Cover Image: We Are All Birds of Uganda

We Are All Birds of Uganda

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Member Reviews

A Family saga that has overlapping themes of racism, bullying, and displacement- set in Uganda. Narrated in shifting timelines, this book brings out the life in that era beautifully. The prose is succulent and the pages turn faster with each chapter.

The displacement of East Africa Indians from Uganda is an event of historical significance and here is a book that does justice to it.
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Sameer is a lawyer of South Asian descent living in London, whilst his family lives in Leicester. He accepts an opportunity to go to Singapore, then begins to have doubts. This is partly due to a racist work colleague, and also to a racially motivated assault that leaves a childhood friend in hospital.

We also meet Sameer's grandfather, Hasan, through a series of letters written to his first wife. Hasan was forced to leave Uganda in the early 1970s after the coup by Idi Amin. Sameer makes his own journey to Uganda, and whilst there, meets Maryam, a doctor. He falls in love with the country and with her.

I found this a satisfying read, although the ending came abruptly and in a place that suggests the author has more to tell. The themes - of belonging, friendship, identity, family loyalty, loss, religion, and culture - are skilfully interwoven by Hafsa Zayyan into a narrative that kept me engaged throughout.

Sameer's internal struggle with his sense of identity, the demands on him from his parents and employers, and the new freedom he finds in Uganda, all make sense. He moves from a lack of awareness and insularity to self-discovery and a sense of fulfilment. 

The book does not shy away from the difficult narrative of displacement and racism, and the way inherent distrust between two cultures is handed down from one generation to another. The fractures that occur between parents and children and how past impacts on present also feature strongly.

I was sent an advance review copy of this book by Random House UK, Cornerstone, in return for an honest appraisal.
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I didn't get warm with this one. The premise sounded extremely interesting, but I found the execution didn't do anything for me. The details of Sameers present day life I found rather banal and tedious. And I found - unfortunately - just as little acces to the part of the family history in Uganda. The time and circumstances are certainly an extremely interesting topic, but I felt underwhelmed over all.
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I received an ARC of this novel in exchange for an honest review. Thank you to NetGalley, Random House, and the author Hafsa Zayyan. 
I really enjoyed this novel and learning more about life in Uganda, particularly for Ugandan Asians. The story was beautifully and vividly written, covering many important topics from different perspectives.
The only thing stopping me from giving me this 5 stars is that I found Sameer to be quite an unlikeable character, and I found the ending very sudden and predictable, leaving a loose ends. 
Either way, would still highly recommend! 4 stars.
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To be honest, I did'nt finish this book. It's well written, the story is interesting, it's just, that at the moment I'm not feeling up to family drama... That's why I can't really review it. So, the rating is based on my view on the writing style, the storybuilding and the characterbuilding.
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Thanks to the publishers and NetGalley for the ARe-copy in exchange for this honest review.
This is a thought-provoking story following an Asian-Ugandan family now living in Britain following their exile in the 1970s. I warmed to the characters and engaged with both the present day and historical timelines of the book. The family dynamics were well portrayed and the relationships very vivid in the struggles they faced. The heartbreaking events that tore the family in Uganda apart were moving and I appreciated the way the generational experiences played out within the family.
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Alternating between Sameer's present day life in London and Hassan's letters to his late wife in 1960s Kampala, We Are All Birds Of Uganda tells the story of two generations of the same family, crossing multiple decades and continents. Despite the many differences to their lives, Hassan and Sameer both face massive upheaval, racial prejudices and the committment of family and religion. 

The writing is absolutely beautiful, with a richly transportative text. The scenes in Uganda, both past and present, feel so vivid that you almost feel like you're in the scene with them. Zayyan cleverly conveys the love both men have for the country, whilst not glossing over the tumultuous history of British colonisation, the impact that still has on present day Uganda and the difficult relationship between Asian and black Ugandans. 

I found I wasn't as invested in Hassan's story until Sameer went to Uganda and their story begins to intertwine, at which point I found I couldn't put it down. The unexpected love interest was a delight and gave the story a beautiful and satisfying arc. 

We Are All Birds Of Uganda is one of the best debut novels I've ever had the pleasure of reading. Zayyan has expertly sewn together a dual timeline, not only telling a beautiful story but throwing in fascinating history about Islam, Uganda, British colonisation and the rise of Idi Amin. I would urge everyone to pick it up. 

