Good News You Can Use: The Story Behind the New Book “The Queen of Katwe”

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“Chess is a lot like my life,” she says through an interpreter. “If you make smart moves you can stay away from danger, but you know any bad decision could be your last.” says 14 (now 16 year 0ld) Phiona Mutesi.

Black girls and Black women and exploited continents and suffering and potential and life and revelation and determination and human condition and slums and sexual abuse and violence and lack of resources and competition and courtesy and helping hands and mentoring and seeing a person for who they can be instead of who they are.

And don’t you want to know more about the heroine of this amazing life story? Of course you do.

Crothers’ book about her, “The Queen of Katwe,” was published this fall.

“That she’s from Africa makes her an underdog in the world. The fact that she’s from Uganda makes her sort of an underdog in Africa, because it’s one of the poorer countries in Africa. The fact that she’s in Katwe makes her an underdog in Uganda because it’s the most impoverished slum in the entire country. And then to be a girl in Katwe — girls are not treated as equals to the boys,” said Crothers.

“Every hurdle that the world can place in front of her it has placed in front of her.”

The extreme poverty and deprivation in Katwe is hard for many around the world to imagine.

Mutesi wakes at 5 a.m. every morning to “begin a two-hour trek through Katwe to fill a jug with drinkable water, walking through lowland that is often so severely flooded by Uganda’s torrential rains that many residents sleep in hammocks near their ceilings to avoid drowning,” he wrote.

In the country of 34 million people, about one-fourth live below the poverty line, according to the CIA World Factbook. About three-quarters of the men in Uganda are literate; only 58% of women are.

Mutesi said she’s never heard of Idi Amin who governed the country throughout the 1970.

Ugandan teenager Phiona Mutesi is “the ultimate underdog,” her biographer says.

Those who work with her believe she’s 16. But since her birthday is unclear, she might still only be 15, they say.

Her father died when Mutesi was around 3.

“I thought the life I was living, that everyone was living that life,” the teenager said, describing her childhood in Katwe, a slum in the Ugandan capital of Kampala.

“I was living a hard life, where I was sleeping on the streets, and you couldn’t have anything to eat at the streets. So that’s when I decided for my brother to get a cup of porridge.”

Robert Katende, a missionary and refugee of Uganda’s civil war, had started a chess program in Katwe. He offered a bowl of porridge to any child who would show up and learn.

SHE FLIES TO Siberia in late September with nine teammates, all in their 20s, much older than she is. When she won the match that put her on this plane she had no idea what it meant. Nobody had told her what was at stake, so she just played, like always. She had no idea that she’d qualified for the Olympiad; no idea what the Olympiad was. She had no idea that her win would send her to the city of Khanty-Mansiysk, in remote Russia; no idea where Russia was. When she learned all this, she asked just one question: “Is it cold there?”

Imagine how you would feel if you were just going along with the plans of others and then suddenly find yourself on a plane going somewhere you never knew existed.

One of two girls in the room, Phiona is juggling three matches at once and dominating them with her aggressive style, checkmating her young opponents while drawing a flower in the dirt on the floor with her toe. Phiona is 14, and her stone face gives no sign that the next day she will travel to Siberia to compete against the very best chess players in the world.

“Chess is a lot like my life,” she says through an interpreter. “If you make smart moves you can stay away from danger, but you know any bad decision could be your last.” says 14 (now 16 year 0ld) Phiona Mutesi.

This deserves repeating, if you can make smart moves you can stay away from danger, and those in the poorest of human conditions know this to be true, as most poor people across the world do.

It takes much tenacity to rise everyday and have to fight for the most basic needs of your existence, but to then go on and reach for new things that suddenly appear in front of you instead of running back to the dysfunctional existence that you’ve known thus far is the meat and potatoes of any successful launch from adversity.

Sometimes asking a question can gain you an answer.

Sometimes an outreached hand is offering you something of value.

Sometimes what happens next will change what has been happening to you all this time.

Sometimes things change for the best, and unfortunately, and luckily, it’s up to you to make it there.

Find out more: Here, here, here, and here.

 

 

 

 

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