I Am Change
Black Dog Books
Young adult, contemporary, fiction
They told her that her body belonged to men and her mind didn’t matter. They were wrong.Synopsis sourced from Goodreads.
“What if I don’t want to marry?” Lillian held her breath.
She had never said the words out loud. “Not want to marry?”
Her aunt frowned. “What else would you do?”
Set in a Ugandan village, Lilian has learned to shrink herself to fit other people’s ideas of what a girl is. In her village a girl is not meant to be smarter than her brother. A girl is not meant to go to school or enjoy her body or decide who to marry. Especially if she is poor.
(Ink Stains are an equivalent to stars in any other form of rating, ranging from the standard 1 to 5)
It’s taken me a while to figure out what to write for this review. I’m feeling incredibly conscious of sounding privileged in my opinions, so I’m hoping nothing in this review comes off as some sort of spout of white privilege. This blog will not, and never will, be a space for rude and/or derogatory remarks or opinions. This is a safe place to share opinions in a respectful manner.
I don’t think it’s a secret that the history of women has been a long and difficult journey, from rights to learn, to vote, to work, to choose. In some countries, you can see those events clear in histories, or sometimes still in today’s news. Sometimes you don’t even really hear about it in the news, not for all countries. Not so often for countries like Uganda.
I am Change follows the teenage life of Lilian, who dreams of becoming a writer, a teacher, someone bigger than herself. But her dreams do not fit the same moulds that have shaped traditions in her family and her village for generations. A girl is not meant to be smart, speak out of turn, decide who to marry. A girl is not meant to enjoy her own body, ask too many questions, dream too big. She is meant to do as she is told, put herself last and live with that.
Lilian does not want to live with that.
I absolutely loved this book. It gives you this pinnacle point of a teenage girls life, over years, in only a moderate-length story and it does it well. Zail brings Lilian to life not only through her own writing, but through her real life connection. Did you know this book starts off with a foreword from Namukasa Nusula Sarah? A woman with a life story not much unlike that of Lilians. I think the foreword was what began it for me, the thing that hit the nail home, that said ‘Yes, this is going to be a good one.’
Zail brings together the true accounts of millions of girls like Namukasa, who do not have the opportunity to go to school and learn. Tragically gorgeous, the whole book was kintsugi—the traditional Japanese way of repairing broken pottery with gold—where these stories have pieced together an age-old tale. Each account Zail heard would be a vein of gold that shimmered through the laughter of one girl here, and the tears of that other girl there.
It was honestly breathtaking at some points. Heart-in-throat breathtaking.
Though the story and characters are fictional, there was no mistaking that these stories are real for many in real life.
Lilian, in her story, is a lucky one. She has a father who is open-minded, willing to listen to her, extremely proud, honourable; Father’s Day is coming up, and he has to be right up there for Fictional Father of the Year for all that he does to keep his promises to his family, and to Lilian. Her mother is more traditional, but hardworking all the same, and still extremely proud as well; I don’t think you can dislike a character for them living their life the way they were raised to, because in the end, there are people in the world exactly like this.
Zail takes your breath away one moment, hope-giving and vibrant, while also shedding light onto the importance of education for all children, regardless of gender. I can’t fault the book; there was great balance between too much and not enough, and I think this is a book that is too important to miss out on.
WAYS TO HELP
HELP GIRLS LEARN | GIRL CHILD NETWORK | AAFCAD |
GIRLS NOT BRIDES | CONCERN FOR THE GIRL CHILD |
THE UGANDA YOUTH ALLIANCE FOR FAMILY PLANNING
AND ADOLESCENT HEALTH | ONE GIRL
These links and resources are also located at the end of the book after the acknowledgements; I have provided them here for easy access in one place. These are all reputable and important organisations which play an important part in the life and opportunities available to young women in Uganda and other developing countries. (If a link is broken, please comment or message; at the moment, all links are functional but if something breaks down afterwards, I won’t know!)
CONNECT WITH SUZY
This book was provided by the publisher, via AusYABloggers, in exchange for an honest review.