A Girl is A Body of Water (Hardcover)

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Staff Reviews

Thank you for this lovely book, a perfect novel.  I was taken in from the first few pages and by the end, I was soaked by the rains of Ugandan myths, women's friendships, and the intertwined relationships that make up family and community.  It a big book encompassing the history of captivity among tribes, clan lineage passed down through males, the disparity between the rich and the poor, the obligations we have to family.  But it's in the small bits that we find the stories of women's strength and resilience, the friendships that sustain us, the stories of our ancestors that inform our lives in the everyday activities that make us who we are, who we stretch to be, who we carry with us from one generation to the next. Kirabo's grandmother tells her, "Stories are critical, Kirabo," she added thoughtfully, "The minute we fall silent, someone will fill the silence for us."  There are silences in this novel but they expand to tell stories of women's strength and the friendships that sustain them over a lifetime.  it is a book for our current times and is timeless.  It reminds me why I'm a bookseller and a reader. — From Gayle's Picks (page 2)


“Makumbi is such an honest, truthful writer. . . . I loved every single page.” —Tayari Jones, author of An American Marriage

A Best Book of the Year at TIMEThe Washington PostO, the Oprah Magazine; BBC

Winner of the Jhalak Prize

In her thirteenth year, Kirabo confronts a piercing question: who is my mother? Kirabo has been raised by women in the small Ugandan village of Nattetta—her grandmother, her best friend, and her many aunts—but the absence of her mother follows her like a shadow. Seeking answers from Nsuuta, the local witch, Kirabo learns about the woman who birthed her, who she discovers is alive but not ready to meet. Nsuuta also helps Kirabo understand the emergence of a mysterious second self, a headstrong and confusing force inside her—this, says Nsuuta, is a streak of the “first woman”: an independent, original state that has been all but lost to women.

Kirabo’s journey to reconcile these feelings, alongside her desire to reconnect with her mother and to honor her family’s expectations, 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. Jennifer Nansubuga Makumbi’s A Girl is a Body of Water is an unforgettable, sweeping testament to the true and lasting connections between history, tradition, family, friends, and the promise of a different future.

About the Author

Jennifer Nansubuga Makumbi is a recipient of the Windham-Campbell Prize and her first novel, Kintu, won the Kwani? Manuscript Project Prize in 2013 and was longlisted for the Etisalat Prize in 2014. Her story “Let’s Tell This Story Properly” was the global winner of the 2014 Commonwealth Short Story Prize. Jennifer lives in Manchester, UK with her husband and son.

Praise For…

— The New York Times Book Review

— The Washington Post

— O, The Oprah Magazine


— Lily King, author of Writers & Lovers

— Maaza Mengiste, author of The Shadow King

— Viet Thanh Nguyen, author of The Committed

A wonder—as clear, vivid, moving, powerful, and captivatingly unpredictable as water itself.
— Namwali Serpell, author of The Old Drift

A novel bursting with resilience and warmth. . . . Mixing the mythic and the modern, happily ignoring formal neatness to encompass Uganda’s miscellaneousness, it’s an enthralling achievement.
— Sunday Times

At turns rapturous and devastating. . . . Makumbi's writing uplifts and inspires, evoking the grand tradition of folklore and stories passed down, one woman to the next.
— Refinery29

— World Literature Today

Makumbi’s rich language and detailed descriptions are a must-read.
— HelloGiggles

Kirabo's journey of self-discovery is at once inspiring and epic.
— PopSugar

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

With each new work, Makumbi cements her position as a writer of great influence in our time and for future generations.
— Booklist, Starred Review

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

Bewitching. . . . Jennifer Nansubuga Makumbi is a mesmerizing storyteller, slowly pulling readers in with a captivating cast of multifaceted characters and a soupçon of magical realism guaranteed to appeal to fans of Isabel Allende, Julia Alvarez, or Yaa Gyasi’s Homegoing.

— Library Journal

Superb. An intoxicating tale that combines mythic and modern elements to make the headiest of feminist brews.
— Irenosen Okojie, author of Nudibranch

In her characteristically page-turning and engaging style, Makumbi lays bare the complex power dynamics of patriarchy, capitalism and neocolonialism, not through academic jargon but via that most effective tool of education—storytelling. An achingly beautiful tale.
— Sylvia Tamale
Product Details
ISBN: 9781951142049
ISBN-10: 1951142047
Publisher: Tin House Books
Publication Date: September 1st, 2020
Pages: 560
Language: English