Cover Image: We Are All Birds of Uganda

We Are All Birds of Uganda

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Member Reviews

Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for this ARC.

As soon as I saw the blurb for this book I knew I had to read it. My aunt's family was part of the Asian expulsion from Uganda - it's not a topic that's ever really talked about but I've become more curious over the years and this seemed like the perfect opportunity to learn more. I liked that the historical part is set against a contemporary storyline to help explore the trauma that still remains for Ugandan Asians. 

Sameer seems to represent a lot of second-generation British immigrants in wondering how he fits in and where his true place lies in society. I also thought the discussion of racism was well done, and Zayyan sensitively explores the fact that racism can come from many angles. I learnt a lot from this book and I hope it gets the wide readership it deserves.
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Within 'We Are All Bird of Uganda,' Hafsa Zayyan explores ideas around family, tradition, identity, individualism/collectivism, religion and colonialism.  Zayyan does this using two different, but interwoven narratives. Sameer is a young lawyer, pursuing his career in the present day. Hasan, due to his background is forced to leave Uganda in the 1970s, as a result of Amin's regime.

Zayyan writes very well and intelligently, creating characters that are compelling. However, I didn't find this book got under my skin or made me want to keep turning the pages. It explores the different themes very well, but it remained slightly too academic for me. I can see this book appearing on syllabus's though and it certainly is educational.
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Thank you to Netgalley and the publisher for a copy in exchange for an honest review. What a wonderful book. This is a book that stays with you long after you turn the final page and that is the mark of something special..  It makes you think and question history from a period many of us know little about. 
The story is told in two perspectives, the past and the present which interweave at the end. It explores love, relationships, culture and race in a complex and beautiful way.

Very highly recommended.
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In "We are all birds of Uganda", Hafasa Zayyan explores the themes of identity, racism, religion, family, belonging, and history (and more, but these are the core ones).

Through two points of view, one of young Sameer, living in London and hoping to get a promotion in the law firm where he works and move to Singapore, and one of Hasan, who lives in Uganda and writes letters to his late wife, Zayyan has developed a story that I will keep with me for a long time. I learned so much about the history of Uganda with this book (and a deep dive into Google afterwards). It's described as such a beautiful country with complex relationships with race.

I don't typically give 5-star ratings, but I think this book really deserves it for the way the author embeds the two points of view, for the history lesson that you don't even realise you're receiving, and for the well-developed characters, in addition to superb writing. I think everyone would like this book (except for racist people, probably).

Many thanks to NetGalley and Random House UK for this ARC in exchange for an honest opinion.
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I was lucky to receive this book in exchange for a review and I am SO happy I got to read it.

"1960s UGANDA. Hasan is struggling to run his family business following the sudden death of his wife. Just as he begins to see a way forward, 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 past he never knew."

This book opened my eyes to a part of history that I had a vague idea about but didn’t know the exact extent or implications of the racial tensions. It really is a book about identity and how far your identity, particularly in certain cultures, is influenced not only by how you are seen or treated in society but the expectations of your family as a result of their struggles. 

I enjoyed how Zayyan explored the different generations of Hasan and Sameer and how they intertwined at points to show what has changed over time and what hasn’t. 

Each character was written so beautifully regardless of how significant they were and that had a massive effect on the story being told. The language and imagery were impeccable and so thought-provoking. 

That this is Zayyan’s debut novel makes me excited to see what she will write next and I will definitely be coming back to this book in the future.
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We Are All Bird of Uganda. 

An incredible dual-timeline novel which explores race, religion, culture and the complex relationship within generations of families. 

We follow the young and successful Sameer in present day London - Sameer is offered a once in a lifetime opportunity to go to Singapore with his firm, much to the disappointment of his family who had hoped he would continue the family legacy and return to Leicester to work for the family business. However a spontaneous trip to Uganda changes everything, Sameer is awakened to what his life could be like and ends up falling in love... Throughout the novel are old letters from Hasan to his deceased first wife Amira, these are heartbreaking and difficult to read in places. When Sameer is given these letters, the discovery of their contents is not what he expected.

When I reached the end of this novel I desperately wanted to know more! Zayaan's writing has encouraged me to learn more about the history of Uganda, a country I knew little about, and I appreciate that they have included further reading titles at the end of the book. 