A massive thank you to @netgalley and the publishers for this copy in exchange for me honest review
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A highly recommended and interesting read that held me from start to finish. I became very invested in following the story of Sameer, a high flying lawyer based in London, who also visits Uganda to explore his roots. We also follow Sameer’s grandfather, Hasan, and his story in Uganda through his letters. 
Many themes are well covered, from Uganda’s history and culture to racism, family, religion and romance. 
I thought that I knew where this story was heading, but it had a very unexpected and thought provoking ending. What a super debut novel, I hope there will be a sequel. 
I rated this 4.5 stars.
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Thanks to Merky Books for the ARC.

I loved this debut by Zayyan.- it was brilliant to see a book set in the UK outside of London first of all (well, half of it). She covers a range of themes in the novel and the characters are real and convincing. Most of all she tries to address the question of 'what does home mean?' and where on truly belongs.

Some of it was clunky - for example the letters device as historical exposition - but overall a good read.
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Someone said "We Are All Birds of Uganda is a marriage between history and the present day; a reconciliation of old and new-found identities; an amalgamation of the strengths and struggles of the Ugandan-Asian diaspora, seeping through generations" and I totally agree with this. It is quite evocative and one is transported to the world of Uganda which reader enjoys while getting to know the lives of Sameer, a high end lawyer and Hassan who has lost his first wife and lives in Uganda. Story mainly focuses on racism, post war and colonialism effects. 
A fresh voice in literary world, I look fwd to read more books from Hafza Zayyan
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Historical fiction really is the best, type of fiction, isn't it?

I love how this novel travels from the past to the present. A lot of books somehow never get it right in these transitions, but I love how in this novel, it felt like I was reading one book.

I also really liked the character development. I'm a sucker for good character work and this book delivers.
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It took me a while to get into this story of a high flying London Muslim lawyer who gets the chance he has wanted to move to Singapore with his job.  But before he goes his best mate is severely injured in a racist attack, his family despair that he is failing as a son and heir and he is confused as to his family's history.  He visits Uganda where his grandfather moved from during Amin's reign to try to understand his past but surprisingly where he also finds his future.
The book covers the Indian diaspora following the British first to Uganda for opportunity and then to Britain after Amin kicked them out.  It also covers modern day racism to once again prove that racism (or is it tribalism) continues to cause hurt.
For the main this book was interesting but I did not like the ending.
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Heart-wrenchingly, beautiful debut novel

I really - really - loved this debut novel of Hafsa Zayyan: We Are All Birds of Uganda. The story, alternately told by a young lawyer in the UK and his grandfather in Uganda, is an excellent example of how different perspectives on important matters can be used to offer a nuanced image , in this case on racism, identity and belonging amongst other.
The contrast between Sameer, a young lawyer who struggles with his preference of living his own life in modern day London in stead of choosing for the family trade in Leicester, and the historical narrative of his grandfather is very well written by Zayyan. 

Thank you to Merky Books and NetGalley for the ARC
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Synopsis: 1960s UGANDA. Hasan struggles to keep his family business afloat following the sudden death of his wife. As he begins to put his shattered life back together piece by piece, a new regime seizes power, and a wave of rising prejudice threatens to sweep away everything he has built.
Present-day LONDON. Sameer, a young high-flying lawyer, senses an emptiness in what he thought was the life of his dreams. Called back to his family home by an unexpected tragedy, Sameer begins to find the missing pieces of himself not in his future plans, but in a heritage he never knew.
Moving between two continents over a troubled century, We Are All Birds of Uganda is an immensely resonant novel that explores racial tensions, generational divides and what it means to belong. 

Review: This book is character driven mostly, as opposed to plot driven. I do personally prefer plot driven books, but I won’t limit myself only to reading them. For a character driven book I enjoyed it more than I thought I would, however it did lack an element that kept me hooked to it and wanting to binge read (although that does not denote from the overall rating of the book). I learnt so much from this story, about Indian traditions, prayer, Ugandan traditions, racism, love, and the history of the eradication of Asians from Uganda in the 1970’s. I love this book for what it has taught me, and for allowing me to grow alongside the main character. It also triggered me to start conversations with some of my African friends about their knowledge of the history of Uganda (and boy, is there a lot more to learn! I’ve been told the president that expelled Asians from Uganda was a cannibal and ate his wives!!!). But I digress, for those who love a slow but intense read and a story of self-discovery with an element of family history, I highly recommend this. 
The poignant, beautiful writing of this story will have you thinking about its contents long after you have put the book down. 

