A Fine Balance by Rohinton Mistry

fine-balanceAbout the Book

With a compassionate realism and narrative sweep that recall the work of Charles Dickens, this magnificent novel captures all the cruelty and corruption, dignity and heroism, of India.

The time is 1975. The place is an unnamed city by the sea. The government has just declared a State of Emergency, in whose upheavals four strangers–a spirited widow, a young student uprooted from his idyllic hill station, and two tailors who have fled the caste violence of their native village–will be thrust together, forced to share one cramped apartment and an uncertain future.

As the characters move from distrust to friendship and from friendship to love, A Fine Balance creates an enduring panorama of the human spirit in an inhuman state.


It has taken me a while to review this book. However, this was quite a memorable read, the kind of book that haunts you long after you turn the final page. Sometimes I think about the characters and it takes a minute for me to remember that they are not people I know in real life but fictional characters. Has that ever happened to you? You sit and remember this guy who used to be obsessed with hair and so you take a second trying to remember how you know him only to finally recall that he is a book character and not someone that you’ve ever met in real life. Anyway, I hope you get what you mean.

This is a story about four friends; Dina, Ishvar, Om and Maneck who are forced together due to circumstances. They come from different backgrounds but they end up forming an odd yet enduring friendship that helps them weather the storms. The story is set in India in the 1970s. There is a background story of the political climate at that time. I don’t know much about India’s history but some of the other readers have commented that the politics are based on real events and the female prime minister is inspired by a politician who ruled that country during that time.

This book tackles so many difficult themes. One that stood out for me is the caste system that assigns social status to citizens. The lives of the lower castes are so depressingly portrayed in this book. The suffering is unimaginable. The caste is not allowed to do some jobs or even vote. It seems like they don’t have basic rights even the right to life. There are stories of life in slums. This reminded me of Slumdog Millionaire. The human suffering depicted through the pages is unimaginable. At some point, it was getting frustrating because it seemed unending. I kept looking for the light but the darkness prevailed through each chapter. I guess that’s life though.

A Fine Balance by Rohinston Mistry is the kind of book that I recommend to everyone. It is very well written; the prose is poignant, flawless, compelling. It is just beautiful. The characterization is great. The characters are so well developed that it is hard to forget them. However, it is only fair that I warn you that this book is heart wrenching. It will mess with your emotions and it may make you cry. It angered me. Life can be unfair and humans can be heartless. However, the question of a fine balance was thought provoking. How do you stay sane in a crazy, cold world when life is continuously throwing punches at you? I think this is a perfect book-club read due to all the discussion points. If you are not in a book-club, you can still read it and perhaps try to work-out the answers and let me know so that we can discuss it.

Review: The Faith of Dolly Parton by Dudley J. Delffs

DollyDolly Parton has entertained, educated, and inspired millions of fans for over five decades. Whether she’s writing songs, performing live, recording new albums, acting in or producing new movies and TV programs, expanding her wildly successful Dollywood amusement park, helping children around the world learn to read with her Imagination Library nonprofit, or donating millions of dollars to schools, charities, and people in need, the Queen of Country Music has never been shy about crediting her Christian faith for her success.

Tennessee native, Dolly fanboy, and award-winning writer Dudley Delffs now spotlights ten faith lessons as evidenced in Dolly’s life, music, interviews, and attitude. The Faith of Dolly Parton focuses on the ways Dolly’s life can inspire us all to be more authentic, to trust God during hard times, to stay grounded during the good times, and to always keep our sense of humor. Sometimes poignant, sometimes funny, frequently surprising, and always true to Dolly’s down-home spirit of joyful generosity, this book will delight her millions of fans as well as anyone seeking a fresh faith-filled role model.


My secret is out! I love country music. Growing up in the 90s, I used to listen to a lot of hip hop and RnB. That is the music that my friends and I were singing along to. However, it was a different story at home. Momma loves country! I still remember walking through the door and hearing her singing along to country music. Her favorite artist is Dolly Parton although she likes other singers too such as Kenny Rogers, Don Williams and Charlie Pride. Dolly ‘s music is what she loves the most. It feels like Dolly has a song for all kinds of life situations especially relating to women. Up to now, my brothers and I still listen to country especially when momma is around. We sing along to all her favorite tunes. Sometimes, we pretend to forget the lyrics so that momma reminds us by singing them out loud. Country music and especially Dolly holds special place in my heart and that is why I couldn’t resist this ARC.

The Faith of Dolly Parton: Lessons from her life to uplift your heart by Dudley Delffs is an inspirational read. It delves into Dolly’s life and shares lessons from her experiences. I was surprised to find out just how much Dolly’s music is influenced by her life. One of the first stories shared is about Dolly’s humble beginnings. Her Coat of Many Colours was inspired by an incident that occurred during this period of her life. This song is beautiful and knowing that it was inspired by actual events makes it even more special.

