Tropical fish by Doreen Baingana is a collection of linked short stories which was published in 2005. In this writing, we will be discussing on the novel and a critical review of the novel paying more attention to the novels context, theme, style and ideology.
Doreen Baingana grow up in Entebbe, Uganda, and now divided her time between Uganda and the United States her bood, Tropical fish won the 2006 common wealth writers prize, best first bood, Africa, and an AWP short fiction award.
She graduated from Makerere university with a JD, and from the university of Maryland with an MFA while at Makerere university Baingana was an active member of FEMRITE-Uganda Women Writer Association, which she has referred to as “a literary home of sorts”.
Tropical fish by Doreen Baingana is a collection if eight linked short stories about three sister- Patti, Rosa, and Christine- as they journey through life in the town of Entebbe, Uganda. The story is a bildungsroman. With the exception of lost in in Los Angeles, all eight stories are set in Uganda and they all deal with the choice they made and where it led them even though the story was set in the period after Idi Amin’s misrule abd the deterioration that was impossible itself on the country, politics was never the object, except in some places
where references are made to it such as when an ex all-european school was left to deteriorate and the seventy-two hours ultimatum given to the idians in Uganda to leave.
The story begins with Green stones as the youngest of the three daughters admires her mother’s jewellery purchased by her husband anytime he arrives from the numerous fraves.
The title story Tropical Fish is the story of Christine, before she left for the US, and her newly found boyfriend, peter, an expatriate who exports tropical fish. The story is about the high-risk teenage life of sex, drinking and abortion. Peter and Christine met the dated almost instantly. They started having sex in peter’s huge white house located in a plush hill top residential area –christine got pregnant but would not tell peter because he might think she wants his money.
Doreen Baingana’s Tropical fish works to undercut monolithic nations of Africa female experience of womanhood. The writer consciously writes against the stereotype of Africa woman as victim. Baingana’s shot stories linked three sisters, forming a family that is stronger than its individuals parts, providing a variety of perspectives on growing up African, Ugandan and relatively privileged. This form and narrative technique is a departure from traditional, postcolonial women’s coming of age, in that it provides the perspectives of three very different young women at different developmental stages. In this way, Tropical fish works to undercut monolithic notions of Africa female experience of womanhood.
Baingana provides a textured and complex picture of middle-class African womanhood within a specific urban location. As the children of government buveaucrats, the three sisters attend the best schools in Entebbe, are sent to prestigious private boarding schools, and are part of the elite at Makerere University. In the words of rosa, one of the sisters, the girls are. The cream of the crop. “hunger” is also written from oldest sister
The writer Doreen Baingana also focused on the minutiae of the girl’s lives, rather than larger political themes in the volatile period after Idi Amin’s dictatorship, is a strategic choice the story demonstrates the ways in which ordinary people go about living their lives, sun living political repressions and economic decline. With Tropical fish Baingana has also startedto create a new language for exploring week female subjectivity. Though some stories will grip the reader more than others, the collection gives singular insights into women’s lives on the African continent and in the diapora, and will be useful for exploring race class and identity in a women’s studies classroom
Baingana’s Tropical fish explores some thematic preoccupation in which some of them will be discussed
• Sex and relationship: The story Tropical fish is a refusal to feel ashamed of sexual pleasure in the face of nightmarish circumstances, a riposte to the politics of respectability and that often get in the way of dealing with the epidemic, and it draws together the rest of the stories ever bringing some previous characters back which are all about female hungers and desires in one way or another.
• Family saga: The novel is about series of short stories connected into one modern day Uganda family’s history. It really gives a flavor of modern east African life. The author so subtly sands the reader into the upheaval of an upper-class family upended by an angry alcoholic father, the post Amin era, the protagonist’s eransition from African to American and back again.
• Indecency on campus: This can be seen in the way peter lives his life by drinking on campus. Also, the way Christine lives her life as a young girls shows indecency.
• Exploitation: This can be seen when a white man exports exotic fish. Peter exports tropical fishes in so many parts of the world.
Explaining Doreen’s style of writing, firstly on how she came up with the title for the book, Doreen explains that she intends. The fish as a metaphor for the lives of the three sisters. Swimming through life with this rough and calm water. Doreen also tells the audience that adults try to suppress the child in them, but she has found writing as a way to unsuppress the child in her, this is especially evident in the first story “Green Stores”
Also, Doreen Baingana uses sex to lead us into a scientific question to put out our hypothesis in form of research. Tropical fish looks like a vividly narrated story. Doreen description of tropical fish is a unique form of everyday life practice in our planet that humans and animals do to succeed in getting there, where they want to be in life.
Doreen Baingana exemplifies the deep rooted African problem of abusive relationships that our women find themselves in but can not end due to cultural sanctions. The story Tropical fish also dissects a domestic crisis that men have long ignored selfishly, with consequence weighing heavily on women. Doreen also uses the idea of addressing culture and identity with so much history. It is crystal clear from Doreen’s outline and her idea that we virtually labor for everything that we do be it for pleasure or game. Nothing good comes easily.
After having a critical study on the novel Tropical fish by Doreen Baingana, we have discussed so far about the author, the summary of the novel, the context of the novel which is African female experience of womanhood, the thematic preoccupation, the style at which the writer writes the play in which she makes use of narration and also, the writers ideology on the novel.
Courtney from Study Moose
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