Beatrice Lamwaka - Butterfly Dreams (Caine Prize 2/5)

This is the second installment of my reviews of short stories nominated for Caine Prize.

"Butterfly Dreams" tells a story of a child soldier. Or it actually doesn't. "Butterfly Dreams" doesn't tell a story of a child soldier. The child soldier in question is Lamunu, girl abducted by rebels when she was just 11 and recently reunited with her family after years of living with the rebels. The narrator (member of Lamunu's familu) addresses her directly and doesn't encourage her to tell them her story.

"We did noy ask questions. We have heard the stories before from Anena, Aya, Bongomin, Nyeko, Ayat, Lalam, Auma, Ocheng, Otim, Olam, Uma, Ateng, Akwero, Laker, Odong, Lanyero, Ladu, Timi, Kati. We are sure your story is not any different"

And so are we. We have heard those stories already, haven't we? Is there a point of telling the same story again?

Lamunu doesn't say anything. Not a word. She is completely mute.

With time her family realises they need to hear her story.

"Tell us more than Anena, Aya, Bongomin, Nyeko, Ayat, Lalam, Auma, Ocheng, Otim, Olam, Uma, Ateng, Akwero, Laker, Odong, Lanyero, Ladu, Timi... Most of all, we want to hear your voice."

With this Lamwaka argues that these stories need to be told. Always and until there is no more stories left to tell.

This is the second story I read and (unless I am reading too much into it) I can see this 'meta-story' theme recurring. What needs to be said about Africa? What's the purpose of telling those stories and whom do they really serve? Both Bulawayo and Lamwaka have tried to answer those questions in their own ways.

"Butterfly dreams" is a heartbreaking story but ultimately a positive one. There are more layers to it that I have touched in my review but I feel it is like a delicate butterfly and I don't feel I am going to do it any favours by dissecting it further.