Voice of a Dream by Glaydah Namukasa
Nanfuka wants nothing more than to finish her education and become a nurse – the first in her village. While still a child herself, the teenager is suddenly forced to leave school and thrust into adult responsibilities when she is called home as her father dies from AIDS. With her mother missing, Nanfuka is now in charge of her four younger siblings, including a baby sister with AIDS who is clearly wasting away.
Her paternal Aunt Naka is only too ready to marry Nanfuka off to the highest bidder, send the other children away, and sell the family’s land. Her neighbors, too, seem to want to see Nanfuka fail, taunting her with her own dreams of accomplishment. Thankfully, Nanfuka has other allies, including Nurse Kina from school who offers encouraging solutions, and even the school lothario Sendi who changes his cowboy swagger and proves himself worthy of Nanfuka’s friendship.
With resilience, Nanfuka manages to maintain her independence while keeping her family together. The deus ex machina ending gives the story an almost fairytale unreality, although Nanfuka will surely continue to face future challenges in achieving her determined dream.
Ugandan writer Glaydah Namukasa won the Senior Award in the Macmillan Writer’s Prize for Africa in 2006 for Dream. Just 25 when her slim novel was chosen, Namukasa’s youth is clearly evident in her plain and blunt writing, although it also exhibits a naive freshness. Her literary journey is certainly one to watch.
Tidbit: When U.K.-based international publishing mega-giant Macmillan closed its African operations in 2011 after paying £11.2M in fines over fraud, the annual Writer’s Prize for Africa, as well as other programs supporting African education and literature in East and West Africa, disappeared. With diminishing access and opportunities for African writers to connect with international audiences, organizations such as FEMRITE, the Uganda Women Writers’ Association to which writers like Namukasa belong, and honors such as The Caine Prize for African Writing, will hopefully continue to grow in prominence and reach.
Readers: Young Adult, Adult