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One Day I Will Write About This Place

3.73  ·  Rating Details  ·  879 Ratings  ·  163 Reviews
A groundbreaking and wide-angled memoir by the acclaimed Kenyan Caine Prize winner Binyavanga Wainaina
Binyavanga Wainaina tumbled through his middle-class Kenyan childhood out of kilter with the world around him. This world came to him as a chaos of loud and colorful sounds: the hair dryers at his mother's beauty parlor, black mamba bicycle bells, mechanics in Nairobi, th
Kindle Edition
Published (first published July 19th 2011)
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Aug 12, 2015 Zanna rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is the memoir of a book addict, and Wainaina's savour for language glows from the first. His descriptions dance, they sing, they jump, syncopated, a lively, twisting flow like swift water, throwing rainbows of unexpected images into the air. In a pressing, urgent present tense at all times, his tale is vibrant and always fresh, even when he describes lethargy and depression.

Language itself is his subject at times, as he shares how Kenyan people, with their many mother tongues, use Kiswahili
Abdulkadir Noormohamed
A masterpiece. As a fellow Kenyan I can relate to every detail in Wainaina's story. At times I wondered how non-Kenyan readers would appreciate his humour or witty comments that seemed so personal, so warm and so....Kenyan. I smiled, laughed and even had my eyes well up through the story, because I grew up around the same time as Wainaina, and my childhood has more or less the same images (the trauma of the Moi years, will we ever recover?)The prose was exquisite, the imagery sublime. His story ...more
Dec 31, 2012 Cheryl rated it really liked it
I like books written with an eccentric style. This would be one. Wainaina does a few things I really liked: give great information in the voice of a child narrator, then switch to that of an adult's, showcase character flaw, give poetic expose. So different. So appealing. I liked also hearing of his struggles as a writer in Kenya, his mention of being friends with Chimamanda Adichie when she was trying to get published, his experience in applying for the Caine prize, etc.

I assume that some of t
La sua Africa.

Raccontando e colorando le profonde differenze esistenti fra ugandesi e kenioti, kenioti e sudafricani, sudafricani e ivoriani, ivoriani e ghanesi, e via dicendo, in quel meltin pot di lingue, dialetti, suoni, colori, odori e usanza che è quel continente che noi occidentali, senza saperne e capirne nulla, riduciamo a un'unità che non esiste che sulla carta, chiamando tutto Africa, Binyavanga Wainaina ci descrive la sua Africa.
Lo fa a partire dall'età di sette anni, quando attravers
Kate Savage
Dec 05, 2014 Kate Savage rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A miracle. Chapter 18 is the best of anything ever created. How does Wainaina remain completely and utterly within both his tender internal life and the buzzing-about world?

Delicious anti-racist rejection of most writing 'about Africa.' (For something more direct, see Wainaina's famous rant: Also, this book is one of the best memoirs on the writing life:

"I am afraid. If I write, and fail at it, I cannot see what else I can do. Maybe I will write and peop
Jun 08, 2012 Eric rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: own, afro-lit
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Aug 13, 2011 Susanna rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
It took me a while to get into this book. For the first seventy-five pages, I just could not make myself care about Wainaina's life. Fortunately, my interest in the book improved the further I read. Wainaina's young adult years provide the forefront for most of his memoir, with the movements and events in Africa during the 1970s and '80s being a fascinating backdrop. The author provides readers with a younger voice's view of the post-colonial continent and all of its competing elements: pop cult ...more
First, a complaint about the recording of the audiobook version. The narrator does a fine job of rendering the accents of different people. But throughout the recording, the narrator spoke so quietly that even with the volume cranked way up on my player, I often felt like I could barely hear him. Combine his low speech level with his African-accented reading and I found it really hard to listen to this. I wish I'd read the book instead.

That said, I really enjoyed the book. The writing felt alive
Aug 16, 2012 Doreen rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Outstanding evocation of living in (primarily) East Africa. This was so much better than 'Looking for Transwonderland'. Moving, gripping, even though you know, because it is an autobiography, how it will turn out. A real insider's view. I'm sure I missed a lot and it took me a few pages to get into it but I heartily recommend it.
Jerome Kuseh
Nov 15, 2015 Jerome Kuseh rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: african
Brilliant! Binyavanga is one of those special writers who can use many words yet it never feels excessive or boring. His storytelling is unconventional, humorous without feeling forced. ODIWWATP is a memoir that isn't about giving everything in detail or defending actions. Certainly worth reading.
Feb 13, 2016 Peggy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
It took me awhile to start enjoying Wainaina's memoir. For one thing, I thought that it was a novel and I kept waiting for the plot to start. This was my error, since "a memoir" is noted in the right corner of the book’s cover.

