Book Review: Timeless Truths by Dr. Dennis D. Sempebwa

Kampala 2009.
He sits on the balcony. His worn and withered dark skin soaking up what the sun has to offer. He gaze looks beyond the horizon and into the thoughts that are holding his sight captive.

He is in the city now, there is not much for him to do here. The fences here are larger than the land they surround. He has no car nor does he have employment here. He is here to visit with his son and grandchildren he has not seen them in a number of years. However, they are all out. They are always out. There in the city.

So he sits on the balcony, staring at the skyline that is Kampala wondering when he will return to the hills that he calls home.

Kampala 2016.
Wisdom should be passed down through generations. Should be bring the operative phrase. I’ll apologise in advance because this review might be considered highly subjective.

Dr. Sempebwa’s book reminded me so much of my grandfather’s visits to the city. Reading this book created such a yearning in me for the missed opportunities and squandered time with my grandparents.

The book contains 300 proverbs that are split out into categories such as Adversity, Purpose, Change, Diligence, Authenticity, Cheerleaders, Antagonists, Coaches, and Faith. Each chapter opens with an Africa proverb written in a local dialect and translated to English. Yes, some are funny to read…

Lepotla-potla le ja poli, Lesisithelo le ja khomo
~ Lesotho Proverb

Translated: A hurry hurry person eats goat. The one who takes his time eats beef. 

Each category is it’s own chapter, and at the start of each, is a short introduction about the category. There is no clutter or tediously long backstory to each proverb. They, while being simple and straightforward, are also quite powerful.

A good place to look for your destiny is inside your wound

As I read through some of them, I thought about how apt he was in reflecting a lot of the seasons that we go through in life. I have heard that back in the day, fireplaces were a time for gleaning wisdom from elders on how to do life. How not to let life suffocate you or erode those old time fundamental principles on what it means to live and to live well.

In a time where busyness has become the order of the day, and yesterday’s failure quickly overshadowed by today’s sudden fame dubbed trending — perhaps Dr. Sempebwa’s book can prove to be a modern day fireplace.

If you ever find yourself in need of some time tested wisdom, then get yourself a copy of this book. Better yet, if your grandparents are still alive, share some of the proverbs with them and see if they agree.

Book Review: The Ghosts of 1894 by Oduor Jagero

 

I believe it’s tricky when choosing to write about topics that are very sensitive. Whether the content of the book is based on a true story or it’s fiction, you can never really tell where or when to draw the line.

Oduor does an excellent job of gripping our hearts and taking us on a journey into the hearts and minds of his characters. The way he wrote this book… It felt like I was walking through Nyungwe with Akamanzi and Juliet.

The character development was something that my mind kept running back to, after I started reading – Oduor introduces and builds up several characters that are integral to the plot of the story. With a back story on each leading to the point where we meet them. Each story very well thought out, there is a point where even though he is giving you their past, there is a certain mystery that still remains with the character. I felt this way about one of the lead female characters. Actually, throughout the entire book, I kept expecting the ball to drop in some drastic way.

Another interesting thing about this book, is the way it cuts across timelines and countries. Weaving a tale of the unresolved differences of the masters that bled into the hearts of the unsuspecting colonies. This gripping thriller will hook it’s unrelenting claws into you and keep you turning her pages.

There are some tiny details that did often wake me from my reverie, like the notion that Kabale is infinitely more rural than Busia *major side-eye*; or the fact that locals kept referring to Mille Collines in it’s full form (Hôtel des Mille Collines or shortening it as des Mille); or Matoke instead of Matooke; the American recognising ‘groundnuts‘… Again, these are just teensy-wincy details that often pulled me out of the I-can’t-get-enough-of-this-book.

The topic of creative licence came to mind as I noted above. In all circumstances, an author who is writing fiction should be able to create and redefine places as they see fit. But what happens when you are writing fiction surrounding events that have happened or even writing about places that currently exist.

Must we stay in line with the nuances of the locals or do we have the licence to integrate the physical reality with a hint of fiction.

Side Note: This is the sixth book I am completing off the 2016 Africa Reading Challenge. My reading list is here in case you are looking for books to add to yours OR if you have book I simply must read feel free to share.

