Title: I am Change
Written by Suzy Zail
Published by Black Dog Books
RRP: $19.99

Lilian lives in a Ugandan village and is thirteen years old. A bright student who loves school and learning, she wants to become a teacher and writer. But most girls don’t finish school when they start menstruating, girls are married off as quickly as possible, to start a life of domesticity and what I would consider, after reading this book, servitude.

Women didn’t have time to read books. They had to weave mats and sell cassava and cook and dig. They had to have babies and hold onto husbands.
p. 16

Lilian is head strong and determined to finish school. She fears becoming a woman, because that usually means leaving school forever. Lilian’s mother cannot read or write and is unable to understand why her daughter is so different. Lilian’s father encourages her learning however and organises for Lilian to go to the city and live with her Aunt and Uncle. Their life is not what she thought though, and her Uncle visits her Aunt for sex and food before returning to his second wife and their child. Unable to fall pregnant, Lilian’s Aunt is the victim of domestic violence and Lilian is shocked. She has a positive influence on her Aunt though, but when Lilian is forced to return to her village and traditional customs her mother insists upon, her dreams are shattered.

Your best weapons are words.
p. 288

This is a thoughtful, insightful read. Based on true stories of Ugandan women, it is a novel of despair, but also of hope. The characters are well written and there is so much to discuss and ponder over. I could not put this book down, and read it after reading The Grace Year by Kim Liggett, a feminist dystopian novel I reviewed for Magpies. I hope both these books make into the hands of many, many readers, young adult and adult alike. Lilian is change, encouraged change and enacted change. The world needs more Lilians.

Teacher Notes can be downloaded form this link.

Many thanks to Walker Books Australia for supplying this book for review.