The First Daughter

Review of “The First Daughter”

3/5 stars

Kasemiire, like her name, is a beautiful girl. She could have fetched a pretty penny for her bride price so her father could marry a third wife but he decides to send this intelligent girl to secondary school. Kasemiire is his hope as it appears that his heir will not amount to anything. She is her mother’s hope; a miserable woman who deserves a bit of happiness, a celebration on something positive in her life. Kasemiire is the hope for a bright future for her younger sisters as for her successes are theirs too. What happens to her, could for them too. That they will also get to continue on in their education and attain a better future…but this isn’t to be as Kasemiire gets with child a few months from sitting her O’level exams.

Kasemiire, the star, falls. She must come to terms with her situation and try as much as she can to rebuild her life and that of her fractured family.

The First Daughter delves into the tragic lives of women in a patriarchal society. Women wholly dependent on their husbands and reduced to fighting one another. Like the song Mukaaka, Kasemiire’s grandmother sings her, a woman can only be as free as a goat grazing in the wilderness before she is married but after that, corruption of her soul comes easy. As the value placed on the birth of a girl is the bride price she can collect, marriage becomes their world–a very small world contained within their household.

The First Daughter is steeped in Nyoro culture and I found that to be the most entertaining thing about the book. The author presented us with Nyoro proverbs, a common Nyoro folklore of Kabainara, funeral and heirship rites, and naming rituals; the meanings attached to names given to children, animals and even plants. We have us history on the Nyangire rebellion; what is taught in our history classes versus what our elders tell us. You can never have a complete story from Bunyoro without mentioning the people’s longstanding hatred for Baganda, and vice versa.

From the almost tattered copy I received for the review, it shows the book has gone through many hands. The First Daughter might be a 1996 publication but the story of Kasemiire still resonates with most.

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