Through each chapter, the author shares a lesson from Dolly’s life. He then relates it to his own life and in some chapters; he shares his personal experiences. The lessons are diverse and applicable to all of us. One that I really liked was on getting out of our comfort zones. In this chapter, the author shared his own experience and also Dolly’s about making risky moves to follow their dreams. He challenges readers to consider their own situation and this is what I did. I don’t know if I would leave my job right now to follow my dreams though.  I know I would be ten times happier if I did but it is still scary.  It was still nice to get some inspiration from Dolly and Dudley.

Each chapter ends with a lesson, a song, scripture and prayer. I really liked this book and thought it was very well-written, inspiring and relatable. Although it has a number of Christian teachings, it also has life lessons that I believe anyone can apply in their lives. Dreams, ambition, courage, love do apply to all humans, right? I can’t wait to buy a copy of this book for my personal library and extra copy for my momma. What a beautiful read!

Review: The Baghdad Clock by Shahad Al Rawi

BAGHDADBaghdad, 1991. In the midst of the first Gulf War, a young Iraqi girl huddles with her neighbours in an air raid shelter. There, she meets Nadia. The two girls quickly become best friends and together they imagine a world not torn apart by civil war, sharing their dreams, their hopes and their desires, and their first loves. But as they grow older and the bombs continue to fall, the international sanctions bite and friends begin to flee the country, the girls must face the fact that their lives will never be the same again.

This poignant debut novel will spirit readers away to a world they know only from the television, revealing just what it is like to grow up in a city that is slowly disappearing in front of your eyes, and showing how in the toughest times, children can build up the greatest resilience.


Can you imagine what it would be like if war broke out in your country? Imagine how your life would change. Think about what it would be like to watch neighbors disappear, buildings go up in smoke and armed soldiers start patrolling your streets. Sounds like a nightmare, right? However, this is a reality for many people around the world. In this story, we get to see the impact of war on the lives of residents of a small neighborhood in Baghdad.

I don’t think that I got to find out the name of the narrator. However, readers get to know that she is a young Iraqi girl. She introduces us to her neighborhood during the first Gulf War in 1991. Through her narration, we get to meet other residents of the town. Characters that stood out for me include Nadia, Ahmed, Uncle Shakwat, Biryad and Farouq. The narrator tells us a little about each of them and their lives. Their personalities were all so well developed that they come alive through the story. I found myself thinking of them like real people. You know how you get to know a character so well that you know what is and isn’t something they would do?

Life in Baghdad when there was peace was so beautiful despite the international sanctions. I enjoyed reading about the girls, their dreams for the future and life experiences. I couldn’t stop smiling when they first met boys that they liked. I loved all their adventures, their night escapades visiting the Baghdad clock, the dancing and description of Nadia’s love for the rain. I was enchanted by it all and so when the war came, I was also devastated by how it touched their lives, leaving havoc in its wake.

This wasn’t an easy read. The narrative uses different stylistic devices. I think what I liked most was personification of Biryad, the neighborhood’s popular dog. I am yet to read another book where a pet is so well developed as a character. I mean, I can still visualize the dog dancing at weddings. There were also instances where fantasy was used in the storytelling. Metaphors like the sinking ship depicting the destroyed city were also used in building the narrative. The story had a lot of cultural nuances like soothsayers were used to foretell oncoming changes. Dreams and reality were also interspersed throughout the story. I struggled through the first chapters but after that, I really appreciated the writing and how poetic it was.

This was a wonderful, well-written, thought provoking read. It was heartbreaking at the same time. I have no doubt that these characters and story will stay with me for long. Having read this book, I now really want to read A Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez. The MC kept referring to this book in a way that made me curious enough to push it up my TBR. If you are looking for a coming of age story, well-written, thought provoking literary fiction then The Baghdad Clock by Shahad Al Rawi is the book that you need to read.




Review: The Antenatal Group by Amy Miller @bookouture

ANC.pngWhen Mel’s boyfriend dumps her weeks before she is due to give birth, she’s not just coping with heartbreak – she’s also facing parenthood alone. What does she know about bringing up a baby solo? And who’s going to be there for her if it all goes wrong?

Newly single Mel is terrified when she walks through the door of her first antenatal class. Meeting all the other mums-to-be, she’s convinced she’s the only one who doesn’t know what she’s doing.

But as she gets to know the other parents in the group, she realises she’s not the only one with a not-so-perfect life and a non-existent birth plan.

As the weeks pass, and the group share their fears about babies, breastfeeding and birthing pools, Mel begins to believe that maybe she can make it as a single mother. But just when she thinks she’s got a handle on her life, her ex-boyfriend comes back begging for forgiveness.

Leaning on the support of her new friends, and as the due date looms, Mel has a big decision to make. Will she choose to forgive her ex and or can she find the courage to go it alone?


Today I am taking a break from my usual dark thrillers to bring you my review of this delightful, masterfully narrated story about friendship and motherhood.