My next book is Taiye Selasi’s Ghana Must Go


**The Ghosts of 1894 photo source: AfricaReview.com

Short Story Review: The List by Aito Osemegbe Joseph

This must be every parent’s nightmare… Well, actually almost every father’s nightmare.

That was my conclusion and I was only 85 words into the 3,465 worded piece. I giggled because I saw my late father written all over Aito’s introduction.

Aito spins a tale of old pride in cultures that are slowing dying. A reality that is seen in communities and countries that used to rely on certain traditions now making compromises and sometimes not for the better.

She was the stubborn fly that was following the corpse right into the grave.

A tale of parents’ expectations met with the very real reality of who they have raised and having to deal with the choices their children make.

As they slowly traverse the list, each member from either side coming to grips with the uncertainty that is about to enter their world.

“Eeeehhhhhhh, what is this? We asked for goats and you people are here with rabbits.” She struck her open mouth with her palm repeatedly, making mocking noises.

Two worlds, each from opposite ends of the spectrum and none of them about to back down.

In my opinion, this was a good read.

I especially like the detail with which Aito explores the thoughts running through Adaeze’s uncle’s head as well as the different emotions that surface through other key characters.

Aito also has the sneaky art of playing with emotions; as just when you are hopeful, he snatches the rug right from under you! Consider this your warning…

I think this story is easy to relate to because most of us know an Adaeze and sympathise with her uncle.

What would you have done, if you were Adaeze?
(Read the story here)

The List by Aito Osemegbe Joseph was announced as having been shortlisted for the Writivism 4th Annual Short Story Prize. It has now been published at Munyori Literary Journal head on over there to read it yourself

Short Story Review: SunDown by Acan Innocent Immaculate

Hmmm… I was left a little bit uncertain after reading this story. I almost want to persuade Acan to write an encore just to appease my uncertainty…**proceeds to cross fingers**

The setting is in apocalyptic earth, but Acan has a managed to spin the story way from the norm that is characterised by doom, gloom and we are all headed to hell… She takes on a certain wonder and almost playful voice that keeps your attention rapt and leaning in.

He must be the only human alive who’s happy to see the sun on her glorious deathbed

In the 3,460 worded story, we are introduced to Red – a little wonderer whose inquisitive nature draws you into the story of SunDown. His take and view of the world given his current state make you start to draw conclusions about what the ending will be like.

I credit Acan’s choice to include winter in this story. As bitter and bleak as winter can be, it also has the element of crisp & cleanness that it brings with it. The sense of starting a fresh or starting over, if you will. The white that washes over everything making it distinct and pristine…

Now the wind, he has always hated and will continue to do so. It is the snow’s bad tempered older cousin

Although, I was slightly amused by Red’s depiction of God, he reminded me so much of Gandalf. This leads me to mention the clever way in which Acan brought in the aspect of the ancient scriptures in moments that called for them. Now that, was brilliant!

In conclusion, this is not your usual apocalyptic themed story, this is one last-days story that you wouldn’t have too much of a hard time believing would happen.

SunDown by Acan Innocent Immaculate was announced as having been shortlisted for the Writivism 4th Annual Short Story Prize. It has now been published at Munyori Literary Journal head on over there to read it yourself

Short Story Review: Boyi by Gloria Mwaniga Minage

I am not sure about other cultures around the world, however, I have found that African culture is filled with the oddest colloquialisms. These are often belted out by an angry parent faced with a child whose troubles they cannot comprehend. These ridiculously funny sayings are often used in speech but rarely in written prose.

Our very boys, who ate oaths to protect our ancestral land have turned on us like the hungry chameleon that eats its intestines

Mwaniga’s 3,492 worded story of indebtedness and the audacity to present living collateral. Mwaniga presents one of the stories behind land rows, the kind you will not find on your television sets – but may be on radio, local community radio if they dared.

She aptly presents the frailty of a mother’s broken spirit and resolve to believe in any hope that she can clutch onto, as well as a father’s anguish and his strong innate need to justify the actions that ensued.

