(Book Review / 感想) We Are All Birds of Uganda / Hafsa Zayyan

We Are All Birds of Uganda by Hafsa Zayyan is such 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. As a business newcomer and working in the City myself (obviously WFH for nearly a year now though), as well as growing up with my parents – who hold quite traditional values – back in Japan, his struggles felt very familiar to me. The author captured these kinds of ‘moment’ very vividly; those times when 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. In addition to this, the many scenes in the novel portraying microaggressions reminded me of so many similar incidents I’ve observed in the past. These are often things that are unfortunately very difficult to discuss openly in the real-life world of work, so it’s wonderful how accurately this book pointed these moments out.

Likewise, it was wonderful to read Sameer’s exploration of 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!

「We Are All Birds of Uganda」は、イギリスとウガンダを舞台に、家族の歴史について移民、政治、宗教、差別、アイデンティティ等のトピックを交えながら描く物語。
主人公のSameerは忙しい仕事や、家族との関係性に悩む若者、私自身も自分の悩みを重ねながら読みました。また、職場での差別や移民への攻撃に関する描写もとてもリアル。なかなか声をあげることが難しいトピックを、とても自然に入れ込んでいるストーリー展開です。

Sameerの、現代のストーリーとパラレルで展開するのが1960年代ウガンダの物語。Hassanの手紙を通して、当時の政権交代による苦悩を垣間見ることができます。あまり知らなかった国、ウガンダの歴史に触れることで、もっと知りたくなります。美しい景色の描写は、いつかウガンダを旅してみたくうずうずさせられます…

難しい話題が詰まっていながらも、読みやすくて美しい家族の物語。この本に出会えてよかったと思えた1冊です。

[AD – REVIEW COPY] I was provided a PR copy of this book by The Tandem Collective

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