I am currently in an antenatal group. I don’t know if we will end up being life-long friends but I love the fact that we are in the same journey. Most of us are first time moms with very similar experiences and concerns. It’s just nice to know that you aren’t alone.

Amy Miller’s Antenatal Group is so wonderful and realistically portrayed. I love the fact that each character has a different back story. We had married ladies, pregnant girlfriends and even the single moms by choice. I loved all their differences because this is exactly something that you’d find in a real-life antenatal group.

The character development was so well done. Each of the women felt like people I could be friends with. I loved Mel and her quirkiness. I also like the fact that she provided so many laughs in the story but also helped us delve into complexities of relationships. I also really liked Erin and Lexi. Due to their ages, I could kinda relate with them more. Katy broke my heart a couple of times but I loved her. Rebecca was another character who I could sympathize with. These women found their way into my heart and I love that each of them had something that I could identify with.

This was an entertaining read but I love the fact that it was informative too.  It made me think about giving birth and the entire delivery process. It also helped me get over the idea of a perfect birth plan. I have had this idea that I will be this proper lady who will endure labor pains without making a sound or even having any facial expressions then I’ll push and voila…my baby will be here. Now I know better. Things don’t always go as planned and it seems you can’t really foretell how everything will go. It caught me off guard when one of the characters had her water break in a bus… yeah, in a bus. All the delivery stories had an impact on me. I was so anxious for each of the moms yet very excited for them too.

This book made me smile, laugh, cry and think about motherhood. Some of the ladies’ experiences had me giggling because they were so relatable. I kept saying out loud, ‘yeah, that happens to me too’.  There were number emotional scenes too, both sad and happy ones. I also enjoyed the range of themes from friendship to motherhood to postpartum depression. The Antenatal Group by Amy Miller is a wonderful, powerful, well-written book with characters who most women (and men too) will identify with.

Review: Buried Beneath the Baobab Tree by Adaobi Tricia Nwaubani

Baobab Tree.jpgOn April 14, 2014, Boko Haram kidnapped 276 girls. Some managed to escape. Many are still missing.

A new pair of shoes, a university degree, a husband—these are the things that a girl dreams of in a Nigerian village. A girl who works hard in school and to help her family. A girl with a future as bright as live coals in the dark. And with a government scholarship right around the corner, everyone—her mother, her five brothers, her best friend, her teachers—can see that these dreams aren’t too far out of reach. Even if the voices on Papa’s radio tell more fearful news than tales to tell by moonlight.

But the girl’s dreams turn to nightmares when her village is attacked by Boko Haram, a terrorist group, in the middle of the night. Kidnapped, she is taken with other girls and women into the forest where she is forced to follow her captors’ radical beliefs and watch as her best friend slowly accepts everything she’s been told. Still, the girl defends her existence. As impossible as escape may seem, her life—her future—is hers to fight for.


I remember when I first heard the news about the 276 girls who were kidnapped from a boarding school in Nigeria by the terrorist group, Boko Haram. That was the first time that I heard about Boko Haram. I didn’t understand their mission, not because it was complex but simply because it doesn’t make sense. My heart broke for those young ladies. I hoped that they would be quickly rescued/ released but months went by and then years. I find myself thinking about the girls time after time. This book has given me insight to what happened to those girls whose youth, innocence and dreams were stolen that fateful night in April.


The story begins by showing us Ya Ta’s life before Boko Haram. She was a young girl full of dreams. A regular teen tackling her first years of periods, having crushes on boys, working hard at school and dreaming of going to the university. I read about her interactions with friends and family with trepidation knowing that their lives were about to change.

Captivity by Boko Haram was an absolute nightmare. The girls endured rape, slavery, forced conversion to Islam, threats, intimidation and all kinds of abuse. The author tried to bring different aspects of the life the girls led. I think what caught me by surprise were the girls who adapted to the life of the militia and even became jihadist, some ended up being suicide bombers. I recently did a little research about the matter and it is sadly true. Some of the people held by Boko Haram ended up joining the group and their ‘mission’.

This was an emotional read. The fact that the story is inspired by true events made it a difficult read. I went online and found out that 5 years later, over 100 girls who were kidnapped by Boko Haram in 2014, are still missing. It is devastating to think that such incidents do take place in our world today. I can’t imagine the pain and anguish that the girls and their families have had to endure all these years.

The book ends with an afterword by Viviana Mazza which details the real-life stories of survivors. Each story broke my heart all over again. Why do innocent people have to suffer because of the selfish ambitions of some psychotic/extremist groups? I look forward to a world without terrorists. Al Qaeda, Al Shabab, Boko Haram, whatever name they use, I hope that one day they will stop bringing  pain and suffering to the world. I definitely recommend this book.

Photos of the #Bring Back Our Girls protest that took place worldwide.



Review: Through My African Eyes by Jeff Koinange


Through My African Eyes

Through My African Eyes by Jeff Koinange is an autobiography published by Footprints Press. The preface for the book is done by Thabo Mbeki while the forward is by Ngung’i Wa Thiong’o. This in itself is quite impressive and was one of the things that got me more interested in reading the book.

