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What Unites Us: Turkish Short Stories

Friday, January 13, 2012

Serendipity … Taking Up the Story; Binyavanga Wainaina

*Photo-Playwright Mona R. Washington and our Maasai Visitor

My friend Mona and I went one winter Sunday afternoon in search of lamb shawarma, stuffed grape leaves and baba ghanoush. We were in the Overbrook neighborhood, of  Philadelphia,  headed to our beloved  Mediterra Grille when these two lovely, traditionally dressed Maasai men crossed, seemingly from nowhere, like a mirage, in front of the car we were in.  And we said simultaneously and incredulously, “Are those Maasai?”  We were instantaneously transported back to our own times in Kenya and our own memories with the Maasai people.

We followed those two gentlemen into the neighborhood coffeehouse and had a wonderful afternoon of tea and talk about Kenya.  I share this to introduce another Kenyan gem; writer   Binyavanga Wainaina, who represents this new generation of African writers, whose narratives aren’t focused on doom and groom or helping the outsider understand  the “African way.”    When I think of Wainaina, I think of him as a 21st century male version of Zora Neale Hurston.  His tells his own narrative placing himself and his culture front and center.   You might be familiar with Wainaina who wrote that deliciously infamous essay, How to Write About Africa:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QDWlMX2ToSc

Binyavanga Wainaina is the founding editor of the literary magazine Kwani? and won the Caine Prize for African Writing in 2002. His writing has also appeared in the New York Times, the Guardian, and National Geographic. He is the director of the Chinua Achebe Center for African Writers and Artists at Bard College. He divides his time between Nairobi, Kenya and upstate New York.

Here is a link to Wainaina reading from his new memoir  One Day I Will Write about This Place.
http://www.granta.com/New-Writing/Granta-Audio-Binyavanga-Wainaina


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