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ReConnect Africa is a unique website and online magazine for the African professional in the Diaspora. Packed with essential information about careers, business and jobs, ReConnect Africa keeps you connected to the best of Africa.


When Goretti Kyomuhendo was a young girl growing up in Hoima, ‘a dusty, sleepy town’ in western Uganda, she came across an old copy of Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart. It was to change her life.

Goretti Kyomuhendo was born in 1965 and grew up in Hoima, western Uganda. Today, she holds an MA in creative writing from the University of KwaZulu-Natal in Durban, South Africa and is a founding member of the Ugandan Women Writers’ Association and Publishing House - FEMRITE, where she worked as the first Programme Coordinator for ten years.

Goretti was the first Ugandan woman to receive an International Writing Program Fellowship at the University of Iowa in 1997 and, today, she is resident in London.

But, as a young child, says Goretti, “the world of fictional books was alien to me.”

“The small Mission school I was attending did not have a library. The only semblance of a library was in Hoima town, and it only stocked foreign books, like Enid Blyton’s The Famous Five series, which talked of snow and apples and cottages and ham rolls, things that I had never seen or eaten, in my entire life.”

‘A Whole Different Imaginary World’

“A bit later I discovered the English mystery writer, James Hadley Chase, and I became hopelessly hooked on his crime fiction. As I graduated into a teenager, I found myself lost in the romantic world that Barbara Cartland created in her exciting novels, and later, I was to develop a love affair with the Mills & Boon books, which allowed me to dream about true love.

“I read Things Fall Apart when I was about fifteen, and it opened up a whole different imaginary world for me, which I did not know existed beyond the crime fiction and romances that I had become addicted to.

“The story in Things Fall Apart liberated the way I perceived Africa. It made Africa look familiar, and created in me a sublime feeling of what it meant to be an African. Later, when I started writing, I knew it was alright to write stories based in my village; stories that had been passed on to me by my grandmother, because, Achebe had given me that licence. Hence, my journey as a writer started the day I read Things Fall Apart, though I did not know it then.”

The story in Things Fall Apart liberated the way I perceived Africa…and created in me a sublime feeling of what it meant to be an African.

ReConnect Africa (RCA): Goretti, what inspires you to write?

GK: I’m inspired by the abundance of stories that surround me. At times, I wish I could grow a third hand so I can write them all!

RCA: Tell us about the novels that you have written?

GK: My first novel, The First Daughter, was published in Uganda in 1996. It’s a story about an adolescent girl grappling with the challenges of growing up in Uganda. It deals with teenage pregnancy, love and betrayal, and Ugandan culture.


My second novel was published in Uganda in 1999 and it is entitled Secrets no More. It follows the life of a young woman, Marina, a sole survivor in her family during the grisly 1994 Rwanda genocide.

The next is a novella, Whispers from Vera, also published in Uganda in 2002. It is written in the epistolary form, from Vera, an enlightened, emancipated career woman, married and a mother, writing to an unnamed friend, about her challenges of straddling two lives: modern and traditional.

My fourth is entitled Waiting and it was published in the United States by The Feminist Press in 2007. It is set in Uganda in 1979, during the last year of dictator Idi Amin’s despotic rule. The story also captures the effects of this internecine war on women, and also reflects the resilience of the Ugandan people, through the many years of conflict that they’ve endured.

I have also published several short stories and five children’s books.

My fourth (novel) is entitled Waiting and …. is set in Uganda in 1979, during the last year of dictator Idi Amin’s despotic rule.

RCA: What would you say are the challenges that you have overcome as a writer?

GK: Getting published in Africa is very difficult. The publishing industries are underdeveloped, the book markets are small, and there’s a general apathy towards books and reading, as a whole. I had to get a grant from a Dutch funding organisation to publish my first novel.

RCA: Goretti, what advice do you have for aspiring writers?

GK: To be a writer is to be courageous. When you write, you share a bit of yourself with the world. Writing is about revealing your feelings, your fears and anxieties, your aspirations – to your readers. You need to shed your inhibitions and write that story in your heart, and not the one in your mind

As a writer, you should keep a journal. This is where you jot down the ideas that you plan to include in your story.

A writer writes: To be referred to as a writer is not by mere wish, nor is it a title you can simply acquire by earning an academic qualification, or attending a certain course. You can only earn this designation by actually writing.

A writer reads; your love for writing must be equalled if not surpassed by that of reading. And, as our elders in Uganda say, ‘if you want to learn how to dance, then you watch those on the dancing floor.’

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