother you create the idea of one yourself and turn her into a perfect goddess. When Kirabo meets her mother, she mourns the loss of the mother she had created. Those kind of losses I wanted to deal with.
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