My sincerest thanks to @haffy_22, @netgalley and @randomhouse for a copy of this book in exchange for my review.

3/5 stars ⭐️⭐️⭐️

#plantsofinstagram #bookreview #bookstagram #igreads
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This was a very thought provoking book that I loved. 
Coming from an Indian Diaspora family where parents & grandparents were expelled from Uganda by Idi Amin, this story was very close to home. It helped me better understand what happened and while giving me an insight into the Ugandan life that family members had experienced while being there. It also made very vivid the challenges faced by those who moved to the UK as part of the expulsion and how that generation and all it experienced affects their relationships with their children. 
A must-read!
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𝘞𝘦 𝘈𝘳𝘦 𝘈𝘭𝘭 𝘉𝘪𝘳𝘥𝘴 𝘰𝘧 𝘜𝘨𝘢𝘯𝘥𝘢 𝘣𝘺 𝘏𝘢𝘧𝘴𝘢 𝘡𝘢𝘺𝘺𝘢𝘯 
“You can’t stop birds from flying, can you, Sameer? They go where they will…”
The debut novel by Hafsa Zayyan, is one I would recommend, it was an unexpected gem of a read! 
A multigenerational family of south Asian, Ugandan heritage and the migrant experience. It was so interesting to read this experience!
Two POVs, two timelines, we have present-day in London and back in the day in Uganda. 
One of Hasan and his experience under the leadership of Idi Amin. The other of Sameer a young lawyer looking forward to the next step in his career. 
This was an insightful read for me, to read about the expulsion faced by Asians from Uganda once they got independence and the effect and impacts it had in their lives. 
Sameer feels like something is missing, he goes looking for it in Uganda. This book grew on me; I enjoyed everyone else more than the main character. I found him annoying at times but even I have to admit, that I could relate to him and understood his need for searching. Sameer's journey of discovery will resonate with so many readers, so many children of immigrants will see themselves in Sameer in some way. 
So what I thought was him being selfish, was probably him just being confused and trying to find himself in the best way he knew how. 
This was such an easy educational read, another book about “home” and what it means to find home. It covers loss, love, family, tradition and culture.
The exploration of religion, family history and culture was written and handled with so much care it felt so genuine
Honestly this novel is written so well; each chapter had such a beautiful tone, emotion and depth. 
Thanks to NetGalley for the #ARC. I enjoyed it so much I had to get a physical copy! 
Home is where you make it.
History lovers, would really appreciate this one! 
Covers important themes: racism, politics, class, colonization, history, immigration, culture, discrimination, love, religion, outdated views and so much more. 
“In a way I suppose we are birds of Uganda..”
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A really interesting premise for a book. Two narratives, jumping between contemporary Sameer and 60s -70s letters of Hasan.
Zayyan excels in creating a growing ominous sense of danger and discomfort for Sameer - microaggressions in his life escalate to full out racism, he is torn between duties to his family and their expectations and his own desires - it all feels very real and relatable. Hasan's life is equally interesting, navigating death, disappointment and panic.
I think for me personally, the writing didn't hold up to the interesting backgrounds of the characters. Hasan's letters feel contrived -he writes information his wife would already know and the language overall feels stilted and cumbersome. It wasn't written in a style or way that I enjoy and I do think that made it harder to get through the book. I ended up not picking up the book for weeks because I wasn't enjoying it that much.
I think there's lots here that's good and other readers seem to have no problem with the writing style. It's just that for me, I would have preferred writing that was more controlled, lyrical, flowing. I think Zayyan may have traded off strong prose for accessibility.
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I  thoroughly enjoyed this 2021 release. Never has a book taught me so much and made me want to learn more and visit a place as much as this one has. The central theme of this book is racism, but it also considers faith, culture, family expectations, displacement and love. I learnt a lot from reading this book, specifically around the history of African Asian Muslims and their expulsion from Uganda under Idi Amin's rule in 1972.

The content of this story was really interesting, allowing me to explore cultures and experiences that I know very little about, whilst feeling their plight. This book is told from two perspectives (Sameer in modern-day UK and Hasan in 1960s Uganda) and I felt that the contrasting tones and perspectives between the two were amazing.

