DEAR PHILOMENA; a story of strength… or maybe vulnerability…

AUTHOR: Mugabi Byenkya

PAGES: 216

PUBLISHER: Discovering Diversity Publishing

Before I share my two cents on this book, I really want to state that if you come across any person named Mugabi, stand warned that such persons are often wrapped in metaphors of wit and charm. As if that is not enough, the meaning of the name itself gives it away because they Give of themselves. (I am very able-bodied to speak on this subject because of my wealth of experience as my surname is Mugabi)

Now that’s out of the way, I had the privilege of meeting Mugabi Byenkya in person a few months back in Nairobi. The bits and pieces I knew from his story were nothing close to the entire truth that he writes about in Dear Philomena, with such profoundness.


The cover of the book is a subtle form of beautiful art. (beautiful in Mona Lisa’s league; since the renowned painting shows the fusion between male and female identities) The beautiful cover shows his face split into two with letters flying from and into each half. This signifies the split personality to whom he writes and receives letters.

In his book, Mugabi invites us to keep abreast with necessary conversations on mental health, physical health as well as poetry. I find it necessary for us to engage in such conversations as any illness (mental or physical) keeps lurking around in the neighbourhood like the uninvited guest at a party. Mugabi writes his experience on a raw and real account he suffers a series of three strokes, first in his childhood; February 2001 and later in  February 2014.He describes how many trophies doctors collect as they suffer bouts confusion on his case as they investigate why the causes of the intense chronic pain, mental illness that only administer suicidal attempts in his mind coupled with the most innocent form of depression.

The blades of his pen are sharpened with such a broad spectrum of anxiety through the search for an accurate treatment from the modern, traditional world and the recommended narcotics. He has a fluid way of writing his story with a hip-hop fusion and some poetic vibes. (Because, what is the world without poetry?) Mugabi writes all about this nerve wrecking and yet life changing position in 15 chapters. The best character for me is Philomena, whom he describes as the Ying to Mugabi’s Yang and proves to be his strong support system.The book, Dear Philomena, is an invitation to eavesdrop on their conversations that left me  laughing and crying simultaneously. (It sounds crazy until you see the well waters flowing down your face)

I must warn any reader who indulges in Dear Philomena to stay woke (the millennial in me demands to be heard). The sexuality theme is closely intertwined with racism issues as well as the closeness between two spiritual standpoints that is; Islam as well as Catholicism; and all you should do is read in between the lines.

My take home in this book, in amidst all the pain ,trials and tribulations just as he mentions what he goes through and suggests that the book of Job in the Bible should have been called Book of Mugabi. In such a place, you are left to choose between throwing pity parties and wallowing in pain or to explore the options of hope around oneself such as those provided in this book.

Tough times don’t last, Tough people do. Just ask Mugabi Byenkya.

Copies of Dear Philomena are available at all bookstores in Uganda at just 38000UGX or you can purchase yourself a copy online by clicking here.

mugabi byenkya
Mugabi Byenkya (credits: Babishai Poetry)


Changing the narrative. Telling my African story

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