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The Queen of Katwe: A Story of Life, Chess, and One Extraordinary Girl's Dream of Becoming a Grandmaster

3.76  ·  Rating details ·  2,171 ratings  ·  422 reviews
Based on a popular ESPN magazine article selected by Dave Eggers for The Best American Nonrequired Reading and a finalist for a National Magazine Award, the inspiring true story of Phiona Mutesi, a teenage chess prodigy from the slums of Kampala, Uganda.

PHIONA MUTESI sleeps in a decrepit shack with her mother and three siblings and struggles to find a single meal each day.
Hardcover, 224 pages
Published October 9th 2012 by Scribner
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3.76  · 
Rating details
 ·  2,171 ratings  ·  422 reviews

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Jan 15, 2017 rated it it was amazing
very Inspirational story
Apr 09, 2016 marked it as to-read
Before you get too excited about this amazing, heart-warming, life-affirming story, soon to be filmed by Disney, you might want to check out Phiona Mutesi's FIDE rating page.

Or if you want still more facts, as opposed to romantic speculations, there are 25 of her games here. Call me a cold-blooded, unpoetic chess player, but try as I will I cannot see any of the amazing talent described for example in this article. Sorry.

Nenia ✨ Queen of Literary Trash, Protector of Out-of-Print Gems, Khaleesi of Bodice Rippers, Mother of Smut, the Unrepentant, Breaker of Convention ✨ Campbell

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Chess is a lot like a language: the pieces are the phonemes, and their movements are morphemes. The positions they make together on the board are like sentences and phrases, and a talented enough chess player can really make a statement.When you think about it, chess is downright magical. A universal language that transcends geographical and cultural boundaries. A language so universal that even villagers in rural Uganda can speak it.

Most o
Dec 04, 2012 rated it it was ok
Shelves: adult-books
After a 5 page prologue about Phiona, we jump through a series of stories about other people. I found it to be very disjointed and confusing. Even now, after reading 100+ pages, when I go back, I have no idea who some of these people really are. What really gets me is that every person's story starts with their grandparent or parent's story, meaning that we have even more people to sort out. People that are not essential to the story.

Right now I'm at the point where he's introducing the missiona
Nov 27, 2016 rated it liked it
Powerful, heart-breaking, inspiring, troubling, I don’t know exactly how to describe this story of a young girl growing up in one of the worse slums in Uganda who becomes one of the best chess players on the continent. If this were not non-fiction, I would criticize it for its implausibility. Although Phiona Mutesi is the chess champion to which the title refers, this is about an entire group of slum children who find hope, support, intellectual stimulation, self-esteem and direction in a church ...more
♥ Sandi ❣
Oct 31, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2-want
I can say that I enjoyed this book, however it was a book that took it's toll. We often forget that even in this day and age there are people and places that are not as fortunate as we in America are.
Robert Katende started soccer lessons in Uganda. When he realized that not all children could play soccer he started teaching children the game of chess. To get the children to participate he would feed them, a bowl of porridge, often the only meal these slum children from Katwe received in a day. P
Anthea Carson
Dec 15, 2012 rated it liked it
Shelves: unable-to-finish
I got about 30% into the book and returned it because I had paid $11 for it and decided I wanted my money back.

I might not have written a review at all, but because I'm a chess coach and chess author I felt that I had a duty to report my experience with the book.

I did not post my review on amazon. I wanted to, but since I have the number one best seller on amazon kindle chess currently, I only wanted to write a review on there if it was positive. I didn't want it to look like I was trying to sab
Dana Lee
Sep 20, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: first-reads, own
I enjoyed the story told here. The title pretty much says what it’s about, a girl from the slums of Uganada learning chess, and learning how it may be the thing that helps her rise out of her poverish start.

As others have commented there is a lot of other filler story around Phiona's story. For me I think there is an important piece of the story there in that Crother's describes the multigenerational poverty that has stricken these people. Sometimes he sides steps the main story to add these lit
C.C. Thomas
Oct 13, 2012 rated it really liked it
This is such a perfect title for this book: queen, both a chess piece and the girl who defies all odds with grace and beauty. Sometimes one reads not to learn or know something, but simply to meet a person so extraordinary one thinks of her time and again. That is how I feel about this girl. I think of her time and again.

