Invisible

I did not know what to expect when I picked up Kevin Mwachiro’s Invisible: Stories from Kenya’s queer community’, so I went ahead to satisfy my curiosity after the tasteful launch of the book at the Goethe Institute.

The book is a compilation by journalist and activist Kevin Mwachiro of narratives from Kenyan activists on their discontent against discrimination and uphold the respect and dignity of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex individuals.

The story in chapter 14 of a Turkana boy is particularly compelling, so pure and honest that I wanted it to become a novel. The author of this piece tells his piece in one of the most refreshingly sincere way. No agenda. No 3-pronged objectives. Just a boy, telling his story, leaving out nothing.

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Looking for Alaska

Before. Miles “Pudge” Halter’s whole existence has been one big nonevent, and his obsession with famous last words has only made him crave the “Great Perhaps” (François Rabelais, poet) even more. Then he heads off to the sometimes crazy, possibly unstable, and anything-but-boring world of Culver Creek Boarding School, and his life becomes the opposite of safe. Because down the hall is Alaska Young. The gorgeous, clever, funny, sexy, self-destructive, screwed-up, and utterly fascinating Alaska Young, who is an event unto herself. She pulls Pudge into her world, launches him into the Great Perhaps, and steals his heart.

After. Nothing is ever the same.

That’s the book blurb, ladies and gentlemen.

For a while now, I had been prowling the local book stores in search of a John Green book. So when I saw a copy being sold by one of our street book sellers, I grabbed it, read the blurb and thought “Love story. Cool.”

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americanah- chimamanda adichie

In the interviews surrounding the launch of her new book, Americanah, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie has been very forthright about the fact that it is a love story. Well, a story mostly about love, but also about race, and hair, and self. The lovers at hand, Ifemelu and Obinze, are young and Nigerian, and the course of their true love may run far and wide, across nations and time and governments, but it doesn’t run smoothly.

Obinze is a bookworm’s hero, a blogger’s dream – tender and introspective, a boy taught to cook by his mother. It would be easy, however, to dislike Ifemelu. It pains me to admit it, but I’m petty, and when everything falls into someone’s lap I dislike them easily. And Ifemelu very nearly has the charmed heroine’s existence – 1000 views of her brand new blog in 6 days especially rankled. Never mind hair tips, I want click bait tips! She even grows an ass – the one physical shortcoming Obinze ever saw fit to point out. Still, she’s flawed enough to remain human and likeable – her pain and struggles are raw and real, and while she may make snap judgments of others, she is by no means totally sure of herself.
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Fifty shades of Grey

By all means, 50 Shades of Grey has Few Literary Merits. The use of description as a technique has been used solely for the characters, and the BDSM scenes that keep graduating as the story progresses.
The book tells the story of Anastasia (the submissive) and Christian’s (the dominant) sexual adventures as they traverse through the murky world of BDSM. According to Wikipedia, the origin of the term BDSM is unclear, and is believed to have been formed either from joining the term B&D (bondage and discipline) with S&M (sadomasochism or sadism and masochism).

Told from the first person narrative, the book follows the ‘coming of sexual age’ story of college student Anastasia and Christain Grey, CEO of Grey Enterprises Holdings, Inc. The latter’s inner demons torment him and he subjects Anastasia to his ‘dark’ sexual preferences.
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The title of this memoir, written in 1980 and published posthumously in 2012, is quite appropriate as it chronicles the life of a man out to make a living and a home in a foreign land amid a myriad of challenges. David Hurd was a British National that settled in Kenya in the 1950s, first in Kisumu and eventually at the Coast in 1962.

The story begins with his arrival in Malindi with the hope of going into the fishing trade. He buys a boat Ghanima, meaning lucky or good fortune in Swahili, and alongside his business partner Kibanja Kenga, begins a somewhat successful fishing enterprise. He eventually leaves the fishing business to pursue running a restaurant, after happening on a semi-inhabited island off the coast of Malindi. The island came to be known as Robinson Island and he made his home on it.
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The first thing that strikes you about The Dream Chasers is its kaleidoscope of descriptions: commonplace aspects of Kenyan life seen through the eyes of a young Luo girl, and sensuously explored. The second, in stark contrast to the detailed analysis of everyday activities and objects, is the deliberately distanced engagement with characters.

The Dream Chasers is the story of Lulu and it begins 4 months before the 2007 national elections in Kenya. A chronologically structured narrative, which with its opening sentence looks ahead to a tragic future incident, it traces the increasing momentum of the elections parallel to the development of Lulu’s relationships with her mother, her father and her best friend Muchai. Continue reading

There is something magical about reading a book which is set in your own city or country. The sights are familiar; the observations feel intimate; and an analysis of everyday, mundane activities builds an instant camaraderie between the reader and the author.

Line and Sinker by Paul Nderitu set in contemporary Nairobi is such a story. It is a crime story told through the third person narrative of Inspector Mutua, a police inspector, who is dedicated to fighting crime in the city, so much so that his work puts his family life firmly in the back seat. Continue reading

There is a certain stereotype about Indian literature. It is an impression shaped by the brilliant colours of saris, pungent smell and taste of spices, slant eyed Indian beauties and old world elegance of India’s architecture.

If that is why you have picked up Aravind Adiga’s The White Tiger, then you will be sorely disappointed.

The White Tiger is not a book that indulges in any soft or tender moments. It is harsh and realistic – and as stark as the binary of Light and Dark that the book develops its narrative. One which examines the culture of servitude in India, which pits the rich against the poor.

And yet told by the protagonist, Balram, a self made man in all senses – from his first job in the city as a driver to a rich family, all the way to his new life as an entrepreneur in the city of Bangalore – it is an open and honest examination of his character’s development vis a vis that of the creation of contemporary Indian society. Continue reading

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. Continue reading

This is the first masterpiece that I have read that is unputdownable. It is so fast paced; it glides in a flash second before your very eyes like a work of magic that before you realize, you are done. And you have got nothing from it. Published almost a century ago, 1925 to be specific, the book is considered one of the greatest works of F. Scott Fitzgerald.

It is about a man called Jay Gatsby told in the voice of one Nick Carraway who happens to be his neighbor. Gatsby is a man of pomp and color in terms of hosting endless parties that attract people from different states in America. But the fun ends there. A dimension of emptiness and loneliness sets in that is characteristic of the partygoers. The narrator almost contemptuously remarks:

I believe that on the first night I went to Gatsby’s house I was one of the few guests who had actually been invited. People were not invited — they went there.” Continue reading