Wainaina grew up in Nairobi, Kenya. Both his parents have college educations. After independence, the country invested heavily in education and built schools all over the country, making higher education accessible to masses of young people who were previously shut out of
Jul 28, 2014 Darkowaa rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Amazing memoir. I loved every bit of it!! I watched a lot of interviews with Binyavanga, so when I was reading the book, I read it in his voice and it made my reading experience even more enjoyable, haaha. (We read his "How To Write About Africa" essay when I was in college and I enjoyed his satire..). I loved how he took us through his life as a child, his secondary school years, university life to present day. I loved his relationship with his sister Cir
Beautifully lyrical memoir and easily one of my favourites.

As I began to read I felt instantly jealous at Binyavanga's mastery of language to create such a tender and at times surreal read. I loved the imagery, I felt emotionally intertwined with his family. His childhood vagueness and interior-living has paid off to create a book that resonated deeply with me. The author's observations of the different African countries he visits and also the different African cultures he encounters are some of
Dylan Armes
Feb 10, 2012 Dylan Armes rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The only thing that is important for you take out of this review is that you should read this book if:

1) You like autobiographies
2) You are interested in Kenya OR
3) You like books that are so well-written and so emotionally stirring that you will likely find yourself on the brink of tears.

If for some reason you haven't already ordered this book (I can only assume that you exclusively read Laurel K. Hamilton and her ilk, you sad human, you) I will expound on my review:

This book, by Binyavanga Wai
Jun 20, 2013 windy rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: around-the-world
Impressionistic account of the author growing up in a middle class Kenyan family, with a lot of self-deprecating humor. Towards the end, things get more serious as the author struggles with depression as a student, and ethnic tensions surface in Kenya.

I liked the observations of how multilingual people construct different 'selves' for different languages (a recurring theme throughout the book):
I switch to Swahili, and she pours herself into another person, talkative, aggressive. A person who mu
Oct 29, 2013 Siria rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Really wonderful, absorbing memoir about growing up in Kenya in the 70s and 80s, being part of the first generation to be born after independence from British rule. Wainaina's prose is the real joy here, riffing on language, meandering but never rambling, often suggestive rather than direct, and only rarely getting away from itself. (This seems to happen more at the beginning of the book than later on.) I did want this to cohere a little more—it's not quite a memoir proper, but more than a serie ...more
Sep 14, 2011 Amari rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: biography
To savor.

Early on, like Joyce that one could understand. More coherent later, mirroring (as I see it) Binyavanga's integration into the World and his growing ability to exist within it and merge its "patterns" a bit with his dreaminess.

Along with The Grapes of Wrath and Bhabra's Gestures, one of my very obvious top 3 of 2011. Humane, individual, important, Real. Subtle, good-naturedly ironic, jarring, hot-African-summer sweaty.
Apr 03, 2016 David rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: paperback
It's doubly ironic that, among Americans, Binyavanga Wainaina is known more for his satirical essay How to Write About Africa than his actual writing about Africa. I was guilty, holding up Wainaina as a voice of reason among so much bad, cliché, heart-of-darkness writing about Africa without giving his own writing the time of day.

It has to be said, and I think most readers would agree, that as far as memoirs go, this one is ambitious and demands dedicated reading. It's a coming-of-age story abou
Mar 01, 2014 Maxwell rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: i-own-it, 2014
The beginning of the book follows a young Wainaina as he realizes his quirks, his uniqueness, his awareness that he is somehow different from his older brother, Jimmy, and younger sister, Ciru. As he moves through life as an observant young man, noticing the details often overlooked in everyday life, reminiscent of Joyce's Stephen Dedalus in 'A Portrait...' Wainaina struggles to reconcile his identity with nationhood. We learn a lot about Kenyan history, the tensions between the Gikuyu people, o ...more
May 03, 2013 ashok rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
What Binyavanga has done is taken "Discovering Home" (Discovering Home) and added a back-story and follow-on material. The unique thing about this book and one of the main reasons to read it is the authors perspective on other African countries (and Kenya itself) - the style is that of a travel novel, but with a personal story.

I found the first 25% of the book where he talks about his childhood unreadable and almost did not go on. The problem is in the detail and there is far too much of it (of
Aug 21, 2011 Rachel rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Anyone interested in contemporary Africa
I wish I could give this book 3 1/2 stars. I really liked most of it, but the childhood portions with Wainaina going on about the sun splintering into thousands of suns that breathe and dim and cool... It just seemed like he was trying too hard.

The success of this book, for me, was the author's unique take on what it is to be a Kenyan, an African, a tourist in his own country many times. How to navigate in a country with so many languages and traditions. How the tribalism creeps into politics a
Mar 10, 2013 Beverly rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
My thoughts:
• At first it took me a while to get into the flow of the book but for me this book was a series of vignettes/thoughts – some very brief and some a little longer. There were times when I was fully engaged and others that I was not quite sure what was going on.
• For the book is divided into the three stages of the author’s life – coming-of-age (childhood into adolescence as become more aware of the influences outside of family) – college years/young adult – adulthood and each part had
Jun 30, 2011 Mom rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Wow. Wow. And wow. From the cover and promotional blurb, I didn't expect to be really impressed with "One Day I Will Write About This Place." I was so wrong.

