The First Woman/A Girl Is A Body Of Water

Manchester Happened/Let’s Tell This Story Properly
November 7, 2019

In Britain, selected as Book of the Month by The Bookseller

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

A powerful feminist rendition of Ugandan origin tales, The First Woman tells the story of Kirabo. Smart, headstrong and flawed, Kirabo is raised by doting grandparents in idyllic Nattetta in rural Uganda. But as she enters her teens, she starts to feel overshadowed by the absence of the mother she has never known. At once epic and deeply personal, it tells the story of one young girl’s search for her mother, her discovery of what it means to be a woman throughout history and the implications for her future.

“A Girl is a Body of Water (The First Woman) is a wonder, as clear, vivid, moving, powerful, and captivatingly unpredictable as water itself–from the ‘irate noises’ of Nnankya’s stream to the ‘theatrical’ rains of Nattetta with which Makumbi’s women wash, delight, and sate themselves. With wry wisdom, great humor, and deep complexity, Makumbi has created a feminist coming-of-age classic for the ages, sure to join the company of Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre, Zora Neale Hurston’s Their Eyes Were Watching God, Tsitsi Dangarembga’s Nervous Conditions, and Elena Ferrante’s Neapolitan Quartet. Being surrounded by Makumbi’s women—young and old—as they each struggle in different ways to clarify and achieve mwenkanonkano, feels like love, feels like learning–and best of all it often feels, as she puts it, ‘like mischief’!”
Namwali Serpell, The Old Drift

"Makumbi’s prose is irresistible and poignant, with remarkable wit, heart and charm — poetic and nuanced, brilliant and sly, openhearted and cunning, balancing discordant truths in wise ruminations. A Girl Is a Body of Water rewards the reader with one of the most outstanding heroines and the incredible honour of journeying by her side."


The First Woman is now available in Britain and the Commonwealth and North America

OneWorld Publications
Simon & Schuster
Tin House

‘Makumbi writes with the assurance and wry omniscience of an easygoing deity.’
New York Times

‘Makumbi’s tale dazzles. . . Kirabo is a wonderful heroine: headstrong, inquisitive and determined. The novel is rich with Luganda words and steeped in ancient Ugandan folklore, making it an immersive read. I loved it.’
The Bookseller, Book of the Month

“A Girl is a Body of Water is captivating, wise, humorous, and tender: Makumbi has come back stronger than ever. This is a tale about Kirabo and her family, and her place in the world as she searches for her mother and a true sense of belonging. But most of all, this is a book about the stories that define us, and those we tell to redefine ourselves. A riveting read.”
—Maaza Mengiste, author of The Shadow King

“A luminous and sprawling bildungsroman. . . . a magnificent blend of Ugandan folklore and more modern notions of feminism. This book is a jewel.”
—Kirkus, Starred Review

"Bewitching. ... Jennifer Nansubuga Makumbi is a mesmerizing storyteller, slowly pulling readers in with a captivating cast of multifaceted characters and a soupcon of magical realism guaranteed to appeal to fans of Isabel Allende, Julia Alvarez, or Yaa Gyasi’s Homegoing."

“With each new work, Makumbi cements her position as a writer of great influence in our time and for future generations.”