Short Story: “Legal Alien” by Rutangye Crystal Butungi
The short story “Legal Alien” by Rutangye Crystal Butungi focuses on the protagonist (whose name is not mentioned) trying to get her medical form filled out at a small town clinic. This scene of her waiting for the doctor as the receptionist tries to hold a conversation with her in their language is complemented by the memory of her first day of school in Uganda. The themes of identity, alienation (as alluded to in the title), and education are intertwined in this story. The first line of the story: “I can’t believe the receptionist is not going to take my consultation fee just because I’m from her tribe!” jumped out at me mostly because I wondered why someone would not want something that costs less. As I continued reading, I realized that she was a little upset at the notion of not paying the fee due to having a certain identifying factor because she herself was not sure if she belonged, and she has always had this identity crisis that others have been confused about (not knowing one’s native tongue). Education is also deemed important, not only in school, but also in adjusting to one’s environment and teaching others about assumptions.