First, there's the story. Wainaina tells the story of his growing up in Kenya and reaching his dream of becoming a writer. What he includes of the turbulence of the times in Africa (from the 1970's to the present) is a reflection of his own uncertainty and feelings of not belonging. As a youngster Wainaina feels safer and more comfortable "f
Jan 16, 2014 Millicent rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I highly recommend Binyavanga Wainaina’s 2011 memoir, especially if you are Kenyan. It’s refreshing to read literature from the neurotic mind of a thoroughly postmodern Kenyan. Ngugi wa Thiong’o’s generation couldn’t afford to focus on the individual when Africa was at an important crossroad that demanded its intellectuals accept the burden to be griots of the dissapearing past, and architects for a future emancipated and fully realized Africa. We are not as confident as Thiong’o or Chinua Ache ...more
Aug 07, 2014 Laura rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I loved the experimental style, reminded me of Apollinaire's poems at times, sounds and words on the written page. It strikes me that this book has quite a few different sections where language changes. First, his childhood, subsequently university, becoming a conscious writer, and last political analyst and African observer. It doesn't feel disjointed but there are some sections that have clearly been written as self-standing articles and have been inserted in the book - e.g the last chapter? A ...more
Jan 14, 2016 Jade is currently reading it  ·  review of another edition
Binyavanga Wainaina’s One Day I Will Write About This Place is a vivid memoir that captures his coming-of-age as he develops into the talented writer he is today. Wainaina begins as a curious 7-year-old boy being raised in a middle class family with his three siblings by his parents in Nakuru, Kenya during the postcolonial times. As he matures, Wainaina traces the personal struggles he faces in school to flourishing again when he manages to grasp his passions. Throughout Wainaina’s journey, he e ...more
I don't even know how to talk about this book. I loved it so much that I am a bit speechless. As I live in East Africa I am working my way through as much literature by EA writers as I can. He described things I have tried and decided to classify indescribable. The sounds people make, the experience of living in a multilingual society, the tapping sound mutatu conductors make to communicate with the driver. His narrative is so intimate (to be fair, he is also distant, clearly crafted, and he is ...more
Nov 04, 2013 Viva rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The book pulled plenty of emotions out of me. It started slow with much detail and gradually pick up and became more like a summary of experiences. It was beautiful to read about parts of his life and of Kenya and other African nations finding their identity. I appreciate reading about the path of a writer so organically. His writing is colorful, humorous (even with sad/painful experiences) and written in way to you can connect and visualize vividly. I would recommend it and I would read it agai ...more
Jul 05, 2015 Helen rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
This a was a very difficult book for me to read. But, because it was a book club choice and recommended by a good friend, I had to finish it, with emphasis on the HAD. She had to read Wolf Hall for me, so I owed her this.

Did not love it as all the big newspaper critics did. I felt this book was really written in three styles/sections. The first was just a jumble of words, non sequitors. Not being familiar with African languages and tribes, it was difficult to follow all the references. Hard to e
Moses Kilolo
Mar 26, 2012 Moses Kilolo rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I love Binyavanga. I love his writing. This book is in many ways great. And it brings tears at times to see yourself, your particular struggles, your home ground, your dreams and desires, through the life of another. Indeed the labyrinth is well known; and we have only to follow the thread of the hero path.
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Great African Reads: February: Biography/Memoir | "One Day I Will Write about this Place" 16 38 Mar 09, 2013 06:29AM  
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Binyavanga Wainaina is a short story writer, essayist, and journalist.

He is the founding editor of Kwani?, a leading African literary magazine based in Kenya, and he directs the Chinua Achebe Center for African Writers and Artists at Bard College.

He won the 2002 Caine Prize for African Writing, and has written for many journals, including Vanity Fair, National Geographic, One Story, Tin House, Vir
More about Binyavanga Wainaina...

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“International correspondents with their long dictaphones, and dirty jeans, and five hundred words before whiskey, are slouched over the red velvet chairs, in the VIP section in the front, looking for the Story: the Most Macheteing Deathest, Most Treasury Corruptest, Most Entrail-Eating Civil Warest, Most Crocodile-Grinning Dictatorest, MOst Heart-Wrenching and Genociding Pulitzerest, Most Black Big-Eyed Oxfam Child Starvingest, Most Wild African Savages Having AIDS-Ridden Sexest with Genetically Mutilatedest Girls...The Most Authentic Real Black Africanest story they can find...” 7 likes
“There is an ache in my chest today, sweet, searching, and painful, like a tongue that is cut and tingles with sweetness and pain after eating a strong pineapple.” 3 likes
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