A Girl is A Body of Water (Hardcover)

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A Best Book of the Year pick at TIME, The Washington Post, and O, the Oprah Magazine

"Makumbis prose is irresistible and poignant, with remarkable wit, heart and charmpoetic and nuanced, brilliant and sly, openhearted and cunning, balancing discordant truths in wise ruminations." The New York Times Book Review

"A mesmerizing feminist epic." O, the Oprah Magazine

International awardwinning author Jennifer Nansubuga Makumbis novel is a sweeping and powerful portrait of a young girl and her family: who they are, what history has taken from them, andmost importantlyhow they find their way back to each other.

In herthirteenth year, Kirabo confronts a piercing question that has haunted her childhood: who is my mother? Kirabo has been raised by women in the small Ugandan village of Nattettaher grandmother, her best friend, and her many auntsbut the absence of her mother follows her like a shadow. Complicating these feelings of abandonment, as Kirabo comes of age she feels the emergence of a mysterious second self, a headstrong and confusing force inside her at odds with her sweet and obedient nature.

Seeking answers, Kirabo begins spending afternoons with Nsuuta, the local witch, trading stories and learning not only about this force inside her, but about the woman who birthed her, who she learns is alive but not ready to meet. Nsuuta also explains that Kirabo has a streak of the first womanan independent, original state that has been all but lost to women.

Kirabos journey to reconcile her rebellious origins, alongside her desire to reconnect with her mother and to honor her familys expectations, is rich in the folklore of Uganda and an arresting exploration of what it means to be a modern girl in a world that seems determined to silence women. Jennifer Nansubuga Makumbis unforgettable novel is a sweeping testament to the true and lasting connections between history, tradition, family, friends, and the promise of a different future.

About the Author


Jennifer Nansubuga Makumbi is a recipient of the Windham-Campbell Prize and her first novel, Kintu, won the Kwani? Manuscript Project Prize in 2013 and was longlisted for the Etisalat Prize in 2014. Her story Lets Tell This Story Properly was the global winner of the 2014 Commonwealth Short Story Prize. Jennifer lives in Manchester, UK with her husband and son.

Praise For…


Makumbis prose is irresistible and poignant, with remarkable wit, heart and charmpoetic and nuanced, brilliant and sly, openhearted and cunning, balancing discordant truths in wise ruminations. A Girl Is a Body of Water rewards the reader with one of the most outstanding heroines and the incredible honor of journeying by her side.
— The New York Times Book Review

A mesmerizing feminist epic.
— O, The Oprah Magazine

In lyrical prose, Jennifer Nansubuga Makumbi renders Kirabos coming-of-age tale as a tender depiction of evolving womanhood, self-awareness in a tight-knit community and the path back to family and history.
— TIME

A novel bursting with resilience and warmth. . . . Mixing the mythic and the modern, happily ignoring formal neatness to encompass Ugandas miscellaneousness, its an enthralling achievement.
— Sunday Times

Blazing. . . . Glorious.
— The Washington Post

At turns rapturous and devastating. . . . Makumbi's writing uplifts and inspires, evoking the grand tradition of folklore and stories passed down, one woman to the next.
— Refinery29

With each new work, Makumbi cements her position as a writer of great influence in our time and for future generations.
— Booklist, Starred Review

Makumbis rich language and detailed descriptions are a must-read.
— HelloGiggles

Kirabo's journey of self-discovery is at once inspiring and epic.
— PopSugar

A magnificent blend of Ugandan folklore and more modern notions of feminism. . . . This book is a jewel.
— Kirkus, Starred Review

This beautifully rendered saga is a riveting deconstruction of social perceptions of womens abilities and roles.
— Publishers Weekly

Bewitching. . . . Jennifer Nansubuga Makumbi is a mesmerizing storyteller, slowly pulling readers in with a captivating cast of multifaceted characters and a soupon of magical realism guaranteed to appeal to fans of Isabel Allende, Julia Alvarez, or Yaa Gyasis Homegoing.
— Library Journal

Makumbi is such an honest, truthful writer and her truth wins out. I was so moved by A Girl Is a Body of Water and loved every single page.
— Tayari Jones, author of An American Marriage

In A Girl is a Body of Water Jennifer Nansubuga Makumbi takes the classic male quest for identity and turns it spectacularly on its head. Kirabos journey toward self-possession is a beautiful, wise, and exhilarating read.
— Lily King, author of Writers & Lovers

A wonderas clear, vivid, moving, powerful, and captivatingly unpredictable as water itself.
— Namwali Serpell, author of The Old Drift

A Girl is a Body of Water is captivating, wise, humorous and tender: Makumbi has come back stronger than ever. This is a tale about Kirabo and her family, and her place in the world as she searches for her mother and a true sense of belonging. But most of all, this is a book about the stories that define us, and those we tell to redefine ourselves. A riveting read.
— Maaza Mengiste, author of The Shadow King

Superb. An intoxicating tale that combines mythic and modern elements to make the headiest of feminist brews.
— Irenosen Okojie, author of Nudibranch

In her characteristically page-turning and engaging style, Makumbi lays bare the complex power dynamics of patriarchy, capitalism and neocolonialism, not through academic jargon but via that most effective tool of educationstorytelling. An achingly beautiful tale.
— Sylvia Tamale
Product Details
ISBN: 9781951142049
ISBN-10: 1951142047
Publisher: Tin House Books
Publication Date: September 1st, 2020
Pages: 560