Jennifer Nansubuga Makumbi was once rejected by British publishers who claimed her book was “too African”; after moving to the UK 17 years ago, Makumbi dedicated all of her time to writing—which affected her earnings. Despite her thrill for the recognition, she says, for her, earning the award is “mainly about doing the ordinary things that other people do that have a job.’
Makumbi shopped Kintu—an epic centered on the customs and myths of a Ugandan family who believe that they have been cursed for 250 years—around to British publishers who originally rejected it, claiming that her story was “too African.” The novel was finally published in the UK in January.
The Windham Campbell Prizes from Yale University is considered the “richest” literary prize after the Nobel Peace Prize. Makumbi is the only winner out of eight to have published just one full-length work.
The author says she writes stories to inform her people of life outside of Uganda. “I write the stories as a way of writing back to Ugandans, informing them what happens to us,” she says. “I’m telling them, ‘You want to come to Britain? Hang on a minute. First read my story.”