The writing is beautiful and so descriptive, with descriptions like "The air is charged with a nervous kind of excitement, seasons on the brinks of change, unsure whether they are coming or going, whether it is summer or spring." and I can completely imagine the locations (like  Kampala Uganda and Murchison Falls) on the basis of the descriptions. There are so many quotes that I had highlighted as the author's turn of phrase was stunning: "That is our capacity as humans, to forget, so that we do not stop ourselves from living in the present. That is our gift.".

My one criticism of this is that I found the first 30% to 40% quite slow-moving in storyline and development. It is a matter of personal opinion, but I would say the slow burn at the beginning is a bit of a risk because I kept feeling as though I didn't want to read it because nothing was happening. Having said this, although I found the start slow, just before midway through the storyline picked up and suddenly I was hooked. 

I would recommend this book to anyone looking for an escape that has a serious story. Get your hands on this book as soon as you can! "In a way, I suppose, we are all birds of Uganda."

Thanks to NetGalley and the publishers for this eARC of We Are All Birds of Uganda, in exchange for an honest review!
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This was a wonderful read. I thoroughly enjoyed the story, by the time I finished the book I had an invested interest in Sameer the protagonist. I have been left with a desire to catch up with him in the future and sneak a look into what life looks like for him and his family. How things have panned out for him.

With the book split into three parts with a duel timeline 1960's Uganda against present time this aspect I fully appreciated as it came into parts two and three of the book. I found the start of the book was a little bit of a drag for me that said the pay off came later for sure. 

I particularly enjoyed the descriptions of Kampala Uganda, and Murchison Falls it was vivid and accurate for someone who has visited and will be an equally rewarding reading experience for those who have not. Fortunately I have visited Uganda, it took me right back and the words came to life in blustering colour and beauty through my own memories and is one of the reasons I was keen to read this book.

The central theme of this book is racism, it also explores faith and culture. I learnt a lot by reading this book. The history surrounding African Asian Musilms and their expulsion from Uganda under the leadership of Idi Amin's rule back in 1972.  Storytelling this history was presented to the reader through Sameer's grandfather Hassan's love letters to his first wife. It was heavy to read but the parallels Sameer experiences in present day added to the tapestry of the overall story.
I would recommend this book and have already done so. I am thrilled for the author Hafsa Zayyan on winning the prize and look forward to seeing what she writes next. It is a cracking debut.

Thank you Netgalley and #Merky Books for this advanced reader copy in return for my honest review.
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Sameer is an extremely hard-working commercial lawyer from Leicester, living and working in London. He has money, a nice flat in Clerkenwell, and enough good friends to fill the hours outside the office. 

Everything changes when one of his oldest friends, Rahool, decides to move back to Leicester and work in the family firm. His other close friend, Jeremiah, also has a new job and though it looks as if Sameer’s career is going well – he has after all been offered a job setting up a new office in Singapore, which would be a huge promotion – he can’t quite bring himself to tell his family, partly because they’ll be disappointed he too isn’t returning home to the family business, but partly because the departure involves an acknowledgement of the racism he faces from some of his colleagues that up to this point he has decided to overlook.

Things are pushed to an even greater level of tension when Rahool is beaten into a coma in a racially motivated attack, only weeks after returning to Leicester. Sameer and Rahool are second generation immigrants whose parents were forced to leave Uganda when Idi Amin expelled all the Asians. They have no memory of Uganda, but they live with the pressure of their parents entrepreneurial success, success hard-earned from their status as refugees with little money or connection to their names. 

Interspersed with this contemporary narrative are a series of letters from Sameer’s grandfather, Hasan, written to his first wife after she passed away. These letters form an account of his life in Uganda as the regime changes and what happened after he and his family were forced to leave and eventually take refuge in England.

I don’t want to say more about the plot, because that would spoil the book, but both narratives explore religion, racism and love. They look at what it means to have and share beliefs across the boundaries of race, nationality and religion in friendship and in desire.

It took me some time to get into the letters, initially they felt a little contrived, constructed to carry the history of Sameer’s family. I was more taken with Sameer’s contemporary account, but over time I was drawn into the events of Hasan’s life and there are passages of remembered dialogue and a few unexpected twists that keep the account from feeling too expositional.

We Are All Birds of Uganda explores the wider fall out of empire in intriguing ways, asking us to look again at national identity and race. I’ve no doubt it will be a novel much talked about in 2021. I think more than anything I admire the ending. I’m not going to spoil it, but let’s just say I like books that leave you wondering what will happen next. Out now, it’s a very impressive debut, sure to appear on some prize lists this year.
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