In Uganda, during the tail-end of the Amin regime, Kirabo is on the verge of becoming a teenager and is curious about her absent mother and why she left Kirabo to be raised by her grandparents. Answers are not forthcoming – even from her father on his sporadic visits – so she consults Nsuuta, a witch. Nsuuta tells her that Kirabo’s ability to leave her body and float away (her “second self”) is a sign that she is different and retains the essence of women’s “original state”, suppressed by men since ancient times. Makumbi, an award-winning Ugandan author living in Manchester, addresses the forces that control and divide women – their fathers, their schools, other women – and takes Kirabo down a path that leads away from Western concepts of feminism towards a vision of feminine strength rooted in African tradition and folklore. It’s a coming-of-age story that becomes a mythical journey, told with compassion and wisdom.
YOUR STILL BEATING HEART
Myriad Editions, £8.99
Eira, a Welsh woman living in London, is devastated when her husband is stabbed on a bus by a random stranger. Numbed by grief, she travels to Prague, where they had got engaged, and discovers how much her loss has changed her – or has brought out a side of herself she never knew existed. Eira’s dwindling funds prompt her to approach a criminal who tried to prey on her when she first arrived in the city, and she is recruited by his gang to pick up a “product” from across the border. But will Eira’s inclination to go off-script and improvise spark chaos in what should be a straightforward operation? Starting slowly, and building up a nail-biting tension, Keevil’s fourth novel succeeds as both literary and genre fiction, chronicling a woman’s recovery from grief in the context of a high-stakes thriller in which her trauma has left her reckless and unpredictable.
DREAMING IN A NIGHTMARE
#Merky Books, £9.99
Aged 11, Jeremiah Emmanuel joined the UK Youth Parliament. At 17, he became the youngest Black Briton to appear on the Queen’s honours list. He’s now a 21-year-old entrepreneur who runs a record label and a consultancy. But he’s had to push hard to get there. His autobiography, published by Stormzy’s Penguin imprint, describes the difficulties of growing up Black in South London, in a climate of poverty, violence and the sense that his and his friends’ futures were mapped out for them before they were even born. He describes how he pulled himself up with his own determination, the support of his politically active Nigerian mother, Esther, and the help of the people who mentored him (including Tinie Tempah). As a blueprint for “dreaming your way out of it” and a call for everyone to do their share to build a fairer society, it’s an inspiring memoir of self-improvement.