If Books Fail, Try Beauty: An Ethnography of Educated Womanhood in the New East Africa examines Kampala's university-based sexual economy wherein female students exchange sexual favors for money, grades, and luxury commodities. These practices increase young women's risk for infectious disease, pregnancy, and moral rebuke, yet many women engaged in "transactional" sex are adept students at Makerere University and members of East Africa's nascent middle class. Based on thirty-six months of ethnographic research, If Books Fail reveals that
students participate in Makerere's sexual economy to pursue social advancement in a newly privatized education sector.
The book charts the passage and effects of Uganda's education restructuring from 2004 onwards and demonstrates how these reforms - in opposition to the government's gender equality aims - undermine female students' opportunities for success by reshaping the meaning of "educated woman." If Books Fail brings together formerly disparate conversations about education, sexuality, and state policy to offer a theorization of emerging forms of selfhood in the post colony.