This book is my first read of 2021 and has set the bar for my further reads, I look forward to seeing further work from Hafsa Zayyan in the future. 

Thank you to Cornerstone, Random House UK for the advance e-copy via NetGalley.
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This was the final book I read in 2020, and ended up as one of my favourites. The story is beautiful and compelling, with two strands, coming together so wonderfully towards the end. The characterisation is brilliant and Uganda is brought to life so vividly. 

This kind of novel sums up why I love fiction so much. It's the perfect example of how a novel can educate and inform, without compromising the story/plot (and without having to read a straight-forward history book!). I knew very little about Adi Amin and Uganda in the 1970s, and more specifically the treatment of the Asian Ugandans. Zayyan's novel taught me so much, and has inspired me to continue to read up on this area of history. 

I can't fault this novel, and cannot wait to see what Zayyan goes on to write next. An incredible debut – I'm telling everyone about this book!
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At the beginning I really didn’t like sameer story but I was more interested in the story of Uganda through the eyes of family ( I was not sure how they related to sameer), but after couple of chapters I actually was invested in sameer and wanted to see what will he do. Sameer remind me of friends and family members of second and third generation that tried to integrate and flourish but all the times they were reminded of their place by the media or schools and University. They didn’t understand were they belong and had a lot of struggle to adjust. I understood sameer anger and frustration and for that I admire the writer as you can see she understands what she is writing.

I understand why I didn’t like the book at the beginning, I am used to reading historical fiction which at the beginning you are sympathetic to the main character. Someone that in difficult time in history and trying to survive but this was different, I didn’t like sameer as I felt he is entitled but this was not about this . This book was about a character growth and trying to understand his past to decide his future. I really liked how the writer show attitude of our parents doesn’t need to define us.
Also I loved Uganda, and love to visit. Great to read about other countries and experience of other people. Lovely book.

I hope we read more books from this writer , the only negative is I really like an ending .
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An exceptional debut and an incredible book to kick off a new year of reading. 

We Are All Birds of Uganda is told through two narratives, Sameer in present day London and Hasan in 1940-1980s Uganda with Hasan's POV being shared through letters to his true love. The novel deals with identity, family, religion and independence and is masterfully crafted by Zayyan. I went it to this knowing only the blurb and I believe that is truly the best way to experience it. I did not want to put this book down and when I did I would quite often find myself thinking of the Sameer, Hasan and their stories.

I struggled to believe that this was Zayyan's first novel as We Are All Birds of Uganda is beautifully written, well paced and engaging (as well as educational for me!). I will definitely be keeping an eye out for Zayyan's work in the future.
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I was living in Leicester when many Ugandan Asians were forced out of Uganda, and it was interesting to read this well written debut novel about the effect this has had on many generations both in the UK and Uganda.
Thank you to netgalley and random house for an advance copy of this book
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Thanks to NetGalley and The Publisher for this eARC in exchange for an honest review.

This is a stunning debut from the young but obviously talented Hafsa Zayyan. Layered and emotive, rich and vast, delicate yet brutal, in telling the cultural, social and political history of South Asians as migrants in Uganda and beyond. Part history lesson, part coming of age story. Such careful consideration was put in to describing not just what happened, but the reasons why these things happened without placing obvious blame on any one side. 

Racial tension between Whites and non-Whites is often written about, but tension between non-White groups has much left unsaid. This book fills this gap perfectly.

This book has given me so much to think about. I'm so glad it came also with a resource list to find out more.

I will most definitely be highly recommending this to others.
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This is a very thought-provoking novel about identity and the consequences of colonialism. The story centres on Sameer, a second generation immigrant, whose life starts to unravel as he becomes disenchanted with his City career and lifestyle. Through the split narrative and timeline we learn how Sameer's family came to settle in England following the expulsion of Asian Ugandans, and glean how life was for the Asians who were transported over to Uganda by the British for their own aims. The resulting loss of cultural identity is very moving, as is the disgusting racism all-too-frequently encountered. Although the novel is well written and structured, I found the second half a bit long and overly religious. I was also irritated by the 'idyllic' scenes of dinner being served by the ladies of the house and the passivity of many of the female characters. An interesting and very topical novel nonetheless.
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Zayyan beautifully explores themes of belonging, race and the history of South Asian migration in this incredible debut.

