Having read Binyavanga Wainaina’s ‘tongue in cheek” essay on how to write about Africa, which I thoroughly enjoyed, I have always yearned for more. So the release of his book ‘I will write about this place”, to much acclaim I might add, was good news to me.
It has been reviewed by the new York times, the economist, the guardian and the times of London. With generally favourable reviews. Something I attribute to the western world coming to grips with stories from ‘middle class’ Africa, a struggle personified by Chimamanda Adichie and her book ‘Purple hibiscus’, a great personal favorite. Everyone should watch her TED Talk on the ‘danger of a single story’ http://www.ted.com/talks/chimamanda_adichie_the_danger_of_a_single_story.html
Now Binyavanga got the greatest boost any one can get in America when his latest book was recommended summer reading of the Oprah Winfrey Book Club. This almost garauntees block buster sales.
Now here is the tragedy: whereas this book ‘I will write about this place’ is readily available all over the world at the drop of a hat, it is sadly totally unavailable in Kenya! The story has a strong Kenyan and Ugandan theme, but I have only met one person who has actually read it! and doing the rounds of Nairobi’s main books stores and finding that they don’t have it in stock tells the sad tale.
One fed up book store owner went so far as to say that the publishers of the book could not be bothered with distributing it over here. Too small a market? Africans can’t/don’t read? Your guess is as good as mine. But I have to wonder where the author himself stands in all this, does he take himself too seriously or does he take his reading audience for granted?