In her fiction debut, Doreen Baingana follows a Ugandan girl as she navigates the uncertain terrain of adolescence. Set mostly in pastoral Entebbe with stops in the cities Kampala and Los Angeles, Tropical Fish depicts the reality of life for Christine Mugisha and her family after Idi Amin’s dictatorship.
Three of the eight chapters are told from the point of view of Christine’s two older sisters, Patti, a born-again Christian who finds herself starving at her boarding school, and Rosa, a free spirit who tries to “magically” seduce one of her teachers. But the star of Tropical Fish is Christine, whom we accompany from her first wobbly steps in high heels, to her encounters with the first-world conveniences and alienation of America, to her return home to Uganda.
As the Mugishas cope with Uganda’s collapsing infrastructure, they also contend with the universal themes of family cohesion, sex and relationships, disease, betrayal, and spirituality. Anyone dipping into Baingana’s incandescent, widely acclaimed novel will enjoy their immersion in the world of this talented newcomer.
*Winner of the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize for Best First Book in the Africa region *Winner of the Association of Writers and Writing Programs (AWP) Award Series in Short Fiction *Winner of the Washington Writing Prize for Short Fiction *Finalist for the Caine Prize in African Writing
“Baingana’s richly detailed stories are lush with cultural commentary.”—Publishers Weekly
“Marks the debut of an unflinching, graceful new voice.” —David Anthony Durham, author of Pride of Carthage
“[Baingana’s] prose is rich in specifics unknown to most of us, but what is truly dazzling is the way this brilliance of detail mounts into rare, subtle, surprising drama.”—Joan Silber, author of Ideas of Heaven: A Ring of Stories
“Doreen Baingana shows mastery of language, a painter’s eye for detail, and a compassion so deep, I imagine her heart has no bottom.” —Reginald McKnight, author of He Sleeps: A Novel