The holidays are with us and the stress that comes with it is something we don’t have to deal with for now. This is the perfect time to indulge yourself in constructive leisure activities such as reading.
We have a compiled a list for you of Kenyan classics you can read on your break and continue sharpening your mind.
1. ‘My Life in Crime’
This classic by John Kiriamiti is one of the most popular novels in Kenya. The 1984 novel recounts the criminal life of John Kiriamiti as Jack Zollo that led to his imprisonment. Even though the novel is fictitious, John Kiriamiti was a real-life criminal who evaded the police several times during the ‘60s and ‘70s before he was arrested. The book, which is being made into a film, was written and published while John was in jail. It is the first of a trilogy with the other being ‘My Life in Prison’ and ‘My Life with a Criminal: Milly’s Story’.
2. ‘Weep Not, Child’
This is a book by award-winning Kenyan author Ngugi wa Thiong’o. If you’d like to learn more about colonial Kenya, this book is for you. It explores the relationship that Kenyans (and Africans in large), had with the British colonial rulers. It talks about the Mau Mau uprising and it criticizes the colonial era. Ngugi wrote this book while he was a student at Makerere University.
3. ‘The River Between’
This is one of the most famous classics by Ngugi Wa Thiong’o. At one point, it was read in high school as a set book and tested during exams. The novel tells the story of a village torn between the modernity brought upon by colonialists through religion and education and those clinging to the old ways of tradition. It is a book rich in language and various literary devices.
4. ‘Betrayal in the City’
This is a play by the deceased writer Francis Imbuga and it is in the classic canon. It focuses on the power structures and struggles that Kenya faced post-independence. It also delves into issues such as corruption (which is still rife even today), betrayal and nepotism. It has been adopted as a play in Kenyan theatres several times.
5. ‘Siku Njema’
This is a book by one of the Kenya’s prolific writers, Ken Walibora. The Swahili novel, which translates to ‘good day’, tells the story of a young man born out of wedlock. The book is written in the first person and it tackles the challenges faced by illegitimate children in society. The book has been translated in English with the title, ‘A Good Day’.
6. ‘Kill Me Quick’
In this Kenyan classic by author Meja Mwangi, the story is one that is profoundly being witnessed in our current world. The novel tells the story of two young men who travel to Nairobi to better their lives. They only have high school diplomas but that is not enough. They are forced to turn to crime and being exploited by employers as they struggle to survive. This book is reflective of the pains of job searching among Kenyan youth.
7. ‘The River and The Source’
This is another classic by author Margaret Ogola published in 1994 and won the Jomo Kenyatta Literature Prize in 1995 as well as the Commonwealth Writers Prize. It was reprinted in 2004 and it is still in circulation. The book tells the story three generations of women and it explores the role of women in society. It is filled with humor, rich language, and conflicts that make it all the more worthy to read.