So Glad Wainaina Finally Wrote About That Place
I don’t know where to start. Binyavanga Wainaina’s memoir, One Day I Will Write About This Place, is indescribable. His story is beyond compelling — it entertains, it educates, it introduces you to a side of Africa you don’t know exist and revisits the one you thought did exist.
I really don’t know where to start. Wainaina’s journey takes you through Nakuru in Kenya to South Africa to Uganda, Sudan, New York, Togo, Nigeria and back to Kenya. But it’s deep inside his mind where the journey really takes place. The way he describes, well, everything, puts you in the room with him. You can hear the story he tells, smell the ugali, feel the rage and uncertainty in South Africa. He’s Gikuyu but doesn’t speak it. And can be critical of his own people. Sometimes you’ll wonder if he even likes Kenya. Especially when he writes, “f*ck Kenya.”
He goes to the east side and describes a night of partying that could be a movie in itself. He pokes fun of how other tribes, including former president Daniel arap Moi, butcher words when talking in English. But it’s not a book venting his anger. He is hilarious as well. He is nostalgic. He’s a lost soul with a purpose and a purposeless with a goal in site.
When Wainaina tells his story of visiting family in Uganda, it’s the unofficial climax. It’s also the story that gets him the recognition as an amazing writer that propels him to where he is now. He’s desperate but refuses to bend for politically correctness when writing about South Sudan. Before it was South Sudan. Parallel to his story is the story of Brenda Fassie, the legendary South African singer who’s life story would be an unbelievable movie. I never heard of Brenda Fassie, but Wainaina introduces her, using her story as the icing on his story. His entire experience in South Africa should be a book by itself.
I’m not a book critic. Or reviewer. What can I say to not give away too much? It’s a memoir that makes you appreciate your life even if it doesn’t end as successful as his. His trials and tribulations, his poor decisions from school to drugs to family, his choice of friends even if loyal is not a life you would want to live. Might not survive. But it’s his conviction of being a writer that delivers him to where he is today, in a position to share his story which is at the same time inspiring, gut-wrenching and literary magic at once.