I loved how the autobiography starts with the birth of Jamal, Jeff’s only son.This is in Chapter 1, titled Fatherhood Finally. I felt that this shows that fatherhood is the most important part of Jeff’s life or perhaps the part that brings him the most joy/pride. The book is also dedicated to his son again perhaps explaining the role of Jamal in his life.The title of the Chapter also communicates volumes.

Jeff then writes about his childhood, being raised by a single mother and his time in school at St. Mary’s. He shares his joys and disappointments in these chapters. One thing that stood out for me is his disappointment at not being appointed as the head boy while in high school but again how things worked out when he wrote the script for a play that won at the national drama festivals. His journey towards becoming the man that he is today started back from his high school days. You get to learn the inspiration behind his career choice.

He then goes into his career starting with working as a flight attendant for Pan Am Airlines. This is also the time when he met Shaila, his current wife and Sonya his first wife. Even in his earlier careers, Jeff is clearly seen as a go-getter who is quite focused. After his stint with the Airline, he changed his profession and decided to go back into school and get into journalism.

I enjoyed reading about his time as a journalist. In Chapter 8, Perils of Chasing a Story, he describes his career as a journalist in war torn countries in Africa. I was deeply moved by his bravery to venture into dangerous zones so as to tell a story. For instance when he goes into Sierra Leone and the war gets so bad that some other journalists are killed but he stays on to tell the story. I also found it quite interesting and courageous when he explained how as journalists, it gets to a time when one has to realize that it’s time to get out and let someone else tell story. This is especially when covering war zones. He also details the child soldiers, their recklessness and how they are used in wars that clearly they don’t even understand. He delves into other news stories like the floods in Liberia. I didn’t even know about this. Not only does he explain how he covered the news aspect but also illustrates the sheer tenancy of humanity like the story about the baby born on a tree. I was also moved by his detailing of the Democratic Republic of Congo rape cases. I had watched a documentary about this before but Jeff went into details about the anguish that the women faced and also the humanity of people who were trying to make a difference even in the times of war.

The way that Jeff shares his experiences gives readers mixed emotions. On one end, you may get angry at Africa. You get to see how human beings destroy lives of others and it will your heart. You will lose hope in humanity when he explains his experiences in countries where roads were covered with bodies and limbs on which vultures fed. It will shock you to take a look at how ugly human beings can be. One the other hand, Jeff brings a balance by sharing the other side of humanity. The human beings who even in the war torn countries still strives to make a difference. One hand you have the killers, on the other hand you have the healers and then you have journalists like Jeff who risk their lives to tell the two stories.

Jeff briefly explains the Niger Delta story which was one of the most controversial points in his career with CNN. He even shares photos of the rebels and how they had attacked the journalists. It was rumored that the story was stage-managed. However, by looking at the photos and reading Jeff’s account of events, it’s hard to imagine how the story could have been fabricated.

Through My African Eyes changed my view of Jeff Koinange. Unlike most people who have followed his career through the years, I can barely recall his time at Ktn because I was too young. I also don’t really recall his time at Reuters or CNN. I only got to learn about him when he started working with K24 and then the rumors started. There were all these stories about his exit from CNN. By the way, do not look for this story in his book because he barely addresses those rumors. In Kenya, we all know him for his voice and big personality. When I think of Jeff, I think about his signature pose on the bench and the unique animated expressions that he uses. However, this book allowed me to see the other side of the man, Jeff.

I was impressed by his wide travels and the number of people he has met. He is on first name basis with presidents and history makers like the late Nelson Mandela who he has been photographed with numerous times. He has met Oprah Winfrey and a number of other celebrities who most of us only see on TV. He tells of a hilarious story of being featured on Larry King Live and how Larry referred to him as John Coinage. Jeff Koinange has led quite an interesting life.

Jeff has led a very interesting life and there many interesting stories that he shares in his book that I cannot completely cover in this review. This biography is written in using flashbacks and flash forwards which gives it a good pace. Minimum dialogue is used but this does not water down the narration. It actually makes the reader feel like they are ‘on the bench’ with Jeff Koinange and he is the one answering the questions and narrating about his experiences.

As I had mentioned on the Niger Delta Story, Jeff has used photographs for every chapter. It’s interesting to follow the story also from his childhood to his adulthood. One of my favorite photos was the one of Jamal on Nelson Mandela’s lap. There are also other photos that will send a chill down your spine especially those taken with the rebels or the child soldiers. I kept wondering how he managed to maintain his composure will surrounded by guns in such hostile environments. Using photographs was definitely a great addition that enriched the book.

some of the photographs used in the chilling Niger Delta story

Through My African Eyes is easy to read and follow, it is captivating, funny, heartbreaking and shocking. It is a hard book to put down once you get started. It’s definitely an interesting read, one that I highly recommend.

