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I was born in Nakuru Kenya in 1971. For most of my life, I have lived inside the pages of fiction. I fell in love with novels at 7, and never looked back. By the time I was ten, I was reading four, sometimes five books a day. I would complete a 200-page novel in forty-five minutes. This posed a problem in school, and with my parents. They felt that I was living in a fantasy world, which was true. I read in the bath, in my room, in the toilet; on safaris – everywhere.
To me fiction has always been the highest calling. I was terrified of writing myself: what if my writing was bad? But all the time my head was composing stories, books, and characters. I was twenty-five, after having failed at everything else, and having achieved a series of ever increasing ‘rock bottoms’, that I decided that I had nothing to lose. I started to write. It took five years of trials and errors before I was ready to write the kind of fiction I felt was readable. Meanwhile, I wrote for newspapers, magazines and so on. In 2002, to my astonishment, I won the Caine Prize for African Writing. I had mixed feelings: Kenyan publishers had ignored all my attempts to get published. As is usual with younger African writers, your talent is taken seriously first abroad, then you are recognized in your own country. It was this experience which encouraged me to start Kwani?, a journal containing some of the most exciting writing happening in Kenya. The journal is selling very well.
My parents both come from large families (twelve children each). My mother, who passed away a few years ago, was from Uganda, not far from the Rwanda border. My maternal grandfather turned 100 years old this year. I am fascinated by the ‘shape-shifting’ we Africans have learned to practice to keep our own ethical and social systems alive. Kenyans move fluidly from language to language; from value system to value system.
Read more ...Hell is in bed with Mrs Peprah
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