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One Day I Will Write About This Place: A…

One Day I Will Write About This Place: A Memoir (2011)

by Binyavanga Wainaina

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1871190,030 (3.79)28



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Showing 1-5 of 10 (next | show all)
In a style of writing that I cannot but call absorbing, Wainaina talks about growing up in Kenya in the 70s and 80s, his addiction to fiction, about his booze- and cigarette-fueled attempts at studying in South Africa, about his early days as a writer, about his travels around the continent and the world. Over the course of his personal story, he adds in just enough politics and historical background to keep things firmly in memoir territory (as opposed to general history or international relations).

Some of the chapters were published as magazine articles before, and much of the book reads like that: a skilled writer using personal stories to talk about his world of intertribal distrust, colonial legacies, hesitant African democracies, Lagos cityscapes, Togo markets, and how to chart Kenya’s development through a succession of music styles. The best vignettes in the book, though, are the personal ones: this is where Wainaina’s less-is-more writing style does its most evocative work; his sparse sentences and carefully picked details are more artificial and less effective when it comes to more general topics.

That said, One day I will write about this place was an immersive read that I was eager to pick up and looking forward to read. I would very much like to read more by Wainaina. ( )
  Petroglyph | Jan 8, 2018 |
The first half is so slow, but getting through it is totally worth the effort. The second half almost merits the NY Times "run, don't walk, to buy this book," but overall, I think walking would be just fine. ( )
  kate_r_s | Feb 12, 2017 |
Binyavanga is a boy who seems a bit out of step with his family's ordered, prosperous life in Nakuru, Kenya. He observes the world in vivid snatches and his memoir is written in a similar way. It is a bit hard to dive into, but I found it very vivid and engaging once I got a grip on what he is doing. Kenya is a multi-lingual, multi-ethnic country in which most people's views of Africa and the world come mediated through community myths and ideas about the "other." The author does an excellent job of recreating the way in which a child, and then a young man, pieces observations and received ideas together, trying to make sense of the world. As he travels around Africa, Binyavanga develops his view of Kenya, clarifying the aspects that make his country African and yet distinctly Kenyan. The imagery is dazzling and the many vignettes are memorable. The look straight into the heart of tribal prejudice is perhaps more honest than the author is even aware. His views, for example of the Maasai people he interacts with at his father's leased land, his own easy acceptance of privilege and material wealth, even the description by numerous reviewers of Binyavanga's family as "middle-class" in a country in which electricity, television, automobiles, running water and elite prep schools are the provenance of the wealthy and privileged and "middle class" is really a meaningless term, are a telling revelation of modern Kenya.
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  kaitanya64 | Jan 3, 2017 |
This is a memoir written in spectacularly descriptive and creative language that works best in describing scenes and the African world, less well in engaging the reader personally with the writer. ( )
  snash | Sep 22, 2014 |
A well written account of a writer coming of age in Kenya and his travels across the African continent as an adult. Wainana's prose is elegant, spare and he conveys his experiences in a series a tightly told vingettes.

However, he never really made me care enough about his life. There are worse sins in literature, but I never found myself completely absorbed by this. ( )
  xander_paul | Dec 17, 2013 |
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In this memoir, Wainaina takes us through his school days, his mother's religious period, his failed attempt to study commerce in South Africa, a moving family reunion in Uganda, and his travels around Kenya.

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