The ancients claimed women could not share land wealth. "They claimed that the very first woman rose out of the sea while the first man emerged from earth...both women and the sea were baffling...water has no shape...is inconsistent...cannot be tamed...you cannot draw borders on the ocean...land belonged with men".
Nattetta, Uganda, a rural patriarchal village in the 1970's. Grandfather (Miiro) was a member of the school board, his mantra, "A girl uneducated is an oppressed wife in the making". Grandmother (Alikisa), in a careful, loving way, encouraged all girls whose lives she touched, to finish their studies.
At six months of age, Kirabo Nnamiiro was given to Miiro and Alikisa to raise. Their son Tom was Kirabo's father. Motherless Kirabo, now 12, wanted to find the mother who abandoned her. She secretly consulted with the town witch, Nsuuta. Deep, dark secrets! Why were Grandmother and Nsuuta, once close friends, now arch enemies Why did Grandmother birth Tom only to give him to Nsuuta to raise "Traditionally, wives share children. You could not leave your co-wife to live a childless life while you hoard all your progeny to yourself". It was well advised for Tom to take Kirabo to the city with him.
Upon arriving in Kampala, Tom told his wife, "That is Kirabo. This is her home". Turbulent, confusing times for Kirabo...soon off to an elite private school. If Kirabo were home, the entire village would have given her a send-off. "Let your ancestors' blessings walk with you...". Kirabo just put her suitcase in the boot of Tom's car.
Ultimately, "A Girl Is a Body of Water" by Jennifer Nansubuga Makumbi is a literary novel describing the roadblocks encountered by women in a patriarchal society. Men are the landowners. A wife can leave a marriage, the children must stay with their extended paternal family. Marriage itself Young girls, if beautiful, marry early. Education keeps a girl off the marriage market thus offering her fewer choices finding a suitable husband. Issues could arise over a "ringed" wife and a husband's true love. Children, therefore, can have a "senior mother" and a "younger mother". Kirabo's thoughts, "[Grandfather's] biggest wealth was his children, and their education of course, he had land and land...". One of this reader's favorite scenes was a joyfully liberating torrential rainstorm! Highly recommended!
Thank you Tin House Books, Book Browse and author Jennifer Nansubuga Makumbi for the ARC in exchange for an honest review.