Mubanga Kalimamukwento’s “The Mourning Bird”

Mubanga Kalimamukwento’s debut novel The Mourning Bird was published by Jacana on June 1, 2019.

Mubanga Kalimamukwento is a Zambian writer who has been making waves in the African literary community with shortlists for the Kalemba Short Story Prize 2019 and the Syncity NG Anniversary Anthology and Prize. The writer isn’t just about short stories. Her manuscript won South Africa’s Dinaane Debut Fiction Award which earned her a cash prize of R35,000 and a chance to be published by Jacana Publishers. Readers got a chance to see the new book The Mourning Bird on June 1 with the blurb;

When eleven-year-old Chimuka and her younger brother Ali find themselves orphaned in the 1990s, it’s clear that their seemingly ordinary Zambian family is brimming with secrets: from HIV/AIDS to infidelity to suicide. Faced with the difficult choice of living with their abusive extended family or slithering into the dark underbelly of Lusaka’s streets, Chimuka and Ali escape and become street kids.

Against the backdrop of a failed military coup, election riots and a declining economy, Chimuka and Ali are raised by drugs, crime and police brutality. As a teenager, Chimuka is caught between prostitution and the remnants of the fragile stability from before her parents’ death.

The Mourning Bird is not just Chimuka’s story; it’s a national portrait of Zambia in an era of strife. With lively and unflinching prose, Mubanga paints a country’s burden, shame and silence that, when juxtaposed with Chimuka’s triumph, forms an empowering debut novel.

You can read an excerpt of the book at our friends at Johannesburg Review of Books and buy it at Exclusive Books or at