Zimbabwe: The Hairdresser of Harare by Tendai Huchu


HarareAbout the Book

Vimbai is the best hairdresser in Mrs. Khumalo’s salon, and she is secure in her status until the handsome, smooth-talking Dumisani shows up one day for work. Despite her resistance, the two become friends, and eventually, Vimbai becomes Dumisani’s landlady. He is as charming as he is deft with the scissors, and Vimbai finds that he means more and more to her. Yet, by novel’s end, the pair’s deepening friendship—used or embraced by Dumisani and Vimbai with different futures in mind—collapses in unexpected brutality.

The novel is an acute portrayal of a rapidly changing Zimbabwe. In addition to Vimbai and Dumisani’s personal development, the book shows us how social concerns shape the lives of everyday people.


I love reading African Literature. There is something about reading books with characters that you identify with. These books depict a culture that I know and live. There may be differences but it is still familiar. Reading African literature makes me feel like I am back home. Yeah, I never really left but I do read a lot of books from other parts of the world so it takes time before I am back to African Lit.

“I can only say that friendship should rise above man-made laws, which tend to be capricious by their very nature.”
Tendai Huchu, The Hairdresser of Harare

The Hairdressers of Harare is set at the capital of Zimbabwe. Vimbai is the lead hairdresser at a popular salon. You know those hairdressers who everyone wants. The ones who works magic and always seems to be fully booked. That was Vimbai until Dumi showed up. Suddenly, Vimbai’s position was threatened. She stopped being the ‘it’ hairdresser. However, she soon realizes that this was the least of her worries.

The book is set in Zimbabwe and this plays a very key role in the story. I admit that I don’t know much about the country.Cultural issues such as language and property inheritance also come up. I thought I knew about some of the issues affecting the country like inflation. However, devaluation of currency still shocked me. One thousand dollars this month may be valued at half that amount by the next month.  Homosexuality is also a key theme in the book. If you don’t know, homosexuality is a sensitive issue in the country. I first read about this was in The Book of Memory by Petina Gappah which I reviewed here.

I really liked Vimbai. She is a single mother who has been ostracized by her family. You will have to read the book to understand the feud. She is strong, a bit arrogant but with a soft heart. I didn’t agree with some of her decisions at first. However, I understood the motivations behind her actions. On the other hand, there was something about Dumi that really drew me to him. He was confident almost cocky. He was a nice guy just stuck in what seemed like unfortunate circumstances. I liked Dumi.

This book is about love (all kinds) and hate. There is a lot of prejudice illustrated by the characters. What is even more heartbreaking is the fact that it is based on reality. The issues of racial relations and homosexuality make this quite a tough read. There wasn’t really much of a twist/reveal but I still enjoyed reading it even with the knowledge that things would go wrong. I feel like I learned more about Zimbabwe, the culture and the people. The book is realistic, emotional but quite memorable.

It is only fair though that I warn you that some of the themes may be offensive to some readers. I remember when I wrote a review for The Secret Lives of Baba Segi’s Wives by Lola Shoneyin, some people expressed anger towards the polygamist culture depicted in the book.  However, I think that there is nothing wrong with the author including such aspects of culture. I don’t agree with polygamy and a number of other cultural practices around Africa but as someone once said, just because we don’t like the facts, doesn’t mean that we can change them (I heard this quote on Survivor). Therefore, just because I don’t like some of the cultural practices, it doesn’t mean that they should be ignored and shunned by authors because that will be unrealistic. Right? Anyway, this is a book that I definitely recommend to everyone interested in African Lit and especially in books set in Zimbabwe.

 About the author



Tendai Huchu’s first novel, The Hairdresser of Harare, was released in 2010 to critical acclaim, and has been translated into German, French, Italian and Spanish. His short fiction and nonfiction have appeared in The Manchester Review, Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine, Gutter, Interzone, AfroSF, Wasafiri, Warscapes, The Africa Report, Kwani? and numerous other publications. In 2013 he received a Hawthornden Fellowship and a Sacatar Fellowship. He was shortlisted for the 2014 Caine Prize. His new novel is The Maestro, The Magistrate & The Mathematician.

New Feature Announcement

Last year, I wrote an article on From Africa, with love: African Literature (You can read it here). To date, this still remains the most popular post that I have ever published on this blog. The response was amazing and I was inspired to share my love of African Lit. Unfortunately, I have been swamped by ARCs for quite a while and so I haven’t been reading this genre as much as I would have wanted to.

Recently, I had a conversation with my sister, Darkowaa, from Ghana. Darkowaa runs this wonderful blog, https://africanbookaddict.com. Talking about books and authors from Africa rekindled my love for the genre. So I have decided to start a new feature. So for two Sundays every month, I will be sharing reviews of different books from Africa.

