Book Review: Manchester Happened

I have a confession to make, I am not exactly sure how to write a review for an anthology but I am going to try because I can’t not do this.

(Cracks fingers and neck) Let’s do this.

Manchester Happened is an anthology of 12 short stories and is an exceptional follow up to the critically acclaimed Kintu, a book that won Jennifer Nansubuga Makumbi the Windham Campbell prize for fiction.

The anthology is in two parts, Departing and Returning. The first half is filled with stories about Ugandans arriving in England with their ears wet and their hearts full of hope. The very first story in the first half of the book, Our Allies the Colonies introduces the reader to the harsh realities of Manchester city and the divide between the haves and have-nots, through the eyes of two sailors from Tanganyika and Uganda.

In the second half of the book, Returning, the characters venture back home to Uganda,   whether for a marriage ceremony, a funeral, a circumcision or for good.

Makumbi’s writing in this book reflects the challenges that Ugandans who leave home for Bulaaya in search for greener pastures, face and the struggle they have in coming back home. I would call the book, unapologetically Ugandan. It is littered with what I can only call Ugandanisms, tics character traits and a peculiar use of language that is unique to Ugandans.

Like Kintu, she doesn’t strive to make the language palatable for other audiences, but that is the magic of Makumbi. She holds your hand and shows you Uganda with all its beauty and imperfections. Her characters are not one-dimensional. They are relatable.

The book is more than just about the immigrant’s dilemma “Ugandans in Britain will tell you The British didn’t give your culture a visa: leave it at home.” At its heart, the book is about family and the powerful human desire we all have to belong. The characters find that they are outsiders in their own country and outsiders in the country they have adopted as home. So, where do they truly belong?

In summation, Jennifer Nansubuga Makumbi told these stories properly. Buy the book. Read the book.

P.S In our very first ‘In Conversation’ Jennifer teased her next book, Kirabo, and I for one can’t wait for it to come out.

Find the link below to see that entire conversation.

In Conversation With Jennifer Makumbi

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