Contemporary African Literature: Binyavanga Waina

In the last two days, we’ve showcased some historical heavyweights in the world of African writers. Today and tomorrow we’ll be reviewing the novels of contemporary and emerging African authors. The first will be Kenyan writer and journalist, Binyavanga Wainaina and his debut novel One Day I will Write about this Place. In July 2002 Wainaina won the Caine Prize for African Writing for his short story "Discovering Home". In 2005, Granta Magazine published Wainaina’s essay How to Write about Africa. In this he challenges and mocks the ‘stale, exoticized white representations of Africa’. This idea runs through into his debut novel, which offers a fresh first person perspective of life growing up in Kenya. 

Since being published, One Day has come out to a host of acclaim including winning BBC Radio 4’s Book of the Week. It is a world away from some other Kenyan novels which mainly explore themes of corrupt governance and European colonialism. One Day is a heartfelt account of a young boy’s experiences coming of age in Nakuru, Kenya. We are greeted by an insightful, book-loving young Wainaina as he seeks to achieve his ambitions to become a writer. The novel also has some playful references to the influence of Western popular culture during the 80’s 90’s. We see him through his failed attempt to study in South Africa as a computer programmer, and his travels around Kenya. Perhaps the most endearing part of the novel is when he is awarded a writing prize. We are then shown how this opens the door for him to pursue his dream career. One Day is a refreshing debut novel that can stand on its own given the powerful and prominent writers Kenya has produced. Wainaina uses evocative and poignant language to craft a new image of Africa, while avoiding tired stereotypes. It is an honest, touching and relatable account of young adulthood. 

Article contributed by:

Sarah Ross

Creativity and innovation- are happening everyday across Africa, I'll be writing about the most exciting developments in our favourite contintent


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