Ryan Collins, one of our talented new team, reviews Crossroads: Women Coming of Age in Today’s Uganda.
A lifelong resident of New England and outrageous film snob, Ryan Collins describes himself as a philosopher of nerdom and purveyor of wisdom. While not dodging death on his daily commute across the Fury Roads of the wild Massachusetts highways, he spends his time reading, writing, enjoying nature, and shouting at his computer screen. Follow his Great and Powerful Blog here.
Crossroads is comprised of numerous essays, edited by Christopher Conte, and written by the following authors:
Elvania M. Bazaala
Africa, particularly those nations south of the Sahara Desert, typically occupies a very specific place in the tradition of Western literature. When we read about Sub-Saharan Africa, more often than not it’s depicted as an exotic or alien place, plagued by tragedy and perpetual violence. And from British Colonialism, to Idi Amin, to the LRA, Uganda is certainly a country that has shed its share of both blood and tears. But that isn’t what Crossroads is really about.
Rather, through a series of anecdotal essays written by the women involved, we are exposed to a Uganda fully stripped of the ethereal veil of “other” that Western literature so often imposes upon the region. There is certainly violence, as seen in Peace Twine’s chapter, Wife of the Enemy, but centre stage are the cultural and social struggles that most twenty-first century women can relate to, regardless of race or nationality. The issues here, while specific to Uganda and its unique history, ultimately transcend cultural barriers.
And so Crossroads presents us with a number of stories detailing the struggles that contemporary Ugandan women face, with everything from gender roles and their social implications, to neo-colonialism and its influence upon Uganda’s cultural heritage. One of the most common and complex themes throughout these narratives is the conflicting nature of Western influence upon the region. Some women see it as a liberating force in the face of the heavily patriarchal and homophobic native society, while others resent it for suppressing the traditional Ugandan religion and values, comparing it to a type of social colonialism.
Many of these stories encapsulate a period of shifting social forces where we are presented with a conflict between what can be called the “old” Uganda and the “new.” It’s a situation where increasing numbers women are becoming exposed to the more liberated points of view, and facing tremendous pushback from the majority of the people within their own communities.
From gender roles and sexuality, to child rearing, to surviving sexual assault and domestic violence, the stories in Crossroads are inspiring and relatable, and powerful in such a way as to reach beyond the situational forces which surround them. This is a book that anyone trying to find their place in the world can connect with, and if nothing else you will come away with a greater understanding of what it means to be a woman in twenty-first century Uganda.
Click here to experience Crossroads for yourself.