I Am Change (Suzy Zail, Black Dog)
Suzy Zail’s latest novel tells the story of young Lilian, who wants nothing more than to go to school. However, poverty, outdated traditions and the simple fact she was born a girl in rural Uganda create much difficulty. Despite these barriers, Lilian’s dreams of writing stories and becoming a teacher provide her with the strength and determination to define her own future. Though Zail herself is not from Uganda, she has endeavoured to tell Lilian’s story as honestly as possible. She spent time in the country interviewing 30 young Ugandan women in order to capture their experiences and incorporate them into I Am Change. The way Zail has taken these extremely difficult personal accounts and crafted them into a novel is brilliantly done. Through Lilian, Zail captures the bravery and fierce determination of the young Ugandan women. The reader is drawn into Lilian’s world, which is rich in culture and full of life, but Zail also articulates the need for it to expand and change for the better. The novel doesn’t shy away from the ugly truths and difficult situations that Lilian and her friends face, boldly confronting issues such as abuse, assault and the practice of female circumcision. I Am Change makes for a hauntingly beautiful reading experience, and Lilian’s voice demands to be heard. Her story is more than just brave and confronting—it needs to be told.
Tracy-Kate Watts is a freelance writer and editor, and a mentee at Djed Press