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Publisher's Summary

"Makumbi’s prose is irresistible and poignant, with remarkable wit, heart and charm - poetic and nuanced, brilliant and sly, openhearted and cunning, balancing discordant truths in wise ruminations. A Girl Is a Body of Water rewards the reader with one of the most outstanding heroines and the incredible honor of journeying by her side." —The New York Times

"A mesmerizing feminist epic." —O, the Oprah Magazine

International award–winning author Jennifer Nansubuga Makumbi’s novel is a sweeping and powerful portrait of a young girl and her family: who they are, what history has taken from them, and - most importantly - how they find their way back to each other.

In her thirteenth year, Kirabo confronts a piercing question that has haunted her childhood: 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. Complicating these feelings of abandonment, as Kirabo comes of age she feels the emergence of a mysterious second self, a headstrong and confusing force inside her at odds with her sweet and obedient nature. 

Seeking answers, Kirabo begins spending afternoons with Nsuuta, the local witch, trading stories and learning not only about this force inside her, but about the woman who birthed her, who she learns is alive but not ready to meet. Nsuuta also explains that Kirabo has a streak of the "first woman" - an independent, original state that has been all but lost to women. 

Kirabo’s journey to reconcile her rebellious origins, 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 unforgettable novel is a sweeping testament to the true and lasting connections between history, tradition, family, friends, and the promise of a different future. 

©2020 Jennifer Nansubuga Makumbi. (P)2020 Brilliance Publishing, Inc., all rights reserved.

Critic Reviews

“A magnificent blend of Ugandan folklore and more modern notions of feminism.... This book is a jewel.” (Kirkus, starred review)

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

“Makumbi writes with the assurance and wry omniscience of an easygoing deity.” (The New York Times)

"Narrator Tovah Ott provides a warm performance of this coming-of-age audiobook about a Ugandan girl's journey to find her mother. Ott's sonorous voice brings rural 1970s Uganda to life. . . . Ott's impressive modulation provides distinct voices for multiple characters, fully immersing listeners in a patriarchal society full of strong women. The many family secrets and explorations of tradition will resonate with listeners." AudioFile Magazine

What listeners say about A Girl Is a Body of Water

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Beautiful

It took me awhile to get into the book, but as it developed I became hooked. The themes of feminism and family were beautiful. The character development and sense of place were lovely.

I would probably have enjoyed the story more if I had read it instead of listening to Audible, but that’s true for many books. In particular, I had trouble connecting some foreign words and names with the meanings, which would have been easier if I could have seen them or been able to read more deeply. Some of the voices were a bit odd, but the narration and main character were easy to listen to and connect with.

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Better if read by an African.

Although Tovah Ott is a good narrator, she was not right for this book. A Girl Is a Body of Water should have been read by a Ugandan or at least someone with an African accent. Because I have been to Uganda many times, I was looking forward to hearing this book on tape instead of reading it. Most of the Ugandan words she mispronounced. It was very disappointing.