Against the backdrop of the political shenanigans in Kenya, I read this very interesting book on Kenya by a Kenyan Indian author.
About the Book.
Haunted by a past that has kept her from Nairobi for over three years, Leena returns home to discover her family unchanged: her father is still a staunch patriot dreaming of a better country; her mother is still unwilling or unable to let go of the past; and her brother spends his days provoking the establishment as a political activist. When Leena meets a local Kikuyu artist whose past is linked to her own, the two begin a secret affair—one that forces Leena to again question her place in a country she once called home.
Interlinked with Leena’s story is that of Jeffery: a corrupt policeman burdened with his own angers and regrets, and whose questionable actions have unexpected and catastrophic consequences for those closest to him. Who Will Catch Us As We Fall is an epic look at the politics and people of Kenya.
So my general thoughts:
- The book had quite a slow start, I mean you could tell she is hinting at something that happened in the past but she wasn’t going to give away anything quite so quickly.
- I thought it was a good attempt for the author to include Kiswahili phrases but it probably needed an editor who also spoke Kiswahili as in the absence of that the book had basic editorial mistakes like the police moto: Utumishi kwa wote, not utamishi kwa wote; Jogoo House not Jogo House.
- I thought that the city of Nairobi could have been more prominent unless the narrow lens through which it was presented was necessary to present how insular the Indian community in Kenya is?
The book had a few major themes that were particularly meaningful to me.
- Love that she talks about the race/tribe relations between Indians and Africans in Kenya. How there is a sense of mistrust and almost antagonistic hate or resentment. This was best played out by the employer – employee relations by the Indian mama and her Kikuyu/ African maid.
- I thought the discussion between Jai and Ivy at the SONU meeting about what makes a Kenyan Kenyan quite insightful. It made me wonder whether by the same reckoning I would be classified as one because though by birth and upbringing I am one, then again, am I actually one? Will Indians ever be viewed as Kenyan?
- My surprise at Jai choosing to study at UoN instead of going to England which as the mom confirms is the better option and generally the done thing among this sub population.
- It was interesting to read about Pio Gama Pinto because he is one person who history has not represented very well even all these years later.
- Jai could play outside but Leena couldn’t.
- Jeffrey just “took over” his friends wife like she was a spare item and no one questioned that.
- Also the fact that the wife just rolled over and adjusted to this new reality.
- The dynamics between a maid and her employer were very startling and playing into the perception of race and/or tribe in the book is the difference in treatment for a maid between a white and Indian employer.
- Jeffrey wielded significant power and that was how over time he was able to become as corrupt as he was.
- Who really ran the home between Jai’s parents, the mom or the dad?
- Leena’s characterisation of being in Nairobi vs being in London and how one can reimagine / build it up into something bigger than it really is. (p. 335)
- I loved the following quotes that best typified Nairobi.
“I love this country but I must accept it for what it is. A place where thieves are celebrated and good men die unremarkable deaths.” (p. 357)
“Nairobi is a sly town. It is so small that run-ins with people one is trying to avoid are a common occurrence, yet it is segmented enough to keep two searching individuals apart. (p. 384)
Not as ambitious as Dust but for a contemporary book, it was a great effort and I would certainly recommend it to anyone.
Posted in books, Heart matters, home
Tagged books, Books reading, Dust, gender, home, Iman Verjee, Kenya, Kenyan Indians, Kiswahili, Nairobi, power, race, tribe, Yvonne Adhiambo Owuor
Posted in books, Heart matters, home, life
Tagged Being Black, cooking, Handmaid's Tale, motherhood, Nairobi, parenting, questions, recipes, Single Ladies, style, supper clubs
Posted in Heart matters, home, life, working
Tagged Africa, Christianity, DIY, Kenya, life lessons, motherhood, Nairobi, PhD, Podcasts, Refugees, Uganda
Posted in books, home, life, working
Tagged Africa, babies, books, home, Kenya, Kenyan elections, Kenyan music, music, Nairobi, Obama, race, recipes, Sunday Reads, women and work, women at work
- Women, language, rites of passage and the khanga.
- Cobalt mining and the lost lives in The DR Congo.
- Rhino poaching in South Africa.
- Attitudes to marriage in certain communities.
- Nairobi’s art and culture scene.
- Pssst! Africans also migrate within the continent.
- SERENA. WILLIAMS. SWOON!!!
A reporter asked Williams whether she should be considered one of the greatest female athletes of all time. Her perfect response: “I prefer the words ‘one of the greatest athletes of all time.’”
Posted in good, home, life, marriage, working
Tagged DR Congo, Kenya, marriage, migration, Nairobi, poaching, rhinos, Serena Williams, South Africa, women
- A simple way to think of writing, in three parts.
- Now I am even more confused about Westgate,Nairobi (37 minute audio recording)
- Ten ways to help you improve your eating habits. Particularly #1 on doubbling up on veggies.
- A quick tuna chickpea salad.
