Tag Archives: Kenya

The Flame Trees of Thika: Memories of an African Childhood

Flame trees of ThikaThis book is a real literary treasure. I read

it first as a teenager. It astonished me then, with its unique portrayal of Africa. Who could fail to love the African wilderness and its diverse

people after reading The Flame Trees of Thika?! Africa seen through Huxley’s youthful eyes is given a magical quality I have never again encountered (though BBC came close to portraying it in their rendition of this book). And it continues to astonish me even now. The spectacular visual imagery from that book are a treasured keepsake, and the book itself is nothing less than a 20th Century masterpiece. It is a priceless gem and well worth the cost.

A literary autobiography set in Kenya during an uncertain

and enterprising colonial era before the First World War, this book is an ideal companion to those interested in the British Empire and African anthropology. For naturalists it

provides breathtaking accounts of white hunters and their quarry as a retrospective commentary on man’s abuse of Africa’s wild heritage. Huxley writes quietly, sensitively and impartially providing philosophic insights in a heuristic and magical narrative. Always compelling, this is an important primary text.

Living Memories

Living Memories - Al KagsThe author tells the stories of people over 65 years of age who lived during the pre-independence times.

Told in first person, he reveals small aspects of their lives, those he thought today’s readers would find interesting. He manages to bring out the unique tones of the people who talked to him.

Each of the stories make for interesting-easy reading but embedded at the back of my memory are the stories of Hussein Warutere (the last story in the collection). This is a ‘loo’ story that is as shocking as it is hilarious. He woke up after a siesta with the need to go

to the loo. Because of desperation, he ends up using the white

mans toilet. A white corporal sees him leaving. He is arrested days later, accused of assisting the Mau Mau by trying to plant a bomb in the loo. He ends up spending 13 years in hard labour; six in Mwea and seven in Manyani.

Al Kags says that these stories are meant for our generation. He hopes that as

you read them, you will understand and see yourself because these are our grandparents. He also urges us to ‘write the memoirs of the elderly people near you, or record them in some fashion.”

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Wasee Wasee!

Wasee WaseeMchongoanos are very much a part of our (Kenyan) culture today as they were all those years ago during my primary school days. And it’s not only school going kids who enjoy this form of art but adults with a youthful heart (and a sense of humour) as well.

This book is

chock full of mchongoanos that you can use for every situation. Sample this: ‘Kwenu nyinyi mafala hadi mna patia kuku zenu

maji moto

ati ndio zitoe mayai boilo’

I’m sure you’ll love it!

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Halfway Between Nairobi and Dundori

Halfway Between nairobi and DundoriThis is a book that takes through the up and downs of being Kenyan and

in love, kinda…You will recognize the places, smell the places, love and hate the characters, incredible word pictures!

Muthoni Garland’s characters

are so sharply etched that you want to ask them for the fifty bob they borrowed from you last week. I can’t decide if I like it as much as Tracking the Scent of My Mother, or even more.

I wish it ended ‘my fairy tale’ way. But hey, life is

hard and gritty, no?

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Petals of Blood

Petals of BloodSet in Kenya but could be a prototype for a native

culture anywhere

colonized, breaking free, then globalized which is an extension of colonialism. It is easy to understand why the author was imprisoned after the book’s publication in 1977 as he presents a bleak view of what the Kenyans got in the way of leaders after independence from the white rulers. The viewpoint here seems to be anyone “for the people” is assassinated, those that stay in power are stinking rich doing business with the former white rulers and selling out their own people.

The story opens with a brief introduction of the four main characters – Munira, Abdulla, Wanja and Karega – a triple murder has just taken place, 3 leading millionaire government officials of the city of Ilmorog were burned to death in their beds. We are then taken back twelve years in time to when Munira arrived in the sleepy, dusty village of Ilmorog to teach school, The four friends meet and we hear their individual stories, how they change over the years but more so how the place called Ilmorog changes, from a dusty village to a modern urban centre, and the effect on people who lived there for generations.

I found the book very dense reading at first because of the style of writing with many flashback is challenging, but before page 100 I was

sailing along and could hardly put the book down. There are many layers to this novel, it is a book about Africa, about the world history of black people in general, globalization, colonialism, and a murder mystery as well, the arsonist responsible for the triple

murder is revealed to us by the end.

I Laugh So I Won't Cry: Kenya's Women Tell The Story Of Their Lives

I Laugh So I Won't Cry- Kenya's Women Tell The Story Of Their Lives by Helena Halperin

tle=”I Laugh So I Won't Cry- Kenya's Women Tell The Story Of Their Lives by Helena Halperin” width=”300″ height=”300″ class=”alignleft size-full wp-image-69″ />From Robert Ruark’s “Something of Value” of 50 years ago to John le Carre’s cheap cialis 20mg “Constant Gardner,” popular literature about Kenya has been visualized through the point of view of white people making their way there.

Halperin’s non-fiction book is a first. It’s a story of the land, compiled from the viewpoint of very many actual Kenyans, mostly female: It is about what’s really been happening there over the past half century. How the society has changed, sometimes for better, often for worse, in the past generation, as more and more people have to live on fewer acres of farm-able land or depart for the impoverished cities.

It’s about living with AIDS, the effects of money on a barter society, how education affects relationships and what it means to be a born again Christian (or Muslim) in a society where animistic beliefs

often prevail. In short, its about what it is like being a Kenyan. It is a book of anthropological thoroughness that reads like the deep-felt personal narrative that it is.

This is an interesting and informative book. It has a bit of an academic format but because the author includes so many firsthand accounts of real women in all stations, ages and

social strata, it

has a great story telling aspect as well.

Helena’s recounting of lives and situations is really indicative of what’s going on there.