The Queen of Katwe

A Story of Life, Chess, and One Extraordinary Girl's Rise from an African Slum

Publisher: Random House Canada

Phiona Mutesi, is a 15-year-old girl born and raised in a miserable slum called Katwe in Kampala, Uganda. She sleeps in a decrepit mud hut with her mother and four siblings and struggles to find a single meal each day. Phiona has been in and out of school her whole life because her mother cannot afford to send her, so she is only now learning to read and write. Phiona Mutesi is also one of the top chess players in the world.

One day in 2005, while desperately searching for food, Phiona followed her brother to a mission church where she met Robert Katende, another child of the Ugandan slums, who works for an American organization that offers relief and religion through sports. Robert introduced Phiona to the game of chess and within months he discovered her immense talent. By the age of 11, in 2007, Phiona was her country's junior chess champion and at 15, her country's national champion. In September of 2010 she traveled to Siberia, just her second time ever on an airplane, to compete in the Chess Olympiad, the world's most prestigious team chess event. While there, Phiona proved herself to be on par with the greatest players in the sport and her goal is to one day become a grandmaster, the most elite title in chess, and to blaze a trail out of Katwe that other children in Robert's chess community can follow.

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. And to be a girl is to be an underdog in Katwe. The Queen of Katwe is the ultimate underdog story.


“Crothers tells Phiona’s story in a straightforward manner, never losing sight of its emotional resonances…. By the end of The Queen of Katwe…you’ll join the ranks of those rooting for her success.”
Shelf Awareness
“An inspiring and heart-wrenching story.”
“An extraordinary account of one young woman’s exceptional achievement.”
Only a Game (NPR)
“Moving…. A poignant reminder of the power of hope.”
Kirkus Reviews
“Phiona’s story is worth attention, and sportswriter Tim Crothers caught on…. Crothers is able to broaden and deepen Phiona’s remarkable story.”
The Christian Science Monitor
“Crothers tells a story that isn’t just inspirational but a corrective to our most damning assumptions.”
Library Journal

"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, New York Times bestselling author of The Dressmaker of Khair Khana

"This story of a young woman's triumph over the unimaginably cruel fortune she was born intowould pierce a heart of stone."
—Hillary Jordan, New York Times bestselling author of Mudbound and When She Woke