- Light quick read on the history of Vlisco making fabrics for Africa (Won’t talk today about my feelings of appropriation where this is concerned)
- A longer history of Vlisco here …
- So Rachel Dolezal does not get it at all! Still, six months later and with a baby on the way!!
- “what’s the danger of not training the people who stay?” Another classic Seth Godin post.
- The NYT’s best pics for the year
- Pleased to hear there are measurable and positive benefits to the show 16 and Pregnant coz I really like the show!
Posted in design, life, madness
Tagged 16 and Pregnant, Africa, cooking, cultural appropriation, design, economics, life, madness, Nairobi, NY Times, Rachel Dolezal, recipes, Seth Godin, Vlisco, writing
Despite being here for six Winters, I find that the period June to August is always so difficult for me to deal. So this year, I decided to compile a list of things that I like about Winter. Don’t worry, it’s extremely short.
- Soup for dinner, YUM
- Scarves as a vital fashion accessory. I have many beautiful scarves so I am good.
- Having a ready excuse to avoid going out in order to stay indoors and stay cosy.
- Not having to shave my legs.
- Shorter days. In the morning, I definitely enjoy getting up when it’s dark outdoors; reminds me of growing up in Nairobi.
Do you love anything about Winter?
It’s the Easter weekend, four long glorious days to reflect on what Christ did for us and to rejuvenate with our family and loved ones. Be safe and enjoy the links below:
- How to boost your baking experience
- Taking stock of your spices
- I can’t imagine this level of isolation or unquestioning belief. Not good or bad, just different.
- I love that me and the Mr are a trend
- On the idiocy of copying a foreign education system, just for the sake
- Asking your salary has become the new black. But it shouldn’t
- Preach on Chris Blattman
- African School of Economics – based in Cotonou, Benin and offering a Master in Mathematics, Economics and Statistics (MMES) and Master in Business Administration (MBA)
- How well do you know your neighbours?
- This is us/ our near future
- The only piece of advice I would give to people planning a wedding (oh! and thank God I never felt the post-wedding blues or the crash)
- I know of Sasha Grey from Entourage. You?
- So true! Foreign blacks are always prepared to indigenous Blacks
- Advice before you get started on your PhD
- Women in Kenya and the need for safe spaces (I totally have an intellectual crush on the writer!)
- On being a woman in Tehran (and staying)
Posted in design, Heart matters, marriage, working
Tagged Chris Blattman, cooking, design, education, faith, Heart matters, marriage, Nairobi, relationships, Sasha Grey, technology, Tehran, violence against women, working
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As promised here are my thoughts on this book.
- For some reason, it is ridiculously priced at Exclusive Books and that’s if you can get it. I ended up getting it from Amazon at half price.
- A part of me wanted not to compare her to that other famous Nigerian Writer and I tried most of the time.
- The stories are divided into two parts – stories in the first half are based in Nigeria and the latter in America.
- The predominant themes to her stories are religion, migration or identity, family dynamics and unexpectedly lesbianism, which begs the question, how many lesbians are there in Nigeria? (This scares me because of the traffic that will be lead to this blog ala this.) But in light of the recent anti-homosexuality bills in Nigeria and Uganda, it does raise the question of how difficult it is to be gay/lesbian in Africa. Culture notwithstanding.
- She writes very simply but poignantly. A lot of the time, I had such strong feelings after most stories. Which to me is not necessarily a bad thing because I have to react to my stories to truly enjoy them otherwise it’s just not worth it.
- I loved “On Ohaeto Street” because the description of where they lived reminded me so much of the estate I grew up in back in Nairobi. Very beautiful intro to the book. As with any short story, I was left wondering whether they got back together again?
- The second story very touching as the wife had to go through the VERY public and then an equally private shame. Interesting also that it had to be the wife with a problem conceiving and not the guy. Like no one ever considered it could be him.
- I also loved “America”. Quite a lot. I felt of all of them, this had the most potential to be drawn out further but maybe if it was, it wouldn’t have that same feel to it. Possibly. But reading this story, I did ponder on the issue of brain drain and how it was/is to some extent today that you haven’t quite made it in Africauntil you have gone overseas and studied/lived/worked. You can be great BUT and that’s a huge BUT.
- As an eternal foreigner “Shelter” made me so sad. To be in a bad way and stuck in a foreign country without help or family. Worst nightmare.
- “Tumours and Butterflies” almost made me wail like a sick kid. I was probably quite emotional on the day I read it but it gutted me. Parts of you feel sorry for the mom that she is a battered lady, then you wanna feel sorry for the dad because he has Cancer and then you see him treat his daughter like that and you wanna get in there and beat him up. I thank God I am not a battered wife but her decision to side with her husband over her daughter I cannot even contemplate!
- The title of the book comes from the story “Grace”. I felt like this story dragged on unnecessarily. However, is Happiness always fleeting … “maybe it is all about being on the verge of joy and similar small moments.” To me happiness is fleeting and joy is perpetual.
I loved this book, which is rare because I cannot be paid enough to read short stories. But this one, I would certainly give a proud 4.5 out of 5.