Cover Image: We Are All Birds of Uganda

We Are All Birds of Uganda

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Member Reviews

I really wanted to love this one more that I did. I found it too slow-paced, I only started to enjoy the story once Sameer goes to Uganda. I don't think the flashback letters to the 1960s were very effective and I found myself skimming over those chapters. I really enjoyed learning about Uganda and the experiences of those of Indian descent in Uganda and the commentary on being Asain in Britain was also really interesting. But overall it felt more of a chore to get through sadly.
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This was such an enjoyable read. Hafsa Zayyan brings you into a rich family history that spans many decades, interweaving a storyline from the 1960s and 70s in Uganda with a separate, yet parallel storyline from today's Britain. The relationships within the family are complex and unexpected; loyalty and duty clashing with freedom of expression and a deep sense of love. She takes a sharp look at racism in many guises, and shows where some of those deep roots are first sown and how difficult they can be to break. Along the way you fall in love with her characters and their optimism for life. The world she opens up is complicated yet beautiful and I so enjoyed her descriptions of place, of sights and sounds and tastes; it felt truly transportive. Gorgeous.
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Another book where the ending left me frustrated after throwing in an ending for effect. The first 2/3rds of this book are brilliant, thoughtful and clever. We meet our characters, get to know them, sympathise with them, get frustrated with them and then join them for the rest of the journey, and that is where we lost the promise of what this read could have been.

The good: is that this was a read that took me to a new place, with a new perspective and I learnt a lot. I enjoy a dual timeline and I thought the letters were a great way to make the past timeline relative to the current timeline.
It brought so many interesting themes to the table, immigration and racism and career pressures and relationships and culture and the list goes on. In the first half, we began to scratch at these with some really insightful moments.

The not so good: There was enough to end this book with, there was enough to leave it open and on a 'cliff edge' if that was the desire. We left Sameer feeling tremendous guilt and facing an adult relationship not full of compromise and not necessarily 100% happy so it didn't need the cliche ending, yes it reflects earlier moments of the story, but I think again that was rushed and more depth would have been a better alternative to a throwaway ending. I am trying not to spoil it. I feel like I have been negative, this otherwise would have been a glowing review and it doesn't take away from a brilliant debut.

It is a good read, enjoyable, eye-opening and has made me want to read more on Uganda, but I wish the last 3rd had the promise of the first 2/3rds. It's a great debut, and there is so much beauty to this book. This was a Netgalley read for me and I joined a Team Tandem readalong, which enabled me to really stop and think which enhanced my reading experience so a huge thank you to both teams.
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Thank you to NetGalley and Random House UK for providing me with an advanced readers copy of We are All Birds of Uganda in exchange for an honest review.

The writing style and different storytelling methods are wonderfully intricate and make for an incredible reading experience. Between the high-flying, fast-paced modern setting following Sameer and the letters which Zayyan includes from the past, this is a joy to read, despite it tackling many difficult subject matters.

It is a transportive novel which takes on race, friendship, religion and identity and despite its some 400 pages, it is such an immersive book that it feels so much less.
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A great debut from Zayyan. It was great to read of a story based on Asians from East Africa. I'm grateful that this book was a chance to explore this perspective. I'm looking forward to engaging more into their experiences as it is something I haven't really heard about! There are great resources at the back of the book to help you get started if you want to dive into greater depth of Asians from East Africa. Love how this tale has expanded my worldview a bit! 

I enjoyed the storyline. I loved Sameer as a character. Sameer is a young man who is a lawyer but is not entirely secure in his identity. We also read letters from Sameer's granddad, Hasan, who writes letters to his first wife. I enjoyed Sameer's chapters more than Hasan's letters, as at times it felt like the letters were history lessons and I didnt really connect with Hasan. His racism made me feel sooooo uncomfortable which is addressed later in the book but still, very uncomfortable. I did like how the letters tied in with Sameer at the end. Unfortunately, the end left me unsatisfied. I'm kind of sad how it ended and it felt a bit abrupt.

A good read, although it felt long at parts but a nice introduction to the Asian migration to East Africa and the response to it. 

3.5
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Incredibly moving and beautifully written - I cannot believe this is a debut author! The characters were so complex that they really came alive for me and the beautiful writing made me feel really involved with the story.
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A fabulous debut novel. Set between England and Uganda the story is told in the present day by Sameer and by his grandfather in the past. The generations work perfectly alongside each other and is beautifully written by this author. An outstanding piece of writing and hope there is a follow up to this book
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We Are All Birds of Uganda was the first book I read about Uganda and its culture. Also, the whole historic context was new to me. These being said, I enjoyed a lot reading the book, not only through the perspective of the story, but also because of all the knowledge I gained from it. I know, it is a fiction story, but it has strong links to the real turbulent history of Uganda and the phenomenon of twice migration.

