The Queen of Katwe: A Story of Life, Chess, and One Extraordinary Girl's Dream of Becoming a Grandmaster Hardcover
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Her command of the game at such a young age certainly had people talking. Certainly she must have the best of coaches, the best education, and the best backing to be as good as she is. Certainly the best chess players have the best pedigree.
Phiona Mutesi is from Uganda, a country at the bottom of the pecking order of African nations. And she lives at the bottom of the pecking order of Uganda itself. She's a child of Katwe - one of the worst slums in the world.
The Queen of Katwe, by former Sports Illustrated senior writer, Tim Crothers, is a gritty inspiration. Crothers introduces us to a culture where human life is cheap. Where life, moment to moment, is not guaranteed. Where a teen girl's goal is to give herself to a man, or more than one man, in order to secure food and shelter - and hopefully support for children when she gets pregnant. But in a country rampant with AIDs, it's not uncommon for that male support to succumb to the disease and leave his offspring homeless and scraping for food.
This was the life that Phiona was born into. A world of mind-numbing destitution and hopelessness.
But while Phiona and other children like her fought to survive in the squalor that is Katwe, there were people who were determine to bring hope.
People like Robert Katende who grew up in Katwe and fought his way out. A man of strong faith and a passion to mentor and love the kids who found their way to the Sports Outreach center every day to get a bowl of porridge and learn chess.
People like Russ Carr, on staff at Liberty University, who, 25 years ago, founded the Sports Outreach Institute that uses sports as an inroad to missionary work in third world nations.
And people like Norm and Tricia Popp who established the Andrew Popp Memorial Scholarship to help Ugandan slum children get an education, after their son's tragic death.
Crothers masterfully intertwines these stories until each life intersects at the moment when a shy, filthy little girl first placed herself in front of a chessboard.
Rooks, bishops, knights, pawns, queens and kings fought for survival and dominance on the board. Each move that Phiona made would mean win or lose - a check- checkmate reflection of her life in the muddy streets of Katwe.
But her excellence at this game opened doors that would never have been opened to her. Traveling around the world, sleeping in a real bed in a hotel with toilets and running water, and most of all food, more than she could possibly imagine.
Unfortunately, those tournaments that took her out of Katwe would end, and she would return to the only life she had ever known.
Phiona is still in Katwe, going daily to play chess at a little church outside of the slums. She has dreams that she dared never to dream before - but getting out of Katwe won't be easy. But she has a chance.
The Queen of Katwe does inspire, but Crother's doesn't sugarcoat the reality of Phiona's life in the slums. Being a chess champion means very little in the mean streets.
So as Phiona's gutsy attitude and determination lifts the heart - her situation, and the situation of many Ugandan children like her, can't help but convict the spirits of those of us who are first-worlders.
The Queen of Katwe is an important book. We tend to forget how most of the world lives. Phiona's story is a moving reminder that every life holds value, and we have the opportunity to influence the endgame.
Free advanced reader copy of The Queen of Katwe received from Scribner Publishing in exchange for an honest review
In a society where reality t.v. stars (and some athletes) are given non-deserved celebrity status for doing nothing more than behaving badly, it is refreshing to read about someone who can teach all of us something about faith in God in the worst of circumstances, humbleness, perseverance, and daring to dream for what seems impossible. For most people the motivation to be the best at something is fame and fortune; for Phiona, being a chess champion is a matter of survival emotionally, physically, and economically. It helps provide food for her family for another day or two, and shelter for another week or maybe even a month. It has the potential to open doors for education that she might not have otherwise.
Once I started reading Phiona's story, I couldn't stop. When I reached the end I wanted more because her story is not finished yet. I want a sequel or some kind of postscript to know what has happened to her since the publication of this book. I find myself thinking about her every day, wondering if she and her family have been able to get out of the slum of Katwe and how she is doing in the next championship.
This is the story of a real-life hero and role model that adults and teens need to read, and that needs to be shared with other children.
This book is a story of triumph and Phionia is an amazing young lady. SOI had taught children soccer. Robert Katende saw children sitting on the sidelines, and had a vision to teach the children chess. they speak Lugandan , but they are learning English. in their language, there is no word for chess. Phionia had an amazing talent for it and the main reason her mother let Phionia go to the chess program is that they were giving them free food. In Katwe, it is total devastation.children care for children and there could b e5 people on one mattress.
It is an amazing story of God's mercy and grace . Please read it, your heart will go out to the Africans in slums and that are desperately in need of help.
Title: The Queen of Katwe: A Story of Life, Chess, and One Extraordinary Girl's Dream of Becoming a Grandmaster
Author: Tim Crothers
ISBN 13: 978-1451657814
Rating: 4 Stars
Phiona Mutesi was a nine-year-old girl living in Katwe. Katwe is the worst slums in Uganda. Instead of getting an education, she had to get out and work. She and her siblings did odd jobs to help their mother. Between times, she was introduced to chess and picked up rather quickly. What will she do with her new skill?
Let me start off by saying Tim Crothers did a phenomenal job with this book. In the beginning, I had a hard time reading about the living conditions in Uganda. I applaud Crothers for keeping things raw. His work puts things in perspective and gives you something to think about. I walked away learning some Uganda history. This is definitely a book I would recommend to others.
The book starts slow, with a journalistic look at how the slums grew from swampland to a massive dirt-city surrounding the 'civil' society of Kampala. But it unfolds into a world I can't really understand. So many side-stories: One eye opener is to learn that every African working with Sports Outreach suffers or suffered some kind of profound loss. Like Robert, who struggled as an illigitimate child, or Alosias, living apart from his children in order to give back, through his faith, to the next generation.
Thanks goes out to ESPN for capturing this wonderful story. Read it and you'll be inspired to achieve in spite of obstacles, and especially to help those in need. In even small ways, like feeding youngsters once a day in a safe place to play and learn, turns out to be a chance to discover someone like Fiona. Who knew?
I hope this becomes a movie or tv special. The impact on the world's view of Africa and Uganda could be immense.