Cover Image: We Are All Birds of Uganda

We Are All Birds of Uganda

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Member Reviews

Overwhelmingly people love this book, but it was not for me. I think I read a different book than all the others. It happens. I mainly could not like the main character, liking the main character is generally not important to me, but I felt the author wanted me to like him and I just could not. Also all the side characters never came to life, they were like cutouts in the background. I am happy the book has so much success, but clearly I was missing something that everyone else seemed to get.
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This is a great debut novel and I can see why it has received rave reviews. 
The book switches between present day London where we meet Sameer who is trying to come to terms with his own identity and belonging and then through a series of letters we are transported back to 1960s Uganda . 
For me I loved following Sameer's journey from London to Kampala and I found myself totally immersed in his story. Even though I am well travelled I have never been to this part of the world and I learnt a lot about the culture and life there . The letters part of the book however didn't work so well with me . I found it confusing at first and even though it was a good history lesson I just didn't find it engaging and skimmed over some parts.
The ending is very abrupt but it leaves be hoping for a sequel as I need to know what happens next!
Overall a very well written debut and I look forward to reading more from the author in the future .
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We Are All Birds Of Uganda is a wonderful first novel, I enjoyed it from cover to cover.

Set in present day England and 1960’s Uganda it tells the story of Sameer a young London lawyer and his Grandfather Hassan. Living completely different lives in different times, but both experiencing similar types of racial prejudice because they are not ‘native’ of the country they live in.

Sameer has it all, top London job and exciting overseas promotion ahead of him, however when he gets a new manager who makes his work life no longer enjoyable along with a friend being seriously injured in a racial attack, he begins to question where his life is headed. 

A chance encounter with a family friend from ‘home’ takes him on a trip to Uganda, where he truly discovers the home his grandfather was forced to leave in the 1970’s and where Sameer reassesses his future plans.

Hasan's story is told in love letters to his wife, where he shares his life journey from India, to  Uganda and finally to England as a result of war. 

A well written book which really highlights the true meaning of ‘home’ and ‘belonging’, while also touching on ‘family duty’.

I absolutely loved this story, its characters and also the history lesson on Uganda and how awfully people were treated.
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A wonderfully rich story, telling the tale of Sameer Saeed, a second generation immigrant whose East Asian family came from Uganda, but had to leave in the expulsion in 1972. Sameer's UK family are very close knit, and are saddened by his move to London; he on the other hand wants to spread his wings and see where he lands. His modern day story is woven in with letters from an anonymous letter writer, telling the story of East African Asians and the huge changes they had to accommodate in their position in Ugandan society.
I was a bit confused by the letters to start with, and found them a little less engaging than Sameer's story, but they worked well together and gave a lot of background that helped understand Sameer's parents and extended family.
Thanks to Netgalley and the publishers for the chance to read it
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A beautiful debut.

So refreshing to read of a story based on Asians from East Africa and I'm so grateful, as I got to learn so much. 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. 

A great narrative, I loved Sameer as a character. Sameer is a young man who is not entirely secure in his identity. We also read letters from Sameer's granddad, Hasan, who writes letters to his first wife. I resonated with Sameer's chapters more than Hasan's letters, as at times it felt a little bit more like a lecture than a narrative.  There was also the issue with his racism, which makes for uncomfortable reading. I did like how the letters tied in with Sameer at the end. 

Definitely a good read and would recommend to all those looking to expand their minds.
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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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