The book spans over multiple generations, as the contemporary story of Sameer, the young lawyer, is told in parallel with the story of Sameer’s grandparents. His family is East African Indian, forced to migrate from Uganda to the UK in the 1970s.

An engaging element is that the two stories are narrated using different styles. The narrative blend that involves a switch from one style makes the reading experience more dynamic.

I recommend reading We Are All Birds of Uganda if you are looking for a captivating story that will take you far away, both in time and geography. You will certainly empathize with Sameer and his journey of self-discovery, and you will get a glimpse into the 1970s Uganda by following the journey of his grandfather.
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What a beautiful book ! The book is really well written and compelling. The setting is also extremely well done, it looks and feels authentic without being too much, just a good and sensitive description of places that are not necessarely widely known or viewed as "good" in today's society. I also really enjoyed the  way the author treated faith. It can be a very sensitive subject and the way it was handled here was just with openness and delicacy that elevated the story even more. I truly think i will keep this story in my mind for years to come.
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With rich, evocative prose, a dual timeline flashing from present day to mid-century and a focus on a county’s history I am unfamiliar with, this novel was calling out to me to be read. This is my catnip - I love all of those things. 

We begin the novel in present day London with Sameer, a successful lawyer working at a top firm, recently given the opportunity to open up a new branch in Singapore. This is what he has always wanted. He knows however that his family back in Leister will not be happy, expecting him to to come back and work in the family business. Through a meeting with an intriguing family friend still living in Uganda, Sameer decides to visit the country before he starts his new life in Singapore. 
Sameer’s timeline is also interspersed with letters written by Hasan in 1960’s Uganda. Hasan is writing to his first wife, the love of his life, detailing his current situation and reflecting on his past. Through Hasan’s narrative, we learn about Uganda’s history and the political turmoil it went through at the time. 

I found the discussions in here about displacement and belonging to be deeply moving. Although appearing quite disparate at the beginning, the two narratives slowly uncover their connection and we understand that there are similarities in both Sameer and Hasan’s lives. This brought a depth to the novel for me. 
Zayyan also looks at racism and what this looks like for her characters. We see these people fulfilling different roles in varying times or places, sometimes in privileged positions, sometimes the victims of racism. I thought this worked really well, illustrating the complexities of each characters views of one another. 
I also personally resonated with the themes of generational conflict, the difficulties in trying to please your parents while also trying to live your life for yourself. The addition of cultural conflict only makes this conversation even more multi-faceted and interesting. 

If it sounds like there are a lot of themes at play here then that’s because there is, and at times it felt as if there were too many elements at play competing for space to be explored. Despite that, Zayyan is a promising writer and the narrative really drives the novel so you are not left feeling weighed down by the heavy subject matter. 

The writing is gorgeously vivid and evocative, especially when describing scenes in Uganda. The street markets, sticky heat and tropical rainfall make for a rich and memorable reading experience. Not being overly literary in tone, her prose has a readable quality to it and felt very authentic. 

An exciting debut from an author I will definitely be following to see what comes next.
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I very much enjoyed this novel and have already recommended it to several people. The main themes of identity and belonging are well explored and this is most predominantly shown in the juxtaposition of the two halves of the novel. The first half of the novel feels very stressful and boxed in due to the weight of expectation on the main character, whereas the second half of the novel feels more sprawling and open to possibility. I would liken it to The Wizard of Oz film’s transition from black and white to colour. I really appreciated the dedication the author has shown to understanding the historical context of Uganda and kindly providing resources for the reader’s further personal education should they wish to learn more. This is a very strong debut novel and I am excited to see what the author does next!
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We are all birds of Uganda follows the lives of one Indian family as their descendants experience life, love and death in both Uganda and the UK. The dual narrators of Sameer and Hasan are beautifully crafted to provide insight into their daily struggles and triumphs. The central themes of religion and familial loyalty are deftly addressed within the plot as the protagonists lives are uprooted and reinterpreted as external forces collide with their societies. 

The historical setting of Uganda and the migration of Indian nationals is a topic little explored in literature and makes for interesting reading as Zayyan explores race and racism. The  universal connection of family, whether that be by birth, association, religion or ethnicity provides the beating heart of this book, capturing the reader and transporting them into a foreign but in many ways familiar setting.

I can't wait to read this author's work again.
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Hafsa Zayyan explores identity, the loss of it, the finding of it & everything in between in her debut book, We Are All Birds of Uganda. Second generation Asian immigrant readers may connect to Sameer, who tries to balance being British with being Asian while other readers gain a deeper understanding of the complexities of these two cultures & why they can sometimes appear to clash. 

In 1960s Uganda, Hasan has just suffered the loss of his wife & everything he has worked for is now being threatened by the rise of a new regime.