“It’s difficult to stop loving someone, even when they have done something that you once thought unforgivable. There isn’t an on off switch for love.”
Tendai Huchu, The Hairdresser of Harare

Leopard at the Door by Jennifer McVeigh



After six years in England, Rachel has returned to Kenya and the farm where she spent her childhood, but the beloved home she’d longed for is much changed. Her father’s new companion—a strange, intolerant woman—has taken over the household. The political climate in the country grows more unsettled by the day and is approaching the boiling point. And looming over them all is the threat of the Mau Mau, a secret society intent on uniting the native Kenyans and overthrowing the whites.

As Rachel struggles to find her place in her home and her country, she initiates a covert relationship, one that will demand from her a gross act of betrayal. One man knows her secret, and he has made it clear how she can buy his silence. But she knows something of her own, something she has never told anyone. And her knowledge brings her power.



Leopard at the Door by Jennifer McVeigh begins with Rachel’s return to Kenya. Rachel hasn’t been around since her mother died about six years before. Coming back, she quickly realizes that Kenya is not what it used to be. The country is undergoing some changes which have caused insecurity. The land is hostile and even more so when Rachel finds that her father has a new woman in his house.

I was really excited when I received an ARC of this book. I have read plenty of books set in colonial era. My favorite ones were by Ngugi Wa Thiong’o. I was curious about this story for various reasons. First of all, I haven’t read any books set in the period that are narrated from the POV of a settler. Secondly, the book mentions Mau Mau. The world has a negative perception about this rebel group. I know that they committed all sorts of atrocities against white settlers and their Kenyan supporters. However, for most Kenyans, the rebels are referred to as heroes. To date, we have monuments to celebrate and honor them such as the Dedan Kimathi statute at the heart of Nairobi. The British government was not going to give Kenya independence. Dialogue had failed and so the only way to get freedom was through an armed struggle and so young men went into the forests and planned their attacks, many sacrificed their lives for their countries. I was curious about the representation of the group in this book. Would the author demonize them or give the Mau Mau a fair representation? Lastly, one of the MCs in this book was Kikuyu. Honestly, that is something that I never imagined that I would ever see in an ARC. Kikuyu is one of the 42 ethnic groups in Kenya and that is my community.

As you can already tell, I had high expectations with this book. I loved the setting. I think the author did a fantastic job in portraying colonial Kenya. She described the setting in an accurate, vivid manner. The lack of roads was interesting to read about. It made me think about how we take things for granted. There was a time when a trip that now takes two hours used to take a day. I also liked the description of the wild in the ranches. Before the government established parks, animals used to roam free in Kenya and I liked how the author was able to bring that aspect into the story.  The author had also really researched Kenya. Most of the places that are mentioned in the book still exist like the Mathari mental hospital and the towns such as Nakuru, Mombasa and Nairobi.

The MC was a likeable character. I liked how Rachel was able to fit into the new environment. She got along well with the Kikuyus on the ranch. She adapted to the environment and this could be seen in little things that she did like fishing. On the other hand, I really disliked Sara. I can’t talk much about her but let me just say, she really got on my nerves. Her treatment of the Africans was terrible. It reminded me of all the ugly, racist stories that I have heard about the era. And if Sara was terrible, then Steven Lockhart was a disgusting human being. He made my skin crawl. There are other characters that stood out such as Michael, the Kikuyu who befriended Rachel. I liked his background story. Other minor characters that were memorable include Logan, Mungai, Njeri and Kihika. Rachel’s dad was one of the MCs though his presence was not felt as much as the others. In short, the characters were very well crafted.

Of course I have to mention the Mau Mau. This group was described as ruthless. They killed and forcefully administered oaths of loyalty. The group was a character in the book. What I liked about their representation was the fact that it was balanced and depicted reality. The book had characters in support and against the secret society. I also like that there were characters that supported the struggle but not everything that was done by the group. It made me smile when I saw references of Dedan Kimathi and Jomo Kenyatta. I just loved how realistic the story-line was.

This book was quite a joy to read. The author took me to the colonial era and made me reminiscent of stories of the past. It reminded me of my mother’s story about the night of independence when Kenya’s flag was raised on Mount Kenya. The author managed to tell the story in such a way that the era came alive. My only issue with the story was the use of local language. As a speaker of both Swahili and Kikuyu, some words and phrases felt off to me. For instance; some dogs were referred to as shenzis. That cracked me up. Shenzi is Swahili for idiot so I am not sure how that fits with dogs really but anyway, perhaps these were phrases that were used before my time. Shenzi though… lol.

Another thing that I really liked was the tension in the book. The book made me feel nervous. I was terrified of the imminent attack by the MauMau. With every news report, I wondered when it would happen and I feared for some of the characters. The tension kept me anxiously turning pages. I imagined the MauMau from the POV of the settlers and I was terrified.  This was a suspenseful, engaging read with very memorable characters. If you are interested in historical fiction set in Africa then I definitely recommend Leopard at the Door by Jennifer McVeigh.  Lovers of Kenyan literature will also enjoy it. If you read this book, let me know, I would love to discuss it with you.

