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Weekend Read: Grace Ogot

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Grace Ogot’s Land Without Thunder is one of the oldest books in my mother’s house. The anthology of short stories is a worn, paperback copy bought in the early 80s. I cannot think of a set of stories that I have read more. You see, even in a house filled with books by African writers, I did not truly meet a voice that I thought understood me until I started reading Grace Ogot.

In Tekayo, a man’s greed leads him to commit an unspeakable taboo. A group of women survive a series of racist encounters at a Cairo airport. Sexual assault leads to suicide in Nairobi. A desperate woman uses witchcraft to trick her beloved into marrying her. Said beloved having dumped her for refusing to abandon her values and sleep with him. The stories are a delight to read.

Grace Ogot showed me women who were so powerful they commanded the respect of everyone around them. Moreover, she taught me that African lore can break away from traditional narratives and fit the zeitgeist.

Remember, Grace Ogot was writing these stories in the 70s in Kenya. She was the first African woman from Kenya to be published in the English language. A trained nurse, she worked in London and here at home. Her views on the contrasts between traditional and modern medicine suffused many of her works. Not only did she contribute to what many would call Kenya’s literary golden age, but she was also an MP and a diplomat.

You will be enchanted by her wit and glorious literary talent from the moment you open the book. She will sweep you away with her grasp of the language. A hot cup of chai and a Grace Ogot novel is just what the doctor ordered this weekend.

 

Joy Matiri

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