In present day London, Sameer is struggling with his identity; who he is, who he is going to be & who his parents want him to be.

Hafsa’s execution of the rising of Idi Amin & the displacement that Asian Africans suffered because of him is well covered & shines a light on a part of history that probably isn’t talked about very much. While I was reading, I was constantly racking my brain trying to think of any Indians I know who lived in Uganda so I could find out more from them.

Her exploration of Sameer was the part I connected to the most. He is a flawed character, of course, but when I was reading his arc, so many Asians I know came to mind. His choices, his actions, his reactions are familiar to so many of us & the age-old argument of nature Vs nurture constantly played on my mind. 

I am so grateful that a book like this has come along. Being the child of an immigrant is hard. You’re one person at home & another outside because it can take years of self discovery to find harmony between the two. She writes about this well & leaves so much room for discussion which makes it a great book to read with others.

My biggest take away from this book is just one word; home. Whatever that may mean for us individually, we all find home eventually.
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We Are All Birds of Uganda by Hafsa Zayyan

5 Stars ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

This is my first 5 star read of the year. 

We Are all Birds of Uganda is a powerful novel depicting Uganda's political history,  the impact of colonisation and the expulsion of Uganda Asian population by Ida Amin in the 1970's. 

This novel is written with a duel narrative. First is the experience of Sameer. A young lawyer living in London, successful in his career and yet increasingly unhappy with his circumstances. Second we meet Hasan through a series of letters he writes his late wife. These chapters teach the historical context for the events in the book. Through his letters Hasan describes the political tension in Uganda and the eventual expulsion of his people from the country. Two very different characters whose stories seem apart and her successful merge so seamlessly. 

Zayyan tells this story with insight and sensitivity. The book explores some important themes, particularly that of racism both in London and in Uganda. Her characters reel you in, Sameer in particular bring relatable enough that you are right there in his head through his inter-personal experiences particular with his parents. The prose is vivid creating strong visual imagery. At times I felt like I was right there in Uganda with the characters. 

This is a brilliant debut novel. Thank you to @merkybooks and @netgalley for my ARC.
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I love it when novels are so richly transportive they make me what to physically visit the place depicted in the story. The way in which protagonist Sameer visits Uganda in the later part of “We Are All Birds of Uganda” and experiences the spectacular sights and delicious food makes me want to go there too. That's not to say this book is like a travel brochure because it takes seriously the politically turbulent history, the complex effects of colonialism and the deadly consequences of the 1971 coup that occurred within the country. But Hafsa Zayyan's story also lovingly depicts this landscape whilst dramatically portraying multiple generations of a family forced to reconsider the meaning of home between their lives in Uganda and England. 

The story alternates between high flying lawyer Sameer's life in present-day London and successful businessman Hasan who is still deeply mourning the loss of his first wife though he's remarried in 1960s Uganda. Many novels have used a dual narrative to dynamically tell their stories, but this excellent debut does this in such an artful way that adds tremendous meaning to the story. At first the narratives seem quite disparate but gradually the familial connection is made clear and at one point the two protagonists physically cross over into each other's countries. There's a beautiful symmetry to how this occurs in the narrative. Also, this isn't only a geographical change but it transforms each character's understanding of the world, themselves and the gaps between generations. Something this story captures so meaningfully is generational conflict and the importance of establishing an understanding between the young and old despite having different values.

I admire how Zayyan builds both Sameer and Hasan's stories so they were equally compelling. Sameer's ambition to advance in his career at a law firm means he works ridiculous hours. So he has very little time to keep up with his friends or establish romance. His experience socializing primarily through What'sApp groups is relatable for a lot of young professionals working in London today. Sameer also experiences a multitude of micro-aggressive behaviour from certain colleagues in his workplace because on his skin colour and Muslim faith. I felt fully involved in his personal and professional dilemma as well as the familial one he experiences when travelling back to Leicester where he's expected to join in the family business. Hasan's story is equally moving in the letters he writes to his deceased wife communicating his innermost thoughts and expressing his grief at her loss. His tale grows increasingly alarming as political unrest occurs in Uganda and the new regime shows a horrific intolerance towards the Ugandan Asian population. There's also a compelling mystery at the centre of his story to do with why his wife died.

