(Book Review) ‘We Are All Birds of Uganda’ by Hafsa Zayyan

by Miki
0 comment

Identification of the ‘self’ can be a complex matter, especially if you have been raised in a multi national/cultural setting. We Are All Birds of Uganda by Hafsa Zayyan deals with precisely this matter, and stands as a gripping book about family history, culture and moving between two countries: The UK and Uganda.


The protagonist Sameer works for a law firm and is in the midst of a quarter-life crisis, caught up between a busy career and his relationship with his parents. The traditional values of a parental generation can cause struggles for a young newcomer in the urban city; being independent with a high-flying job in the city feels like *everything*, whereas your parents back in the countryside are ‘remote’ in every sense of the word. When Sameer experiences micro-aggressions at work, it also presents him with a profound dilemma in terms of how difficult it is to discuss and openly accept those incidents. The author managed to capture these kinds of ‘moment’ very vividly, and you can feel the protagonist exceptionally closely at these times as you are presented with the opportunity to think through these incidents as if they were your own problems.


These crisis trigger Sameer to set about exploring his own identity. Visiting Uganda, hoping to gain a deeper understanding of both his family and himself – but finding internal conflicts solved and unsolved – this never-ending thought process made me realise how important and difficult it is to establish who one’s own identity really is.


Running in parallel with Sameer’s story, this book also takes you to Uganda in the 1960s, through his ancestor Hassan’s letters. This historical aspect was something I was definitely not fully aware of, so was intrigued to find out more about it. Atmospheric descriptions of the scenery and cuisine in Uganda really enhanced the book in addition to its central dramatic family saga. I’d love to visit the country myself one day.


The book handles tough, weighty topics such as history, immigration, religion, discrimination and identity with a highly readable, beautiful tone of voice. I was left with the feeling that this was truly a special book and one which I was glad to have got the opportunity to spend time with!


Just a little side-note, but this is a debut novel, and the author wrote this book whilst balancing the writing process with a full time career as a lawyer! Her actual experiences must have very much been reflected in the first half of the book. It’s really great to see such a remarkable work by a rising star from a new, young generation of authors!


Penguin UK

0 comment

Related Articles

Leave a Comment

* By using this form you agree with the storage and handling of your data by this website.

This website uses cookies to improve your experience. We'll assume you're ok with this, but you can opt-out if you wish. Accept Read More