She tells the story through the eyes of an observer, a witness to the silent madness that proceeds a home stolen of joy. She also aptly presents the effectiveness of the local community communication system, which was a real marvel considering how glued we are to our cellphones in the real world.

Do you think the plague of deafness descended on us in the night?

Mwaniga makes you feel the pain of her characters.

Her style of writing made this book an easy, very believable read.

Boyi by Gloria Mwaniga Minage was announced as having been shortlisted for the Writivism 4th Annual Short Story Prize. It has now been published at Munyori Literary Journal head on over there to read it yourself

Short Story Review: The Swahilification of Mutembei by Abu Amirah

This story has been added to my list of the most delightfully descriptive stories I have ever laid my hands on.

Amirah’s use of words in this story had the power to pick my up from my desk in Kampala and plant me at the coast. Close enough to pick up whiffs of ocean breeze carried by the wind to tantalise me as I resist to be drawn in.

An Ocean the smell of slavery, broken promises, Portugal and Vasco Da Gama’s piss, washing away hopes and aspirations, so much so that new generations have nothing which resembles their ancestor’s footsteps to fit or surpass.

In this 3138 worded piece, Amirah allows us to eavesdrop on a conversation between two men whilst they played a popular board game called drafts. Might this drafts be the equivalent of meeting at the well – I’ll let you decide.

As Mutembei, the protagonist of the story, engages Nasoro in conversation, his mind takes on a life of it’s own. Fleeting all over the place: between grappling the importance of honey and milk to the fact that it appears, he is losing the game.

We are given a glimpse into the estrangement between Mutembei and one of his parents, as well as his consideration to take on the Swahili culture.

The view is as breathtaking and contagious as the touch of a fleeing lover, who in her routine disappearances leaves one with the anticipation that indeed tomorrow, if it ever comes, will hold better and perhaps more compelling narratives than yesterday.

Because Amirah’s writing transported me to the fictional reality that he envisaged made this story even more enjoyable for me.

It is my sincere hope that he shall expand this into a novel.

The Swahilification of Mutembei by Abu Amirah was announced as having been shortlisted for the Writivism 4th Annual Short Story Prize. It has now been published at Munyori Literary Journal head on over there to read it yourself

Book Review: Nairobi Echoes #Writivism2016

This review contains a couple of spoilers 

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This book is split up into 5 curious stories; at the start, I thought that these stories were interrelated but to my surprise, they were not. Actually, when I look at the book’s synopsis, there is nothing about the stories being connected… However, I digress!

It’s collection of stories about the lives of different characters living in the city of Nairobi. I have always thought of Nairobi to be the concrete jungle of East Africa. Busy people with busy lives, moving around in a busy nature, speaking in a busy manner.
In each of the stories, Gazemba goes into detail building up each of the characters, hooking us in through their back stories. Some of them, in particular, Tommy Hilfiger are quite relatable. I could totally see that going down in Kampala.
“I…I…I’ve never seen them, sir,” Jamin replied, his lips quivering and his head shaking vehemently. “Oh, so you mean a ghost came out of nowhere and disappeared with them…
Tehehe… Is it only Africa where such random statements are made?
Some of the stories have a slow build up (Chinese Cuisine, I am talking about you), but on the whole, Gazemba takes us on an interesting journey into the lives of Nairobi’s people. Each story has a different theme that it revolves around, from semi-thriller to love-wins-it-all, and a couple of stops in-between.
Thereafter he would remove his hacksaw and the rest would be easy – just like sawing through a dog’s carcass.
Whilst reading The Stronger Hand, I became slightly confused and opinionated because some part of the story happened in Uganda and in my head, it wasn’t adding up. I think Gazemba predicted this reaction because he pulled out an interesting twist as story unfolded.
The last confusing teeny-tiny thing that got to me, again this was whilst reading the stronger hand was geography. At one point, Gazemba starts the story in Arua, saying: I was smart enough to realize that our Apac home was getting crowded… Before we came to the south we had lived in Gulu in the north.
I could be wrong, but Arua isn’t to the south of Gulu or maybe he was not referring to Arua and Gulu at that point…
Overall, this book was an interesting journey…
I vote Mercedes, my favourite story out of the five. Yesss, I am trying to bias you into diving into it first.