Events Personalities

Wangari Maathai’s book at Storymoja Book Club

Prof Wangari Maathai’s memoirs Unbowed, will be the subject of discussion during this month’s Storymoja’s Book Club. The event takes place on Monday 7th of July 2008 at the Sherlock’s Den Nakumatt Lifestyle from 6pm to 8 pm.

Nominated MP Njoki Ndung’u will grace the event.

Unbowed, published in 2006, puts the Nobel Laureate’s life in focus. In the book, she opens her life to the reading public, including intimate details about her marriage, and the messy divorce that followed.

She also describes, in great detail, her struggles against retired President Moi’s dictatorship, for which she suffered severe beatings, public humiliation from politicians, and being locked in police cells. Incidentally, it is those tribulations that eventually earned her the Nobel, not forgetting her tree planting efforts.

Many publishers in Kenya did not take kindly the fact that Prof Maathai overlooked them and chose a foreign publisher. During the book’s launch at Outspan hotel in Nyeri, in September 2006, Prof Maathai said that no local publisher had approached her for the project.

This is despite the fact that an editor, at a local publishing house, had confided in me that they had contacted her office with a view to writing the book, but got no response.

To be honest had I been in Prof Mathaai’s position, I would have opted for the foreign publisher. The offer one gets from these people is, to paraphrase Kimunya, is simply irresistible.

This should not be interpreted as a slight to local publishers, but do they have the capacity to market such a book internationally? The answer is a big NO!

Let me illustrate this. Why is it that a book like Onduko Bw’ Atebe’s The verdict of Death, which in spite of winning the inaugural Wahome Mutahi Literary Prize, is not known beyond Kenyan borders?

Even Ngugi wa Thiong’o, with his attachment to East African Educational Publishers, decided to give international rights for his book Wizard of the Crow, to foreign publishers.

Local publishers however made up for it by publishing Children’s books on the Nobel Laureate. Oxford University Press published Waithaka Waihenya’s Army of One, in 2006. Last year, Sasa Sema, an imprint of Longhorn Publishers published Kinyanjui Kombani’s Wangari Maathai: Mother of Trees.

But I digress. The Storymoja Book Club brings together book lovers, who discuss their shared love; the book. The book club also affords them the opportunity to network. Annual membership to the club is Sh1000.

What are the benefits of being a Storymoja Book Club member? For starters you qualify to get 20% Discounts for books in Nakumatt Ukay, Mega, Nyali and Embakasi bookshops, hmm not bad at all. That is not all. One also gets 10% reduced on the price food and drinks courtesy of Books first, Sherlock’s Den and Storymoja. I wonder if this enticing discount is applicable whenever a Storymoja Book Club member drops by at Sherlock’s Den at anytime?





One reply on “Wangari Maathai’s book at Storymoja Book Club”

Hi, Ngujiri.
As always, it is extremely refreshing to read your views on any matter writerly. You truly are an authority on the kenyan literary scene. But don’t let this get into your head.
Anyway, coming to my point of comment, i think you are spot on when you talk about the inability of Kenyan publishers to reach out beyond our borders with the Kenyan book. Why that is so, please don’t ask me. I have not the vaguest idea. Ineptitude could be one of the reasons. But , of course, that is only an unintelligent guess. Nevertheless, i guess it is high time the Kenyan writer got a little wiser and apportioned copy rights on a need to have basis. What, in essence, i am saying, is that our publishers should be content with just the Kenyan rights, leaving the writer leeway on the international rights to negotiate at will.

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