This is a book that will change your perspective on many things, perhaps; but most importantly, it will show you the importance of never giving up, even when the something desir
Mar 12, 2016 rated it it was ok
The entire time I was reading the choppy, short sentences and rambling interviews in this book, I felt as if I were reading a very, very long newspaper or magazine article. After reading the "about the author" section and learning he used to be an editor for Sports Illustrated, it all made sense.

If you like reading Sports Illustrated, this book might be for you. If you like reading a hundred pages of backstory information about the dozens of family members of main characters, you're in luck. How
Jan 02, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Couldn't think of a better book to start 2017 with.
Ruci Tukana
Jul 14, 2018 rated it it was amazing
The best novel I read in 2016!

I must praise the women featured in the novel for their courage, perseverance and hardwork in withstanding womanisers and Aids victims- their men!

Amidst poverty and corruption, Phiona rises to be the best chess player in Kotwe.

The story is told in its rawest form and it has me till the last page.

Another work of non - fiction to be reckoned with. Inspirational!
Feb 18, 2017 rated it really liked it
The writing is a bit too dry, but it can't really mask a fabulous story of redemption and hope where none were supposed to exist. Very inspirational and uplifting, I truly hope this story gets a happy ending and that all good people involved get rewarded and find happiness.
Mar 23, 2016 rated it really liked it
A beautiful and difficult book to read.
This book is so hopeful and so heart-wrenching at the same time. I think it did a good job showing not only the hope that is possible, but also the grim realities of having expectations in a society and culture that can't always sustain them. It seems like Uganda is making progress, but there are still so very many limitations.

It's so important that there are people trying to do scholarship programs so these kids can go to school, and get a good meal, and learn something fun, beyond just academ
May 27, 2017 rated it really liked it
Way different feel from the movie. In the movie, Katwe in some ways almost looked fun, with the music and dancing etc. In the book, you get a real sense of the despair that prevails in that kind of poverty. I was humbled and made grateful for the things I have. Humble by American standards, but all a citizen of Katwe would dream of. This story inspired me to look around to see how I can help. Made me grateful for my education. In general, pulled my head out of the materialistic nonsense I can ge ...more
Nihar Suthar
May 20, 2017 rated it really liked it
Not only is this a really inspiring story (especially for females), it's also a tremendous eye-opener about the world that exists outside the comforts that we know/take for granted. Many of our problems are nothing compared to the problems that Phiona and the rest of the children in the Katwe slum have to face. Tim did a good job getting the conditions of the slum across. Phiona is truly an underdog, and I think all students should read her story to expand their horizons/dream bigger.

What I thin
3.5 stars
Subtitled “A Story of Life, Chess, and One Extraordinary Girl's Dream of Becoming a Grandmaster”, the book tells the true story of Phiona Mutesi, a girl from the Katwe slum area of Kampala, Uganda. Phiona’s aptitude for chess is spotted by an inspirational mentor, Robert Katende, and soon it offers her the tantalising possibility of finding a route out of poverty and hardship. She joins his group of “Pioneers” and it soon becomes obvious that she has a special talent.

I really enjoyed le
Elsa K
Oct 05, 2017 rated it really liked it
This book was a beautiful story of a girl growing up in the slums overcoming all odds. It was very inspirational.

I didn't love the writing style. The author jumped around a lot and it was hard to keep straight who he was talking about. They title is a little deceiving as there are so many other people the book is actually about. I found her mentor particularly inspiring. This book gave me a sense of thankfulness for the life I have. It also broke my heart for the people living in countries like
Carolyn Harris
Feb 18, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: memoir-biography
A very inspiring story. I hope that Phiona is able to leave the slums and go on to do great things and that those she meets are inspired to do the same. This story gave me a better idea of what it's like to live in extreme poverty. There are so many challenges and obstacles to overcome, but even small things can help by giving those people a voice and by giving them hope. It's inspired me to be more aware of what's happening in the world and try to do more to help.
Oct 31, 2012 rated it really liked it
This was a fun read for me. Sports Outreach Institute is a ministry we've supported for 20 years. Among the many great ways they're serving some of the poorest of the poor around the world are projects of loving kids in the slums of Kampala, Uganda and Nairobi, Kenya. While Soccer has always been a useful tool in bringing kids together, some kids aren't interested, so a leader had an idea. He pulled out a couple chess boards, started teaching kids how to play, and gained entre into the lives a w ...more
Dec 30, 2016 rated it it was ok
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Oct 24, 2016 rated it it was ok
5 stars for Phiona - an amazing, talented young girl who lives in a slum in Kampala, Uganda and through hard work, perseverance and an incredible spirit, ends up playing against players from all over the world at the chess Olympiad in Russia. She is a true inspiration and her story needed to be told.

