PERSONAL: Daughter of Neri (a physician) and Erina (a human resources professional and Permanent Secretary of the Public Service Commission, Uganda) Baingana. Education: Makerere University, Kampala, Uganda, J.D.; University of Maryland, M.F.A.; attended the American University, Washington, DC.
ADDRESSES: Home— U.S. E-mail— [email protected]
CAREER: Writer, educator, short-story writer, broadcaster, and lawyer. Ugandan Embassy, Rome, Italy, former administrative assistant; Voice of America, Washington, DC, former broadcaster. University of Maryland, College Park, writer-in-residence, 2005; Summer Literary Festival, Nairobi, Kenya, member of faculty, 2005. Conducts creative writing workshops and seminars.
MEMBER: FEMRITE (a Ugandan women writers association).
AWARDS, HONORS: Artist Grant, District of Columbia Commission of the Arts and Humanities, 2002; Associated Writing Programs (AWP) Award for Short Fiction, 2003; Washington Independent Writers Fiction Prize, 2004; Caine Prize in African Writing nomination, 2004 and 2005; Bread Loaf Writers Conference scholarship, 2004; Key West Writers Seminar scholarship, 2004; Fairbanks International Fellowship to Bread Loaf Writers Conference, 2005; Commonwealth Writers’ Prize for the Best First Book Award in the Africa Region, 2006, for Tropical Fish: Stories out of Entebbe.
Tropical Fish: Stories out of Entebbe, University of Massachusetts Press (Amherst, MA), 2005.
Contributor to periodicals, including Sun Magazine, African American Review, Callaloo, Glimmer Train, Crab Orchard Review, Chelsea, New Vision, Monitor (Uganda), and the Guardian. Author of monthly column for African Woman, a Ugandan magazine.
SIDELIGHTS: Ugandan author Doreen Baingana originally studied international law at Makerere University, in Kampala, Uganda, and expected to embark on a career as a lawyer. Concurrent with her legal studies, she also took fiction and poetry classes, she told Jane Musoke-Nteyafas in an interview on UGPulse.com.“The workshops were the most thrilling thing I had ever done, while the law classes were dull and uninspiring,” she remarked to Musoke-Nteyafas. “I realized that I did not have a passion for legal work, but had a passion for writing. Making a lot of money has never been important to me. Alas! I felt that I could use my skills better by trying to change hearts and minds through fiction and creative nonfiction, than by trying to improve legal systems.”
Baingana’s debut collection, Tropical Fish: Stories out of Entebbe, is a series of linked stories that tell the story of three Ugandan sisters living in the aftermath of the brutal Idi Amin dictatorship of the 1970s. “What Doreen Baingana brilliantly evokes here is the experience of growing up in the wake of [Amin’s] regime, in Uganda’s former colonial capital of Entebbe,” commented reviewer Michael Upchurch in the Seattle Times. Christine Mugisha is the youngest of the three sisters. Patti is a devout, born-again Christian, while Rosa is more worldly and interested in earthly pleasures. Christine’s attitudes fall somewhere between those two extremes. The sisters’ father, a senior bank executive, dies of alcoholism as the family’s situation deteriorates in the failing post-Amin Uganda. Thereafter, the sisters and their mother struggle to maintain themselves. The stories shed light on the nature of life in Uganda while tackling difficult issues such as AIDS, poverty, food shortages, and governmental abuses. “A Thank-You Note” is constructed as a letter from Rosa to an ex-lover, recounting her battle with AIDS. “Lost in Los Angeles” contrasts Christine’s experiences of racism in the United States with those she faced in Uganda. The title story tells of Christine’s uninspired affair with an older white man who courts her with the influence of his money. “Baingana’s richly detailed stories are lush with cultural commentary,” remarked a Publishers Weekly reviewer. Reviewer Angela Nampewo, writing in the Monitor, called the collection a “brilliantly written, touching, and very honest book.” Baingana’s “fiction debut is compelling and very human,” commented Joanna M. Burkhardt in the Library Journal.
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES
Accra Mail (Accra, Ghana), February 14, 2006, “Ghanaian Wins Book Prize.”
Asia Africa Intelligence Wire, August 30, 2005, David Kaiza, “African Writing Still Not at Ease.”
Kirkus Reviews, June 1, 2006, review of Tropical Fish: Stories out of Entebbe, p. 531.
Library Journal, July 1, 2006, Joanna M. Burkhardt, review of Tropical Fish, p. 61.
Monitor (Uganda), April 16, 2006, Angela Nampewo, “Baingana: From Lawyer to Award-Winning Writer,” profile of Doreen Baingana; April 16, 2006, Angela Nampewo, “Tropical Fish is about Aspirations,” review of Tropical Fish; April 24, 2006, Gaaki Kigambo, “Baingana Launches Tropical Fish.”
Publishers Weekly, May 1, 2006, review of Tropical Fish, p. 31.
Seattle Times, October 4, 2006, Michael Upchurch, review of Tropical Fish.
Washington Post, February 24, 2005, “Off the Page,” transcript of online chat with Doreen Baingana.