“Around the Fire” by Susan Muwanse Kasedde

Around the Fire: A Celebration of African Family, Women’s Strength and Our Stories

Susan Muwanse Kasedde
AuthorHouse (2022)
ISBN: 978-1665548960
Reviewed by Lily Andrews for Reader Views (07/2022)

“Around the Fire: A Celebration of African Family, Women’s Strength and Our Stories” by Susan Muwanse Kasedde is an impressive story of strength and vulnerability, love and loss, life journeys and self-discovery.

At the age of 5, Kasedde and her family are forced to flee her home country, Uganda, during the brutal and inexplicable, nearly decade-long rule of Idi Amin. At the time, the President had ordered their arrest as an act of revenge for her father’s presumed defection. He had been holding the office of the Ministry of Health in Uganda before seeking refuge in the United Kingdom. The book recounts Kasedde’s settlement in the UK, Canada, the United States, and back home in Uganda.

All through her stay in other countries, her motherland remained with her, like a silhouette of her soul. During those tumultuous times, her mum’s unflappable optimism, grit, and warmth set the tone for them as a family and ultimately planted our feet squarely on the ground and pointed their minds firmly ahead to their goals. Upon selection as a United World Colleges scholar and consequently joining Pearson College in Canada, the author’s life unfurls into a dramatic chapter that she only dreamed of along with her eventual return home to a country bustling with possibilities.

“Around the Fire” juxtaposes Uganda’s coming to birth and healing from a lingering effect of the war years to Kasedde’s growth as she navigates through newfound friendships, love, and the exhilaration of youth hood. I admired the author’s sense of clarity, independence, and tenacity during the different periods of her life and amidst the turbulence in her childhood and teenage years. She asserts that through her experiences, she has come to appreciate that life is not just about breath and consciousness, but about acceptance and the freedom to celebrate one’s identity. It’s also about inclusion, belonging, dignity, love, respect, and hope.

Buoyed with vintage photographs and an articulate, eloquent and heartfelt writing style, these shared memories are bound to resonate in every reader’s mind. They ooze with sage wisdom, reflections, insightful thinking, and honesty. Her stories represent those of so many Africans who leave their war-torn countries to seek refuge, further education, and a sense of identity in other countries. Indeed, “Around the Fire: A Celebration of African Family, Women’s Strength and Our Stories” by Susan Muwanse Kasedde is not only written for pure escapist entertainment but also a masterpiece on which values and basic instruction can be built upon.

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