The course Global Literature: Modern Writings from Women of the Non-Western World was one of the most important college classes I’ve ever taken as a writer. Dr. Jo Dulan at Salem College taught this literature course. It allowed me the ability to break out of US literature and explore books on a more global scale from the vital perspective of a woman writer.
In appreciation of this experience, I have researched a few authors from various countries, provinces, regions, etc. outside of the USA that have translated works available in English; many of the writers have works available in their native tongues and other languages as well. This series is merely a tool to introduce you to a large amount of important writers.
I do not propose that the written works or the writers that I feature are the most important, the most popular, or are able to speak for an entire identity or culture. Rather, I am hoping to simply give suggestions to create interest in global literature. It is important to recognize writers — especially women, who are often underrepresented — from all parts of the world.
Keep an open mind as you read. Sometimes things are lost in translation, and sometimes a subject may take more research to understand.
This post will cover a few authors from Kenya. Feel free to suggest additional authors in the comments.
Grace Ogot, also known as Grace Emily Akinyi, was born in Butere, Kenya. She was an author, scriptwriter, nurse, and politician.
Try this: The Promised Land by Grace Ogot
Overview of The Promised Land from barnesandnoble.com:
“A young farmer and his wife who have migrated to Tanzania from Kenya become embroiled in issues of personal jealousy and materialism, and a melodramatic tale of tribal hatreds ensues. The novel explores Ogot’s concept of the ideal African wife: obedient and submissive to her husband; family and community orientated; and committed to non-materialist goals. The style is distinctively ironic giving the story power and relevance. Grace Ogot has been employed in diverse occupations as a novelist, short story writer, scriptwriter, politician, and representative to the UN. Some of her other works include The Island of Tears (1980), the short story collection Land Without Thunder (1988), The Strange Bride (1989) and The Other Woman (1992). The Promised Land was originally published in 1966, and has since been reprinted five times.”
Yvonne Adhiambo Owuor
Yvonne Adhiambo Owuor is a speaker, filmmaker, and author. She was born in Nairobi, Kenya.
Try this: Dust by Yvonne Adhiambo Owuor
Overview of Dust from barnesandnoble.com:
“When a young man is gunned down in the streets of Nairobi, his grief-stricken father and sister bring his body back to their crumbling home in the Kenyan drylands. But the murder has stirred up memories long since buried, precipitating a series of events no one could have foreseen. As the truth unfolds, we come to learn the secrets held by this parched landscape, hidden deep within the shared past of a family and their conflicted nation. Spanning Kenya’s turbulent 1950s and 1960s, Dust is spellbinding debut from a breathtaking new voice in literature.”
Wangari Maathai was a Nobel Peace Prize winner, environmentalist, political activist, and author. She was born in Nyeri, Kenya.
Try this: Unbowed: A Memoir by Wangari Maathai
Overview of Unbowed: A Memoir from barnesandnoble.com:
“In Unbowed, Nobel Prize winner Wangari Maathai recounts her extraordinary journey from her childhood in rural Kenya to the world stage. When Maathai founded the Green Belt Movement in 1977, she began a vital poor people’s environmental movement, focused on the empowerment of women, that soon spread across Africa. Persevering through run-ins with the Kenyan government and personal losses, and jailed and beaten on numerous occasions, Maathai continued to fight tirelessly to save Kenya’s forests and to restore democracy to her beloved country. Infused with her unique luminosity of spirit, Wangari Maathai’s remarkable story of courage, faith, and the power of persistence is destined to inspire generations to come.”