Book Review: Born a Crime by Trevor Noah

Trevor.pngAbout the Book

Trevor Noah’s unlikely path from apartheid South Africa to the desk of The Daily Show began with a criminal act: his birth. Trevor was born to a white Swiss father and a black Xhosa mother at a time when such a union was punishable by five years in prison. Living proof of his parents’ indiscretion, Trevor was kept mostly indoors for the earliest years of his life, bound by the extreme and often absurd measures his mother took to hide him from a government that could, at any moment, steal him away. Finally liberated by the end of South Africa’s tyrannical white rule, Trevor and his mother set forth on a grand adventure, living openly and freely and embracing the opportunities won by a centuries-long struggle.

Born a Crime is the story of a mischievous young boy who grows into a restless young man as he struggles to find himself in a world where he was never supposed to exist. It is also the story of that young man’s relationship with his fearless, rebellious, and fervently religious mother: his teammate, a woman determined to save her son from the cycle of poverty, violence, and abuse that would ultimately threaten her own life.

The eighteen personal essays collected here are by turns hilarious, dramatic, and deeply affecting. Whether subsisting on caterpillars for dinner during hard times, being thrown from a moving car during an attempted kidnapping, or just trying to survive the life-and-death pitfalls of dating in high school, Trevor illuminates his curious world with an incisive wit and unflinching honesty. His stories weave together to form a moving and searingly funny portrait of a boy making his way through a damaged world in a dangerous time, armed only with a keen sense of humor and a mother’s unconventional, unconditional love.


I saw Born a Crime by Trevor Noah on NetGalley and decided to request it although I really didn’t think that I would get approved. Two weeks later, I had the book. If you have been following this blog then you may have seen a number of posts that I have written about the book. I couldn’t stop talking about it even before I started reading it. I have featured it on my Diversity Thursday Spotlight post, Ten Books to read if your book club likes African Literature ,WWW Posts, monthly-wrap and Friday Finds. Yes, that is how excited I was about this memoir.

Born a Crime by Trevor Noah is a collection of essays. In each essay, Trevor narrates stories about his life and focuses on a particular memory or event against a backdrop of South Africa’s history. The main theme of this book is apartheid and life as a biracial child during this dark period. As Trevor explains, interracial relationships were punishable by law although the whites were freed with a warning while the blacks got imprisoned. He talks about spending his childhood  behind closed doors because his family was afraid that the government would take him away and arrest his mother. He also talks of how apartheid separated him from his father. These narrations are emotional and I found myself angered by the injustices that the black people in South Africa went through for so many years. Racism is illogical and ugly and I never knew  just how bad it was in SA before reading this book. It is crazy to think that I was born in the same year as Trevor, grew up in Africa like he did but under totally different circumstances. Growing up, I didn’t know much about apartheid apart from little bits of information through history lessons and movies like Sarafina. I was 10 years old when apartheid ended.

Trevor narrates his story the same way that he presents his standup comedies; mixing reality with humor. I found myself laughing through the chapters and sometimes wondering if I really should be laughing. I mean they are serious issues but Trevor just has his own way of narrating things so that they are serious and funny at the same time.

“But the more we went to church and the longer I sat in those pews the more I learned about how Christianity works: If you’re a Native American and you pray to the wolves, you’re a savage. If you’re African and you pray to your ancestors, you’re a savage. But when white people pray to a guy who turns water to wine, well, that’s just common sense.”

The story takes us through his experiences during apartheid. He also shares his experience with domestic violence. At the same time, this is a story of a man determined to get through a tough life and succeed in a world in which he was never supposed to exist. The stories about his childhood escapades were hilarious. As a self-confessed naughty kid with a funny mom, he had so many hilarious adventures.  I also like how Trevor mixed historical background and personal stories to create better understanding of events which is great especially for those living outside South Africa.

“People always lecture the poor: “Take responsibility for yourself! Make something of yourself!” But with what raw materials are the poor to make something of themselves? People”

The final chapter in Born a Crime by Trevor Noah was  tough to read. I have heard him speak about his mother getting shot before. If you have watched his standup comedies in SA, then you may have seen that bit about his brother calling him to tell him that their mum had been shot. However, I never knew the circumstances that led to that call. It was heartbreaking to see what his mother went through. It is even worse to think that the same thing still happens especially here. Women get battered while everyone looks away. Sometimes from the outside, it feels hopeless because what can you really do? You can’t stop the fights and you can’t also call the cops because they will do nothing about it. It was a sad reality. That is the thing about this memoir; his story is my story and everyone else’s story. It may not be exactly the same but it is something that everyone knows about and may have experienced at some point in life.

born-a-crime-2Born a Crime by Trevor Noah is a book that I highly recommend to everyone. I am not just saying this because I like the guy and think that he is brilliant and funny (just mentioning it in case it is not yet obvious). However, this is a book about family, a mother-son relationship, friendship, racism and a person’s ability to overcome all hurdles in life. It is also a coming of age story. I am so proud of Trevor for all that he has achieved in life. He is an inspiration to all the people who have ever faced any adversity and felt like they don’t belong.  I think this is an inspiring story for our continent too. I mean watching Trevor touring the world and now hosting the Daily show, overcoming so much to get there….wow!  This is an inspiring memoir that will make you laugh and cry through the chapters (sometimes at the same time). If you are looking for a diverse read then you should definitely pick this one. If you want to understand more about South Africa and Apartheid (from an insider’s view point), this is the book for you. Seriously though, just get the memoir. It is a wonderful!