2 stars for the book, which was difficult, choppy and often boring to read. It described in too much detail the lives of really random and irrelevant people who were involved in the periphery of Phio
Dec 20, 2012 rated it it was ok
Shelves: nonfiction, sports
good topic, bad writing
Scribe Publications
A moving and universal story of the power of potential and the wonder of perseverance. This story will inspire you — and will make you wonder how many more Phionas there are among us.
Gayle Tzemach Lemmon, NYT-bestselling author of The Dressmaker of Khair Khana

[A] story of a young woman’s triumph over the unimaginably cruel fortune … would pierce a heart of stone.
Hillary Jordan, NYT-bestselling author of Mudbound and When She Woke

Almost too uplifting to believe … Crothers tells Phiona Mutesi’s st
Apr 10, 2018 rated it liked it
3.5 stars. I have mixed feelings about this book. On one hand, I enjoyed reading about Phiona’s story. On the other, while the writing is good, I thought the story’s organization was disjointed. I often became frustrated at how much of the story focused on other people. I get that these folks are a part, even essential, to Phoina’s story, but the disjointedness of the story didn’t clearly connect all the people up front. And there were a couple parts that I felt were included simply to increase ...more
Georgia Herod
Mar 20, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Once I began reading this story, I was drawn into the amazing chain of events that brought Robert Katende and Fiona (Phiona) Mutesi together on a verandah in Katwe, one of several Kampala slums. To follow her from her first chess lessons to her successful championship performances is thrilling; to see her struggling with conflicts between the culture of poverty and “the world out there” is painful emotionally and psychologically.

Katende was not only a chess teacher and coach, he became a LIFE C
Jun 27, 2017 rated it really liked it
"The project was full of street kids. Kids who didn't go to school. Many were orphans. Some were homeless. All of them were desperate for guidance in their own way.

" ' Some of the kids challenged me initially, but I was certain I could handle any bad behavior because I had lived in the situation they were in,' Katende says. 'I told them I was not there to judge them, but to love them. I found that if you treated them with respect, you could open up a lot in their hearts. learned not to always do
Brad Kittle
Jul 24, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This is a remarkable story, about a remarkable young lady. I happened upon this book after hearing about it on a podcast. Heidi Baker had watched the movie and recommended it. I saw that there was a book and I wanted to read the book first, before watching the movie. The movie is out on Netflix. Anyway, I highly recommend this book. Phiona's life has been very difficult; but by the grace of God, faith, hard work and divine providence she has made her way in the world. It's truly a remarkable sto ...more
Kirsten Lewis
Feb 11, 2019 rated it really liked it
Listened to this as an audio book.
1) There are a lot of names and brief biographies given in the first couple chapters. I would have flipped through those introductions numerous times if given the chance.
2) This book is about much more than Phiona.
3) I really appreciate the ambiguity of the beginning, middle and end. You can’t wrap this story into a pretty package. There are so many nuggets of wisdom in this story. And also so much sadness and very very little joy. But it is not a sad story eit
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Tim Crothers is a former senior writer at Sports Illustrated who is currently a journalism professor and a freelance sportswriter. He is the author of The Man Watching, a biography of Anson Dorrance, the legendary coach of the University of North Carolina women's soccer team, co-author of Hard Work, the autobiography of UNC basketball coach Roy Williams, and author of The Queen of Katwe, the story ...more
“For the most part, the girls of Katwe need to be told who these people are and once they learn, they want to be just like them. For Phiona Mutesi and the other teenage girls of Katwe, there are no true female role models to follow. Nothing realistic. Nothing attainable. No solid businesswoman or stable homemaker. There is no in-between for Phiona to grab onto during a very impressionable time in her life, a time when she needs a lot of guidance about becoming an adult.” 1 likes
“Phiona Mutesi is the ultimate underdog. To be African is to be an underdog in the world. To be Ugandan is to be an underdog in Africa. To be from Katwe is to be an underdog in Uganda. To be a girl is to be an underdog in Katwe. When” 1 likes
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