The book utilises two narrative POVs. The first is the current day, third person narrative of Sameer - a 2nd generation Asian immigrant in the UK,  juggling his own life as a career driven millennial with the opposing and ever present expectations of his family, all while grappling with his own sense of identity.

We are then taken back to 1960s Uganda. Hasan's chapters are told through letters to his deceased wife. He writes to his lost love, updating her on his life without her and it is through these letters that we learn of how East African born Asians were expelled from Uganda under the leadership of Idi Amin, of how many were stripped of their identity and the only home they've ever known, forced to relocate.

The differing narratives are captivating, echoing shared experiences despite the dramatic shifts in time and context and despite the storylines unfolding separately, they also bounce off each other so seamlessly. As with any book with multiple narratives, you wonder how the POVs will eventually collide with each other, and this moment in We Are All Bird of Uganda is perfect. So intentionally and brilliantly done.

It's incredible how Zayyan is able to unpack the complexities of generational culture. The internal tug of war every child of immigrants has wrestled with hit very close to home, so much so that I felt a knot in my stomach while reading it. It was both beautiful and painful seeing these shared experiences laid out in this stunning work of fiction.

I loved this book. It explores an often unspoken history alongside identity, family tensions, religion and personal turmoil so subtly and beautifully, with a cast of complex and rich characters. It's no surprise Zayyan won the Merky writers prize, and I have no doubt that it's the start of many writing awards to come.
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This is an exceptional book. The story-telling is engaging and captivating. Told from two different time periods and POVs, it was never confusing or jarring. I was equally invested in each storyline. The complexity of the racial issues and historical colonialism was fascinating. I can't wait to read more about Uganda's history (thanks to the bibliography, I know where to start.) But it's the characters who bring this story to life. Sameer and his family, and Maryam and her family are all interconnected and multi-dimensional. I could feel the tension in Sameer between his life and the life he is looking for. And I love Maryam's reasoned and clear-eyed views of the past and current situation in Uganda. I will be recommending this book to everyone.

Thanks to NetGalley and Merky Books for the opportunity to read this book.
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I’ve read this through Netgalley and I don’t even know where to begin, I’m feeling many emotions. 
I loved this book and its characters that often felt so real I feel like I really know them now! 
I have a particular soft spot for epistolary novels and this one did not disappoint. The placement of the letters throughout was always at the right time and the last one made my jaw drop! 
The sense of setting and place was incredibly well done and although I have never been to Uganda I feel like I can taste its air and smell its streets. Like I could walk out of the Entebbe airport and already know what I’ll be seeing! 
I did feel a bit unsatisfied by the ending. When I turned the page to the acknowledgements I felt certain I had missed a bit. I understand why it was open and I realise that the ambiguity is an important part of it, but there where a good few loose threads that I would love to see wrapped into a neat bow. Not only do I want to know more about Sameer, I also want to know what happens to Rahool and Jeremiah and Zara.
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I was surprised to read that this is the author’s fiction debut - I would never have known as this is a wonderfully written book. It is well paced, engaging, educational (for me at least) and emotional.

The book tells the story of two members of one family separated by generations: Hasan who lives in 1960s Uganda but is of Asian heritage is struggling with his business and family life after the death of his wife. Then there is his grandson, Sameer who is a successful lawyer in London and about to get a big promotion but a tragic event and the influence of his family make him question what he wants from his life.

Much like Sameer in the first parts of the book, I knew little of the history of Uganda and the turmoil it experienced in the twentieth century and I am grateful to the author for enlightening me. The book goes through some of the history through Hasan’s eyes rather than as a step by step recounting and this is much more impactful.

I am also grateful for such a touching story. Ultimately, it is a story of family and friendships and the different ways, both positive and negative, that the people around you can influence you. This is something that certainly resonated with me.