These two stories combine together to say something much larger about the impact of displacement and racial intolerance. It addresses complex questions regarding the meaning of home and who has the right to establish themselves in a particular nation. Of course, there's no answers to these dilemmas as the characters come to understand that they are part of the much larger machinations of society and political change. It also movingly contemplates the meaning of Muslim faith as it's practiced today. I came to feel a deep affection for the characters and I'm grateful for the new view of the world that their stories gave me. It's also made me want to know more about Uganda's history. My only other fictional encounter with this country is through the novel “Kintu” but I'm very keen to read Makumbi's most recent novel “The First Woman” as well as another new novel coming out soon called “Kololo Hill” which also portrays the devastating effects of General Idi Amin's decree that Ugandan Asians must leave the country. “We Are All Birds of Uganda” was a co-winner of the inaugural Merky Books New Writers' Prize, but I hope it goes on to win many more awards this year.
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TW// racism, prejudice

This novel is written in two timeframes: 1960s and the present day. In the 1960s Hasan is struggling with the recent and sudden death of his life, and maintaining his business. A change in political power gives Hasan faith but sweeping prejudice forced him to leave the country he calls home. In the present day, Sameer is a successful lawyer at a London based company who faces racism from his colleagues. He is given a huge opportunity to move across the world to boost his career but his family want him to take over the family business. When his friend is targeted in a hate crime, Sameer has to make some difficult decisions.

Throughout the story line, Hasan and Sameer’s lives become increasingly interwoven and that adds to the impact of the story. This book delves into racism and micro-aggressions, sexism and gender roles, expectations and pressure from family, and following true love!

I have to say, in the first half of the book I found myself much more invested in Sameer’s story and at times I found the dual timeline frustrating. This did change as the story continued and you became more invested in Hasan’s journey and the severity of the actions taken by the Ugandan government.

The story also covers the expulsion of East African Indians from Uganda and this is a part of history I had never heard about before so it is great to see it covered in fiction work.
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I feel mixed about this book.  On the one hand I learned so much about Uganda, the history and people, and parts of the book were gripping sand beautifully written.  But overall I felt the novel didn’t match up to its parts.  It didn’t come together for me in a satisfying way.  So whilst I would recommend it I wouldn’t necessarily rave about it.
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My first book I have read  which includes Uganda politics, history and culture. The book is enlightening, informative and moderately interesting. The book is set on two timeframes: one present modern day London from Sameer’s perspective and another 1970s Uganda from Sameer’s grandfather’s (Hasan) letters. It was overall a beautiful, captivating read for me where the book took me to a profound journey of love, loss, family, racism, politics, cultures, identity and finding happiness and oneself.

There is no way I can explain or retell the story here but I would recommend it as it’s a beautifully written story. The book is also educational and it has opened my eyes in different ways regarding racism, injustice, inequalities etc. As an Asian immigrant myself, I could relate to Hasan and Sameer in so many ways. Overall, I enjoyed reading both perspectives but I was more interested and curious about Hasan’s story, my heart broke for him.  There were times I was angry at Sameer and just didn’t feel some parts justified. I Anyways, I don’t know if it’s just me or I feel something is missing in the end (I felt like something big would happen but nothing happens really), or perhaps the author has left it that way so the readers feel a bit empty. 

Thankyou Netgalley and the publisher for the e-arc in exchange for my honest review.
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DISCLAIMER : Thank you, Random House UK, Cornerstone and Merky Books for providing me with an ARC of this book. I am leaving this review voluntarily.

We Are All Birds Of Uganda by Hafsa Zayyan is an emotionally resonant story of two different men and how their lives intersect in unexpected ways, changing lives forever. We follow Hasan during 1960's Uganda through his love letters that are to his wife. Hasan talks about his experiences living in Uganda as a successful businessman in Kampala. As a son of Indian immigrants, he talks about the Asian community, their lives, the new anti-immigrant sentiment on the rise, and the growing racial division that endangers their livelihood. In the present day, we follow Sameer, a highly successful lawyer in London. Despite his success, he feels burned out and not having any direction in life. He battles with family expectations and his choices for life. This creates issues in his family and makes him do something unexpected that changes his life forever, changing his reality.

Overall, We Are All Birds Of Uganda is a beautiful story of identity, love, and family that brings both the past and the present to weave a spell-binding experience. It is a poignant and honest story that will touch your heart. If you love historical fiction and literary fiction style stories from a cultural standpoint, I would highly recommend checking this one out. It was a great book and I rated it 4 - 4.5 stars.
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This book is breathtakingly, beautifully written. I was so absorbed in the story of Samir Saeed and where his future lay. I was intrigued by the setting, and found myself going off to research further about Asian Ugandans and the post-colonial history of this country, so piqued was my curiosity!

This book follows two timelines: that of Samir and his grandfather. They have experienced very different things throughout their lifetime and I loved how the past of the grandfather weighed so heavily on the future of Samir. There were so many lessons to be learnt by Samir from his family'spast mistakes, juxtaposed against a modern life in England with all its twists and turns. Samir is both British born and bred, yet still bound by the traditions and expectations of his culture. How can he have the life he wants and yet keep those close to him happy. The latent racism he is exposed to is shockingly sad in this modern day.

Wonderful read - do not miss it!
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