Reading about Kenya: A Grain of Wheat by Ngugi Wa Thiong’o

The book I chose for Kenya is A Grain of Wheat by Ngugi Wa Thiong’o. The main events in the novel take place during the transition of Kenya from a British colony to independence.

Colonization is a pathology that contaminates everyone and everything it touches. No one escapes whole. It’s resource extraction and untold riches on one side, displacement and marginalization on the other. The nasty truth is that you can’t exploit people without tricking yourself into thinking ridiculous and often cruel things, and those things end up hurting everyone. The author does a masterful job of telling that story, on both a personal and societal level.

This novel unfolds much like real life: in fits and starts, with you never knowing every detail of how a particular character’s story ends. There are unanswered questions, unexplained behavior, and shades of gray coloring everything. Guilt, redemption, hero worship. The need for community and love and kindness in the middle of chaos…and the twisted wreckage of people who deny those things, in themselves and for others. Beautiful, sad and powerful, this story covers all that ground and more. A true must-read!

Sunrise over Mount Kenya
Sunrise over Mount Kenya (image by Sam Stearman via Wikipedia)

2 thoughts on “Reading about Kenya: A Grain of Wheat by Ngugi Wa Thiong’o

  1. biblioglobal April 27, 2014 / 10:09 pm

    If there’s just one thing that my global reading project has brought home for me, it is the impact of colonialism. I’ve definitely got Ngugi Wa Thiong’o on my reading list, though I ended up reading something else for my Kenya book.

  2. TheGlobalReader May 5, 2014 / 9:25 pm

    Absolutely. That’s exactly what I’m getting from the reading (and cooking) as well; it’s a history lesson I certainly did not learn in school.

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