I can highly recommend this book but whatever I say, I suspect this book will rightly do very well and I’m grateful to the publishers and NetGalley for allowing me the opportunity to read it.
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A novel set in Uganda and England.  Describing the troubles between the native Ugandans and the Indian Asian population of the 1970's, during Idi Amin's rule of Uganda and the resulting aftermath.  This was a very thought provoking book, explaining life within an Indian Asian family and the values and expectations they have of their family members. It touched on some of the Muslim religious traditions.  It also described some of the problems of the Indian Asians when they had to flee to the UK from Uganda, with the racial tensions this caused.
Whilst the aggressions of the Idi Amin era were touched on they were not graphically described.  It was more a love story between a younger generation Indian and a Ugandan girl and all the complications this entailed.  With flash backs to the 1960's and 70's in Uganda, described in letters written by a grandfather to his deceased wife.
After reading this novel I feel as though I have a little better understanding of the situation in Uganda and the UK of the Indian Asian population.  I enjoyed the read.
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The first thing I think when reviewing books is, do I want to finish the book? Well the answer here was yes, I thought the book came from a very interesting perspective. I knew a little about the asian people's plight in Uganda but never really thought about any impact there was around this event. Over 27,000 asians left Uganda and came to the UK in the 1970's but this was only part of the story. How fitting the book is published this year, when the Black Lives Matter movement has touched so many. We need to learn more.
The story that threads through this book, through two generations is a touching one and this alone leaves the reader wanting to know what happens.
I enjoyed the book and it got me thinking. more about racism, about love, loss and family. It is also a book that will stay with me and I will remember it for a long time to come.
Well done Hafsa Zayyan
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We Are All Birds of Uganda 🇺🇬

This is a long review and if you’re not here for the ride let me just tell you this is an excellent 5 ⭐️ read!

A stunning debut novel from Hafsa Zayyan following the story of a multigenerational family and their south Asian Ugandan migrant experience. We learn about the threats and ultimate expulsion faced by Asians in a post-independence Uganda. 

Sameer is a high flying lawyer in present day London striving for partnership who is confronted with constant subtle and overt racism in his workplace and an internal conflict about whether to return to Leicester to join the family business or to to take a promotion in Singapore. Sameer’s career decisions are also entwined with a journey to find his identity as a child of a family who have faced twice migration and constant struggles trying to find their “place” in the world. 

Hasan’s chapters are written as letters in the 60s to his deceased wife, who was the love of his life. As the only person he could really talk to, Hasan opens up in the pages and exposes his mind, his personal identity crisis when he is stripped of his citizenship, and his experiences under the leadership of Idi Amin in Uganda. 

The writing is beautiful and evokes so much emotion in an already passionate story. I highlighted so many passages that made me stop to absorb the words. For a book that deals with such deep themes whilst also being so educational I was surprised at how easy it was to read. 

I loved how Sameer’s visit to Uganda was used to expose the feelings of being an outsider as Asian in a place that was once his family’s home. That this feeling is still there so many years later shows how entrenched the mistrust and dislike of Asian traders was in Uganda. 

I also loved how religion was weaved through the story and how it brought different people together. Sameer is welcomed in the mosque in Uganda and his ultimate full embrace of Islam has to be partly thanks to that experience.  

Pre-order this now at Waterstones or - out 21 Jan!

Thanks to @merkybooks @penguinukbooks @haffy_22 for a copy in exchange for an honest review!
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A beautiful story of identity, family, love, growth and belonging.

The novel expertly transcends time, as we follow two men facing different challenges at different points in history, one in present day and the other in 1960s Uganda. The two protagonists are raw and realistic, sharing their experiences in life. Hafsa explores themes of ethnicity, race, family and cultural and religious expectations, offering a truly multi-faceted view of racism. Other topics covered include love, loss, family, religion and difficult career decisions. I particularly enjoyed the vivid descriptions of Uganda throughout the novel, transporting me on the cold winter days I spent devouring this novel.

I learnt so much through reading this, but it didn't feel like I was reading a non-fiction history book at any point. Hafsa does an amazing job of weaving significant historical events, in this case the expulsion of East African Indians from Uganda, into the narrative, and the first person letters from Hasan are heartbreaking and realistic. He is a flawed narrator which makes the book feel so real. On the other hand, I connected with Sameer straight away, and found his personal development through the novel to be both satisfying and deeply moving.

This is an outstanding debut piece of work which asks the question: Where does anyone really belong? Despite the topics covered, it is easy to read and the quality of Hafsa's writing is exceptional. I can't wait to read what Hafsa writes next. 

Thank you to NetGalley and Penguin Random House for the opportunity to read and review this ahead of its release on January 21st.
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