“Language, even more than color, defines who you are to people.”
Trevor Noah, Born a Crime

I received this book from NetGalley and Spiegel & Grau in exchange for an honest review. I am really grateful to the publishers for giving me the chance to read an ARC of this book. Thank you Trevor Noah for sharing your story with the world!

 About Trevor Noah

Trevor Noah is the one of the most successful comedian in Africa. He is the host of the Emmy and Peabody Award-winning program The Daily Show on Comedy Central. Noah joined The Daily Show in 2014 as a contributor.Born in South Africa to a black South African mother and a white European father, Noah has hosted numerous television shows including South Africa’s music, television and film awards, the South African Comedy Festival and two seasons of his own late night talk show, Tonight with Trevor Noah. He made his U.S. television debut in 2012 on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno and has also appeared on Late Show with David Letterman, becoming the first South African stand-up comedian to appear on either late night show.

He continues to tour all over the world and has performed in front of sold out crowds at the Hammersmith Apollo in London and the Sydney Opera House in Australia as well as many US cities.

A brief extract on racism and apartheid from  the book:

Apartheid, for all its power, had fatal flaws baked in, starting with the fact that it never made any sense. Racism is not logical. Consider this: Chinese people were classified as black in South Africa. I don’t mean they were running around acting black. They were still Chinese. But, unlike Indians, there weren’t enough Chinese people to warrant devising a whole separate classification. Apartheid, despite its intricacies and precision, didn’t know what to do with them, so the government said, “Eh, we’ll just call ’em black. It’s simpler that way.”
Interestingly, at the same time, Japanese people were labeled as white. The reason for this was that the South African government wanted to establish good relations with the Japanese in order to import their fancy cars and electronics. So Japanese people were given honorary white status while Chinese people stayed black. I always like to imagine being a South African policeman who likely couldn’t tell the difference between Chinese and Japanese but whose job was to make sure that people of the wrong color weren’t doing the wrong thing. If he saw an Asian person sitting on a whites-only bench, what would he say?
“Hey, get off that bench, you Chinaman!”
“Excuse me. I’m Japanese.”
“Oh, I apologize, sir. I didn’t mean to be racist. Have a lovely afternoon.”

Book Review: Dreams from My Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance by Barrack Obama

I have had this book on my reading list for a while now until last week when I finally got a hard-copy of the book from our library. I have been reading memoirs this month and so I decided to finally read the story of this great man, Barrack Obama.

Dreams from my father is a beautifully written story about Obama’s journey towards discovering his heritage. Obama’s mother was an American but his father was Kenyan. However, at only two years old, his father walked out on them only to comeback briefly when he was ten years old before disappearing again. Years later, Obama received a call letting him know that his father had died in a road accident.
The death of his father triggered Obama’s quest to find out about the man who left him and also establish the truth about his inheritance. Obama first goes to Kansas, Hawaii and finally to Kenya in search of the missing pieces of his life.

The memoir is written simply and in remarkable prose. Reading the book made me feel like I was seated in a room listening to Obama narrate the story. Naturally, I loved the part about his visit to Kenya. It’s the first time that I read something about Kenya written authentically by a foreigner. He told stories about the good and bad sides of Kenya and it was all based on facts that any Kenyan can attest to. He spoke about the fact that people kept asking him for money and gifts from America which again is true about Kenyans. He gave accurate descriptions about the foods and the people. As I said, the good and the ugly were all true. I didn’t get the same feeling that I had when I read Aryan Hirsi’s description of Kenya in her book, Infidel or Nurrudin Farah’s description of Nairobi in Hiding in Plain Sight. Obama was honest; he did not exaggerate or try nor make Kenya seem like something that it isn’t. I really enjoyed that; it made me smile and think about the last time he in was in Kenya and his feeble attempts to speak Swahili.


Dreams 1
Reading about Obama’s story reminded me of the first time that he ran for president. We(most Kenyans) cvvv spent hours watching the presidential race and praying that he would win. The day he won was such a big celebration that Kenya had a national holiday. There is pride in seeing one of your own succeed (his father is Kenyan so yes, we claim the man). I had the same feeling when he landed in Kenya in July, 2015. As I watched his half run down the stairs of Air Force One, the excitement was palatable. It was also very sad when to see him wave goodbye before disappearing behind the doors of his plane. Kenyans will always think of Obama as one of the sons of the land. He will always remain, our cousin in America who made us proud.


Dreams from my father is a book that I greatly enjoyed and would gladly recommend it to anyone looking for an inspiring memoir.