This is part 2 of a list of great Kenyan fictional books that lovers of literature would definitely enjoy. Read part 1 here.
11. The Promised Land by Grace Ogot
This story alludes to the Biblical Promised Land. We are introduced to two individuals, Nyapol and Ochola, a young couple from the western part of Kenya, Nyanza. Tired of living the tyrannical life of frequent taxation and political feuds and competition Ochola, Nyapol’s husband, is convinced that moving to Canaan, Tanzania in this case, will guarantee them greener pastures. Nyapol is opposed to this move but eventually has to oblige because as it was she had no say as is the position of the woman. The story explores the personal jealousy that overcomes the couple and the tribal hatred that ensues as they finally realize that the grass is not always greener on the other side.It brings out the ‘ideal characters’ of an African wife i.e. being family oriented and submissive to one’s husband, which is a slap to the modern day woman.
As is usual with Grace, the story has the African element of storytelling coupled with poetic language, narration and songs, letters and an ironic style. One thing to learn from this book, there is no place like home. This book will take you through a journey of change, family and friendships.
12. The Last Villains of Molo by Kinyanjui Kombani
One of the young brilliant minds of this generation, Kinyanjui Kombani has a deep relevant approach in his works and this first book by the young author explores the real lives of people and places and the events that surround the Kenyan people. Set in the background of the tribal clashes in 1992, this novel, like a prophesy, relates a lot to the tribal clashes that spelled doom in Kenya during the post election period of 2007-2008. It centers on five characters, Bomu, Bone, Ngeta, Rock and Bafu whose lives intertwine to bring out the differences that can cause division among people. It touches on one of the greatest challenges facing the Kenyan youth today i.e. unemployment and what idle minds are capable of doing if negatively manipulated. Revenge and retaliation causes bloodshed. Tribalism is a rampant scenario and the risks that come about from it are what KK is torching. Tribe may be the most authentic identity we have but not the reason we should not be humans.
This novel is relevant in any society today. The story is moving and the events are intricately explained and the simplicity of the diction makes it an easy read for any audience. This book should be in our High schools already!
13. A thorn in the flesh by Tom Opondo-Okoyo
This book has a captivating story behind it. A man is in search of recognition. He seeks power, prominence, a good life just like his friends who are big fish in the government. While he is still a p-4 teacher at a local primary school, 28 years in the service. No promotion and nothing to pride himself with other than the experience of being a teacher with a lousy pay. The man just can’t move forward until when his headmaster is hospitalized and he gets a temporary seat of power. He is exhilarated but he wants more. Mwalimu Peter Bolo is an extremist who will do anything, including turning to crime, to gain the power that he wants. He wants a political seat and he will do anything to trample upon his opponents. Sounds familiar? Yes. Just like any modern day power seeking greed. The story touches on a few traditions, superstitions, and the effects of post independence, political instability and power. Greed is a motive to kill. Find this book and get to know the thorn in the flesh.
14. Halfway between Nairobi and Dundori by Muthoni Garland
This short novel explores the everyday relationships among couples, differences, disagreements, conflicts and resolutions and what keeps them going. The language is richly employed and casual.
15. Wizard of the crow by Ngugi Wa Thiong’o
This is one of those Ngugi books whose satire and irony gets you laughing madly. As usual, traditions versus modernity are ingredients to spice the story up but this one has wit. Ngugi reduces the seriousness of oppression by the political bigwigs by explaining what makes them as they are. If you laughed at the idea of leaders getting visits from ‘The dark forces‘, then you’ll most likely find the ‘work of the demons’ in the book highly amusing. Political rivalry, greed and ambition are elements featured in this voluminous book. It expresses corruption and bad leadership in the most satirical forms. The dialogue is a whimsical one, the description, hilarious. This book is a masterpiece.
If there is a book by Ngugi that I enjoyed reading, it is this one. Let not the size intimidate you and if your knowledge and understanding of the Kikuyu language is impeccable, I’d recommend the original version- Murogi Wa Kagogo.
16. The successor by Francis D. Imbuga
Imbuga’s charm with words is revealed in his works and particularly in his play, The Successor. The play focuses on the political scene and traditions surrounding an African people and the ambitious drive that pushes one to try all means to be top on the hierarchy of power. The dialogue criticizes the system of governance that is corrupt and points blankly at the blatant ignorance that is with the people regarding their choice of their leaders. This play has its relevance in today’s Kenyan society as it was in its time of publication.
17. Fresh paint (A collection of short stories and poetry from young Kenyan Women- A project by AMKA (Space for Women’s Creativity and Goethe Institut-Kenya)
This book has twenty five beautifully written poems and eleven intriguing short stories.
My favorite stories include “A Robe of Guilt” by Zipporah Muli, Mercy Baraza’s “Cologne”, “Children of the Dark” by Claudette Odour and Jacqueline’s Ndinda’s “The Angel after Sunset”. I loved the simplicity of the language used in these and other stories.
The poem that I enjoyed most was Kingwa Kamenchu’s “The Day the Cradle Gave Birth“.
18. African short stories (Edited by Chinua Achebe and C.L. Innes)
This book contains twenty short stories from across Africa including our very own Ngugi Wa Thiong’o, Grace Ogot, Leonard Kibera and Jomo Kenyatta. “Certain Winds from the South” by Nigeria’s Ama Ata Aidoo and “The Spider’s Web” by Leonard Kibera were my favorite. Get a copy of this book and enjoy the amazing works of Africa’s best minds.