What I’m Reading : Episode 37, August 2021 – from Uganda to India and maybe Sri Lanka

August has proved to be a bit of a juggling act. It’s the final month of #20booksofsummer but i got side tracked by #WomeninTranslation month and the arrival of some library reservations. I’ve read some cracking novels this month but also abandoned four.

Books to be read in August

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What I just finished reading

We Are All Birds Of Uganda by Hafsa Zayyan is an ambitious debut novel that tackles many issues: racism, heritage, legacy, family expectations. Elements of the plot owe a lot to the author’s own story. She, like the central figure of Sameer is the child of parents who immigrated to Britain, became a corporate lawyer and was offered a posting to Singapore. But there are enough divergences from Zayan’s life to avoid this being too heavily autobiographical.

Sameer is a rising star in work and lives in an expensive flat in central London. But that doesn’t satisfy his parents who want him to return home, join the family grocery business and settle down with a nice girl from a good Muslim family. That’s not in Sameer’s game plan but the disagreement with his family pushes him to question his identity and his family’s history as Indian immigrants into Uganda.

The latter is told in fragments through letters written by Sameer’s grandfather which reveal the effects of political unrest in Uganda and intolerance towards the country’s Asian population.

The first part of the narrative is a little heavy handed in its depiction of racial issues and family conflict but it was well worth sticking with the novel because the Ugandan thread is far more nuanced.

What I’m reading now

I have two books on the go at the moment, both written by Indian born female authors.

A Burning by Megha Majumdar became a New York Times best-seller when released in America last year. It’s easy to see why this tale of “justice”, poverty and aspiration has been so well received. It’s a thought-provoking tale of a young Muslim woman accused of helping terrorists attack a train in Kolkata. Two people who know her initially speak up on her behalf, the only people willing to suggest she is innocent. But when push comes to shove will they risk their burgeoning careers to speak up for a woman whom the media, police and ordinary citizens vilify?

Sunlight On A Broken Column by Attia Hossain takes place in 1930s  Lucknow at a time of growing tension and animosity towards British rule. Hossain’s main character is the orphaned daughter of a rich Muslim family. Laila lives within a strictly orthodox multi-generational house until her grandfather’s death when she goes to live with her more liberal minded uncle. Details of the household regime are interesting but I’m confused by all the different characters and their relationships.

I suspect I’m not going to be able to fit in another book from my #20booksofsummer list before the month comes to an end. I’ll get around to the remaining titles at some point though not likely to be this year. So for now I’m ‘free’ to pick and choose at random.

Vying for attention are The Magician by Colm Toibin, a fictional portrait of the complex life of the German novelist Thomas Mann and A Passage North by the Sri Lankan author Anuk Arudpragasam which is the only Booker Prize 2021 longlisted title I’m likely to get around to reading before the shortlist announcement on September 14. But then there’s Open Water by Caleb Azumah Nelson about which I’ve heard good things.

As always there is too much choice.

What are your reading plans for the next few weeks? If you’ve read any of the books on my “reading next” list you can help me make a decision.



I

BookerTalk

What do you need to know about me? 1. I'm from Wales which is one of the countries in the UK and must never be confused with England. 2. My life has always revolved around the written and spoken word. I worked as a journalist for nine years then in international corporate communications 3. My tastes in books are eclectic. I love realism and hate science fiction and science fantasy. 4. I am trying to broaden my reading horizons geographically by reading more books in translation

18 thoughts on “What I’m Reading : Episode 37, August 2021 – from Uganda to India and maybe Sri Lanka

  • September 3, 2021 at 9:21 pm
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    I’m finishing The Third Angel by Alice Hoffman and Jack & Jill (Alex Cross #3) by James Patterson. Then on to The Alchemist and And the Mountains Echoed. A 3-day weekend! YES!!

    Reply
    • September 3, 2021 at 9:43 pm
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      It’s years and years since I last read anything by Patterson. Enjoy the weekend

      Reply
  • August 26, 2021 at 3:27 am
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    Interesting line up of books. The Indian line up sounds predictable ….. Muslim, racism, immigrant, terrorist Orthodox, repressive …. I am not saying this being an Indian but I think this genre is overly exploited

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    • August 28, 2021 at 10:05 am
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      You likely have a lot more experience than I do with Indian authors or the books set in India.

      Reply
  • August 26, 2021 at 1:06 am
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    The Hosain book looks interesting but I have so many books to catch up on as life has been extremely busy of late. I need to get my blog rollong again. Thinking about some changes. You always come across the most jnteresting books. I’ve been reading my favourite blogs but not commenting much as I run out of time and energy. Lurking jn the shadows lately. 😍🐧

    Reply
    • August 28, 2021 at 10:03 am
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      Now you have my curiosity aroused about the changes we might see …..

      Reply
  • August 25, 2021 at 10:14 pm
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    Sounds like heavy reading. I’m also working on my list for 20booksofsummer: https://wordsandpeace.com/2021/05/25/20-books-of-summer-2021/
    I have read 34 so far, but only 12 were from my original list.
    I think I’ll be able to reach 37.
    Right now I’m reading A Fine Line, by Chicago author Dan Burns. A mystery about an author struggling with the blank page, who suddenly is offered a lot of money to investigate a cold case. Nice writing, with a lot of details on Chicago.
    I finally started The Sleepwalkers, the massive Austrian classic by Hermann Broch – which I was supposed to read months ago for the (previous) classics spin.
    I will soon be finishing The Village of Eight Tombs, classic by Seishi Yokomizo. It won’t be available in English until December, but I’m reading it in French translation.
    And I’m listening to the latest by Michel Bussi (not yet available in English). He usually writes awesome thrillers, but he recently started writing YA fantasy. I rarely read YA and/or fantasy, but this series is fabulous so far – 2 books published.

    Reply
  • August 25, 2021 at 8:25 pm
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    I came late to the #WomeninTranslation
    party, so have started building my list with the possibility of starting next year. I’m sure I have more than I initially think!

    I’ve never done the booksofsummer – far too much like doing homework!

    Reply
    • August 28, 2021 at 10:10 am
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      It depends how you do 20books. If you make a list and stick to it then yes it can turn into a chore. But few of us do that – we all end up with substitutes.

      Reply
    • August 28, 2021 at 10:11 am
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      I’m finding it a bit hard at the moment. The narrative seems to have gaps that don’t get explained.

      Reply

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