I’d never considered the beaches and fish of Entebbe when I first heard of Tropical Fish. Yes, I knew it was a short story book set in Uganda but that was the last thing on my mind. And this is the thing about this short story collection, it did not start with the title story.
Be warned there are spoilers.
This book shows us the lives of three sisters, Christine, Rosa and Patti in an era between the madness of one dictator and a new liberator in the tropical African country, Ugandan.
Theissues that jump out at me are the African family/society and how it interacts with itself and the West, plus what happens when things do not turn out as planned? What happens when lust turns into death? When sadness turns into addiction? When apathy turns into normalcy? Each of the sisters might have an answer to give.
Christine is the main focus in this tale. We see her journey through teenage, school, dating, interracial relationships in a Least Developed Country, moving to a new country, adapting to new norms and cultures, and then having to finally move back to her home. Can a first home eventually become a second? (Arguments of the Migration vs Home African Literature will have something to pick from this story). For periods of time you’re in Christine’s mind as she goes through all these changes and perhaps the question at the end is do you empathise, are you reviled or do you have no response?
Patti is the silent rock of the story. She and her mother are the ones who decide to settle with the circumstances around them and rest. Her quabbles are with hunger mostly and when hunger is dealt with, she and God have no issues.
Rosa is a firework. An excited teenager whose unencumbered outlook to life leads her to the highs of life and ultimately the lows. Hers is a short appearance and quite an apt symbol that way.
You start to wish that after the final line of the last story there was a new chapter, a new short story to follow but there is none. The wisdom dispensed is firm and not long-worded. Perhaps I want it to continue because now I understand her struggles, her questions, her issues?
Or perhaps the sadness of their collective childhood stole a few secrets from mine and it was neccessary to leave it quickly? I can’t tell you. I can say, that in a way, the life of many Ugandans is shared with that of the Mugishas in Entebbe, and you should read it and find your lessons, I am keeping mine.