The first woman is a universal tale with an African perspective. It is well researched, human and emotional. Jennifer sets a new height in the African feminist movement, with this fiction. Imagine Purple Hibiscus blended with African child; this is it product. It is a coming of age prose set in Uganda detailing itself not only in the folklores & beliefs but even in the daily happenings. The first woman tells of the 1970’s back to the 1930’s, and again to the 1970 with unparalleled ferocity yet in a dedicated way. Idi Amin, Tazania, bloodbath, nothing was left out in this epical storytelling about a girl finding herself.
Kirabo, our protagonist is easily lovable. We can easily identify with her growing up pains and questions. It is amazing how she could have her heart in her mouth with Sio, but be a paragon of boldness with her fellow females. What catches my attention even more is the woman she becomes; the city which her father brings her into shows the power a woman like her can have. Though subtle, when needed could actually be a X factor.
All the characters are unmistakably like our next door neighbours. Is it Mino, a grandmother who though isn’t ‘educated’ knows where a man’s control had to break. Or Nsuta who will remain imprinted in my memory because of this words;’That is because some people have appointed themselves his police. And I tell you, child, the police are far worse than God himself. That is why the day you catch your man with another woman, you will go for the woman and not him. My grandmothers called it kweluma. That is when oppressed people turn on each other or on themselves and bite. It is as a form of relief. If you cannot bite your oppressor, you bite yourself.
A major theme, Jennifer inadvertently pursues is the substance of a woman. A woman was a woman, not a slave or a god. Kirabo’s, Nsuta’s and Mino’s life show all this in different but intensive shades. The cliff-hanger moment was when Sio got Giibwa pregnant, Jennifer expertly curates it revealing how Kirabo would feel about it. It was great. Then there is another side someone like Gayi brought to the discussion. ‘Father’s mantra that girls must be educated to escape oppression can also be oppressive. Mother, I stayed long enough in school to know it was not for me.’ Was education the only way to prevent chauvinist oppression?Makumbi was recommended a random Facebook friend. And I was quite sceptical about who could beat Adiche. However now that I have read this, indeed African feminism is rising, in a daring but still human manner.
AWARDS WON BY THE FIRST WOMAN
Selected as a Best Book of the Autumn by the Guardian, Telegraph Magazine, Times, Independent, Stylist and Irish Times
Selected as a Best Book of the Month by Waterstones, the Evening Standard and Apple Books