At the beginning of the week, the people at Uganda Blogging Community shared a prompt called Growing Up. In the prompt they intimate,
Maybe it means setting goals. Re-adjusting goals. Working towards a vision. Climbing over hurdles. Leaving a pleasant or unpleasant past behind. What does growing up mean?
I’ve been trying to find a way of writing in response to the prompt but had found no way yet. Until I went to Turn The Page Book Club’s Meeting.
The text for discussion was Saah Millimono’s “Boy, Interrupted”. When the book club meeting started, Alex, who was moderating, informed us it was a book about love. Most of us, having not read the book, believed him. In fact, we (I mean Alex) picked on a chapter to read that spoke of young love. And amazima it was a story of young love going through discovery and elation. By young love, think of 12-14 year old love.
It seemed the meeting would go on well, until the questions arose about what love was while we were young; what boy-girl interactions looked like. Whether boys could even sit with girls unless under the influence of a teacher. Whereas the consensus was young love existed whether we (the guys) believed it or not, the meeting took on an expected turn when Lulu, came in and gave a review of the book.
This book is the story of Kou and Tarnue and how the Liberian Civil War affects their growing up. While we did not delve much into the story after that, it seemed to us that many points it talked about were not exile to home. For example, there was a discussion about rebels, about how the people familiar to us usually betray us; about when push comes to shove, alliances are broken, how ideas like genocide seem foreign at a time but can be possibilities; how language affects the unity of a people, how perhaps God is not always a refuge (from the fact that so many die in sanctuaries during war – but perhaps God is again not a place?) and so much more.
A particularly thrilling discussion was on the MPs. While some of us bemoaned the betrayal of the people we call leaders, citing examples like MPs burial to cost 68m each, MPs demanding 80m as salary, 200m cars, others remarked they saw this coming. Some of us declared the MPs who had campaigned for votes had changed, but others remarked that actually, nothing changed; to them the August House was a target. In fact there were rumours that those who did not vote Kato Lubwama, did so because he acts well as a villain and his apparent change of colour is no surprise to them. The call was to be the change we wanted to see because we probably all know someone whose relative works in the parliament and we benefit from their 80m salary or 2oom car.
That wasn’t the end though. An excerpt in the book about an innocent man killed because of the colour of shirt he was wearing evoked memories from the elections and the post Obote era. It was about how victims of bad rule become villains as they exact vengeance on those they think support their tormentors. It came to how people generalise Banyankole as being the same, how Baganda persecuted non-Baganda in the 2009 riots, and many more examples which I cannot mention here. We generalise people a great deal.
At this point, we have given up on the fact that the book is a love story but Alex and Lulu keep telling us it is. Nonetheless, more conversations crop up. On parenting today. How the sons and daughters of wealthy sons and daughters of paupers risk turning into paupers if their attitudes and cultures do not change. How there is a need to be mindful of traditional culture, how to be intentional with parenting, how to focus.
I loved the discussion because the book seemed to be drawing out all these tense yet serious, conversations from a few excerpts that touch on seemingly simple things like language, ethnicity, war which are really world-wide problematics.
Lulu never got round to explaining the love story fully but perhaps that’s why I should buy the book and find out for myself. The evening was much more than the meeting, there are always those verandah discussions that are hilarious. However, one thing’s sure, books can start conversation, necessary conversation.
Ultimately, “Boy, Interrupted” is a book that reminds you growing up is not something to take for granted. Some people’s growing up is interrupted, accelerated, interjected by different forces. While some of us are being entitled, some are being indoctrinated as child soldiers. Grew up well? Be thankful. Adjusting as an adult? Godspeed.