September is tagged as Kenya Readathon month. A project envisioned by Lexa Lubanga to promote Kenyan literature, this year’s edition was the fourth. Basically, you read anything and everything you can that is Kenyan – written by a Kenyan writer or set in the country. Here I share some of the short stories I enjoyed reading, in no particular order. There are no spoilers or reviews, of course, just some context. Hopefully you’ll be excited to check out the stories. Plus, it is also the year’s ninth month so, a curated list of nine short stories from my readathon’s reading. Enjoy.
Basket of Deplorables by Linda Musita
Bad company corrupts good morals. This religious call is what Musita writes against such that hers suffices as a manifesto against such a supposition. Profoundly she resists the abstraction and simplification of urban indulgences and conveniences of course coupled with their consequences. This is all the while not excusing or passing anything for not.
FIFA: A Love Story by Dennis Mugaa
Nothing beats the fun of an adolescent with a console, not especially one who has grown up with a number of different editions. It’s this adventure that Mugaa writes around right to falling in love and out of love with the game of her childhood and of course as occasioned by adulting.
Journeys by Abukutsa Moses
Kalahari Review, 2020
Are there better ways to appropriate the journey motif? Moses’ short story animates the path to success or the promise of rural-urban migration to argue for among others gender politics. Of course, all of this with some industrious humour that makes it an easy read.
Journey on here.
Price Tags by Buke Abduba
Adda Stories, 2023
I’m seated by a Lopha as I head to town, complaining of having deserted my route to town via Mombasa Road for Thika Road and the double tragedy of having to pay twice the fare and yet not beat traffic. I peep online, as Maina plays on morning radio, and boom, Abduba’s short story. It’s a hard one as is the capital logic inferred. Also not often do you suppose a Kenyan writer is from the North of the country- exclusionary logic(s) of project Kenya. Commonwealth Prize shortlisted, this story has snapshots of life in the country’s North East moving beyond the ominous, and easily ignorant tropes, to theorise the complexity of life in Moyale through a familial narrative.
Silence is a Woman by Wambui Mwangi
New Inquiry, 2013
As far as essays go, this one is good. Not only for its historical background on vernaculars, private and public, of being a woman in Kenya but also the historicised social, political and economic ideation this nonfiction piece gathers in its narrative. Have I spoiled this one already?
Jaba by C.K.R Mose
Little is the regard we have for khat chewing ilk and even fewer ‘bazes’ where chewing is frequent. Mose’s writing uses the two and exploits popular cultural memory to harness a narrative that complicates the whole affair of khat chewing to illustrate among others urban living and conveniences that are afforded by and accorded to young people.
Find more here.
Our Husband Grief by Christine Odeph
Brittle Paper, 2018
Get ready to be spoken to by the dead. Necropolitics at its best in this short story. You’ll be moved to the land of the living: Kenya, Uganda and the land of the dead and be left with an appreciation of the whole period of grief —animated disco matanga within the context of a contemporary family and how grief afflicts the family.
The Journey by Fatma Shafii
If you enjoyed Yvonne Owuor’s The Dragonfly Sea then this one is definitely for you. Or perhaps even House of Rust. This one ranges from magical realism to oceanic tales if not maritime and the littoral, of course. Just a little of Abdi he’s naive and wonders how seafarers consume leisure largely by promiscuity. What’s more? The original lyrical Swahili writing is there as well for you to enjoy.
Hii Nai Si Yetu by Carey Baraka
I’m sitting around the National Archives and watching the human traffic flow, thinking through some ideas of night work in Nairobi and I suddenly think huh, this is what perhaps had Lutivini Majanja say something about the preachers by Aga Khan Walk on X. Boom! To mind comes Carey Baraka’s Hii Nai Si Yetu’s first sentence “Nairobi was not built for walking” and his innovative nomenclature Homo Nairobi Mobilae. It’s just a funny read as it’s written with echoes of Meja Mwangi’s Going DownRiverRoad and the collective’s name where it is equally published.
Find it here.
Wambua Muindi teaches at the University of Southern Somalia’s Institute for Languages and Literatures. He’s currently reading for his MA in Literature at the University of Nairobi where he acquired his Bachelors. A writer and reader with a drift, he has been engaged with various creative and literary spaces like Writers Space Africa-Kenya, Paukwa, Africa in Dialogue, Asymptote Journal and Isele Magazine. He is a writer at The Fifth Draft.