The Body Family

The Body Family is a song of memory and revelation; it is the sublime unearthing of what has been hidden by silence and erasure. This lyrical and imagistic poetry collection tells the story of a family’s journey to flee the murderous reign of Uganda’s Idi Amin only to land in a racist American landscape. Wabuke excavates personal and ancestral history to bring these poems to wrenching life, articulating what it means to be a Black girl becoming a Black woman while navigating a diaspora haunted by British colonization and American enslavement.



Praise for The Body Family:

“In her debut poetry collection, The Body Family (Haymarket Books, April 2022), Hope Wabuke potrays her family’s experiences fleeing Idi Amin’s regime in Uganda in 1976 and making a new life as refugees in the United States. In lyric and narrative poems that focus on different people—global leaders, figures from Christianity, her family members—Wabuke positions the traumas of the individual within the global legacy of colonialism and anti-Blackness. With their deft use of space and caesuras, the poems gesture at what is unspeakable about, and who can no longer speak for, this violent past while suggesting that a form of healing can be found through passing on one’s history.”

—Dana Isokawa for Poets & Writers Magazine

“In The Body Family, Hope Wabuke describes the troubled bond between abuser and survivor: the terror of association, the inescapable and rotting intimacy of violence, and the life-making work of running just out of reach, of pressing forward despite memory, despite various scars. This collection is made from gem-hard incidents that reveal the absurd gap between the truth, the tally, the witness, and what’s called ‘history.’ These narratives are Wabuke’s to till and to tell.”
Ladan Osman, author of Exiles of Eden

“In lush, cinematic poems, Hope Wabuke’s The Body Family chronicles leaving, arrival, and the dangers on either side. The poems are taut and precise, and together sing a kaleidoscopic song of Blackness, diaspora, and coming of age. I love this book, and I learn from this book.”
Safia Elhillo, author of Home Is Not A Country

“In Hope Wabuke’s The Body Family we are introduced to a trans-historical interrogation of how colonialism, race, gender, and religion have been shaping forces in the poet’s cultural and familial life. With poems that expose the brutal histories of state violence and the concomitant twisting of religious ideas, The Body Family is a lyrical exploration of what it means to be Black/Mother/Diaspora. But as with all good poetry, Wabuke carries us into moments of tenderness, beauty, and an unfettered love for community. These poems are an honest wellspring of how we face history in the present.”
— Matthew Shenoda, author of Tahrir Suite

“The poems in Hope Wabuke’s collection, The Body Family, are works of lyric force that reveal a vulnerability of sensibility and feeling, and an intellectual curiosity even as they engage courageously, matters of family, of the body, of mothering, of racism, of cultural change, in intimate and powerful ways. Hope Wabuke, in other words, is an important voice and one that should be heard.”
Kwame Dawes, author of City of Bones: A Testament

The Body Family, Hope Wabuke’s first full-length collection of poems, is one of those debut volumes, like Wallace Stevens’s Harmonium or Marianne Moore’s Observations, from which a reader gets the sense of a voice and a vision long in development and mature on arrival. It reflects her family’s experience as refugees from Idi Amin’s Uganda and its terrors, and reflects their landing in the United States, a supposedly safe harbor with terrors of its own for anyone of African descent. It also reflects her complex, mobile relationship with her father and a no less complex, mobile relationship with her young son. Glancingly, in flashes, it reflects a relationship with an abusive partner. Any one of these bodies of experience could have been matter sufficient for a volume, and to include them all risks capsizing the boat, but Wabuke’s voice, pared down and deliberate even when passionate, keeps the ship afloat and on course.”

—Paul Scott Stanfield for Ploughshares