When Beyoncé broke the internet last week with her latest album Lemonade, many took to social media to talk about the issues that emerged from the entertainer’s recent release. One of the people that got featured on the album was Warsan Shire, a poet who was born in Kenya to Somali parents. As is the norm with us as Kenyans, we like to celebrate our own. When one of us does something exceptional, the praises we shower them will dwell on our lips and fingers as we type away. From Lupita Nyong’o to our renowned athletes who always make us proud we never miss a moment to celebrate what is ours.
However, we need to ask ourselves as a country whether we only recognise our own only when they get awards and recognition from outside. If Warsan Shire had not been featured on Beyoncé’s album, a good number of us would have no idea about who she is. As a country and also as a continent, we need to appreciate those of us who are doing exceptional work among us and not wait for those outside to tell us who to celebrate.
We have therefore come up with a list of young Kenyan writers who we think have outdone themselves and should be on your reading list if they are not already.
I dare say that Kenyan non-fiction has never been more interesting than Too Late For Worms. In a country where click bait bloggers fabricate stories or exaggerate those that already exist, Owaahh writes the truth about Kenyan history making it all seem like some classic movie. In his pieces he presents extensive research and cold truths using the best words making them works for both literature and reference. A lover of bizarre stories, Owaahh goes through piles and piles of historical research and documentation to bring you interesting stories that you were not aware of their existence. Showing the measurements and dates of historical events this writer presents a case for recent events showing the background of trending issues like the failure of Kenyan banks, burning ivory en masse and political personalities.
Aleya’s words are nothing short of breathtaking. They take you to another world and once they are done, nothing in you wants to go back to where you were before. A woman whose grandparents moved from India to Kenya way before she was born, she shows perspectives of everyday life in a voice that is not common but important all the same. Her open letter to Imperial Bank demanding that they explain to her how her family’s savings for generations could be stolen by an institution that they trusted was emotionally moving and showed that the bank’s actions majorly affected people’s lives. She also happens to be a storyteller and if you’re lucky you can catch her live performance where you can experience her brilliance.
3. Abigail Arunga
The author of Akello, a poetry collection, has managed to excel in writing both poetry and prose which is difficult for most writers who can only master either of the two. Her poetry pieces are about love and life and her articles that run regularly on a local newspaper are musings and reactions to daily life. She recently wrote an article about lupus, an autoimmune chronic disease that mostly affects African and Asian women.
4. Ciku Kimeria
Ciku is a travel blogger and writer who works at an international development firm. In her first novel, “Of goats and poisoned oranges” she shows the fun and entertaining side of a middle-aged power couple in their marriage that faces a lot of challenges. The themes that are covered include revenge, murder and greed in a way that makes the book hard to put down till the end. This debut novel has been featured in newspapers and writing events in the country. It has also been mentioned in festivals across the continent like in Uganda and Nigeria. This is a novel you should definitely consider for your next read.
5.Richard Odour Oduku
A research consultant who works and lives in Nairobi, Richard Odour is a writer whose works have been published in Jalada, Saraba, Storymoja and San Antonio Review. He reviews poetry and books written by fellow African writers and does a good job at it. In his story eNGAGEMENT which is a personal favorite, he explores how a young couple uses technology to formalize their love only to be disappointed by the same technology they very much believed in. It ends in an unexpected but obvious challenge faced by any one who has worked with electricity before. This story is a must-read and so are all of his works.