My favorite subject in school was hands down the English Language. To interact with the language in all its glory and grandeur was akin to lighting a fire in my early years. Simply a sight to behold. Shout out to my teacher of English who was such a gem (read Grammar Police) and expected nothing less than up to par usage of the language. Failure to which attracted painful punitive measures. All hail Mrs Otieno. No xaxa lingo over here.
In a society where we are constantly drowning in information but starving for knowledge, great inspired authors serve to express said knowledge in all its splendor. Beauty without expression falls flat. Reading was my pleasure point derived from my solitude. My very own means of escapism. To a different realm where the fictional characters came alive. My introductory passion project in Primary School was Francine Pascal’s Sweet Valley High book series. Francine Pascal fully engrossed me in the adventures of the twins Jessica and Elizabeth Wakefield throughout their adolescent years. The characters were all delightfully exquisite. Pretty much everyone was blond with striking features. The plot-lines were somewhat outrageous and novella-like. With jam-packed cliffhangers that left you hooked and eagerly anticipating the next book in line.
Once I bid adieu to Sweet Valley with the last SVU series, my preceding obsession became Pacesetter series. This was my introduction to African Literature. I was so hyped, I could not get enough of these books. The story telling was deliciously woven with the authors dealing with contemporary African issues from ethnic and religious conflicts to stories of romance and espionage. The authors were mostly Nigerian with a couple from Kenya, Ghana and South Africa. The covers did amazing to set them apart with African pop on display. They remain a testament to their time. Nostalgic much?
As I continued maturing so did my Literature choices in my foresight years. I am still a learning student in that regard. Then my beloved parents being the dons of literature, bless their hearts, introduced me to Kenyan authors. Enter John Kiriamiti with My Life In Crime trilogy. My debut to adult reading. In these quasi-autobiographical books, the author went ahead to fictionally account for his time in prison. Kenyans came out in hives to support the author when the books were released in 1984. And they say Kenyans don’t read. Humph!
Grace Ogot brought the thunder for that Black Girl Magic. A politician, a nurse, an author and a diplomat all rolled into one. Too much woman. Breaking boundaries by being the first Kenyan woman to be published. A mistress at short story anthologies. Most notably and my first experience was Land Without Thunder, a must-have for any student of Literature. Set against the backdrop of the Luo society and applying some of the local lingo only served to whet my appetite for more. Never mind that I could hardly make sense of some words. This undeniably paved the way for A Promised Land and The Other Woman and other stories.
Despite almost being collector’s items at this point in time, some of these books are still available at Text Book Centre at quite the affordable prices. They are definitely worth stocking in one’s library for re-reading purposes. Some philosopher once quoted that the measure of a good book is that you like it more the older you get.