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Book Review by Rebecca Jane

3 Jan 2022 7:33 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

Written from the Strength of the Human Heart

The Colonized and the Scramble for Africa by Wanjirū Warama

Reviewed by Rebecca Jane

I’m grateful to Wanjirū Warama for writing The Colonized and the Scramble for Africa, a true village saga that impressed this reader with its precision and clarity. She is generous with her first-hand accounts and descriptions of peasant life in Kenya between 1880s and 1950s. Her writing gives voice to the voiceless. It takes a mighty talented writer to listen to and perceive the humanity amidst all the complexities and conflict that arise when British colonialism meets African tribal traditions. Warama has this talent. For instance, she describes the rite of passage of sex education juxtaposed to the cultural taboo of single motherhood in a way that makes the reader think. Also, readers get a chance to witness what it was like to juggle British tax policies amidst trying to cope with multiple marriages and infertility. Warama is perceptive, and we can trust her to inform us with honesty and integrity.

Each scene is deftly detailed so it comes alive off the page. I felt I was with this family through challenges, such as seeking health care from a fledgling hospital system, as well as through every joy, such as family members reuniting after long separations. This book gives a bird’s eye view of generations of social change.

This is a book that helps to understand African life without demeaning references or images. For example, Warama observes the ways previous writers about Africa describe the houses as huts. Not only does her writing show how the word hut and its connotations do not match the ways the Kikuyu perceive their reality, but readers feel akin to the perception that the word hut was never an accurate word to describe these homes. We yearn for more accurate views.

It’s so refreshing to read a story on Kikuyu terms with Kikuyu perceptions. We can receive Warama’s writing as a fresh voice and welcome perspective. It’s especially honorable to see the way she handles culture constructs of polyandry and polygamy.

Also, the tone is not sentimental nor is it critical, but it is an accurate articulation of the situation as felt by the strength and fierceness of the human heart, making it all so relatable. Reading this book, we are in the hands of a trusted guide. From descriptions of keeping goats on a village farm to seeing a mother delivering her first baby in a hospital, this book covers vast territory that helps us to understand life of a polygamous father, a junior wife, or an observant young girl growing up in Kenya during socially tumultuous years. It’s a great read that restores our humanity.

Warama is an author whose journalistic integrity and attention to detail is sure to impress us. I eagerly await the next book in this series of stories that are bursting to be told with humanity and awareness.


Wanjiru Warama

PRONOUNCED: One-g-row Wah-Rah-Mah

Born to farmworker parents with no formal education, Wanjirũ Warama uses her unique experiences of growing up on a British colonial farm in Kenya, her world travels, and as an immigrant in the United States to write biographical, nonfiction books that enlighten, entertain, and inspire readers to do their best and thrive. She has written five books.

Her latest, THE COLONIZED And the Scramble for Africa, the first in a series about the lives she, her family, and her Gȋkũyũ community led on the colonial farm published November 2021. She is writing a sequel that will publish in Spring 2022.

Because she grew up in a world devoid of books, education is close to her heart. It’s the only way she knows that will enable a person, born under a cloud of disadvantages, to escape dehumanizing grind of poverty similar to the one she endured in her younger years.

A philanthropist, Wanjirũ is a lifetime member of the Friends of the San Diego Public Library, a member of the San Diego Writers & Editors Guild, and a member of The Rotary Club, among others. 

She lives in California, United States. 

You can reach her through her website at wanjiruwarama.com

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