Manchester Happened is a collection of short stories of African immigrants in the UK. The book is split into two parts; the first is Departing, and it is about the experiences abroad. The second part is Returning and it is about the experiences back in Africa post immigration. Uganda is the predominant background used as the author is Ugandan.
I will be honest, the prologue-Christmas Is Coming, threw me off. Child POV is a usually a coin toss likely to be lost. It was the case here. Some of the stories like Our Allies The Colonies, The Airport Diaries, and Malik’s Door are like a little window into immigrants’ lives and the challenges they face. Most read like an African soapie. And it works well in the instance of Manchester Happened, where it provides great humour. The same didn’t work so well in Let’s Tell This Story Properly.
The theme of avoidance and secrets runs through most stories, and makes me wonder if Africans are still literally taking the truth with to their graves. Jennifer explores other issues, some more expected like racisms, inter-racial relationships, parents left without heirs. But she also tackles some unexpected ones like surrogacy and male circumcision.
The book is funny, easy to read, and a win for African literature in the general sense of moving us from the “single story” problem.
The Joburger Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️