One Day I Will Write About This Place: A Memoir
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One Day I Will Write About This Place: A Memoir

3.72 of 5 stars 3.72  ·  rating details  ·  418 ratings  ·  112 reviews
“A Kenyan Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man . . . suffused by a love affair with language.”—Publishers Weekly, Top Ten Books of 2011


In this vivid and compelling memoir, Binyavanga Wainaina tumbles through his middle-class Kenyan childhood out of kilter with the world around him. In One Day I Will Write About This Place, named a 2011 New York Times notable book, Wainain...more
Paperback, 272 pages
Published September 4th 2012 by Graywolf Press (first published 2011)
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Susanna
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
Joanna
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...more
Cheryl
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...more
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
Doreen
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.
ashok
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...more
Eric
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Rachel
Aug 21, 2011 Rachel rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  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...more
Mom
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...more
Dylan Armes
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...more
Millicent
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
windy
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
...more
Siria
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
Amari
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.
Maxwell
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
Moses Kilolo
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.
Alice
Silly, stream-of-consciousness, educational, and awesome. I love the way he writes, love how the narrator grows up but stays consistently quirky, and feel like many of his experiences are also my own. Some quotes:

I will take Gikuyu classes, when I am done with diversiddy and advertising, when I am driving a good car. I will go to the village and make plays in Gikuyu, in my good new car. I will make very good decolonized advertisements for Coca-Cola. I will be cool and decolonized. An internation...more
Brenda Kodawa
Had a problem finishing this book. It took me a while but all in all, it does not hold back and puts all its cards on the table.
Darkowaa
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 Ciru. It was touching to me...they almost s...more
Laura
Nov 11, 2011 Laura rated it 2 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition Recommends it for: Bettie
Not so good as I expected even if the subject is quite interesting.
Liz Murray
This isn't a memoir told purely from a chronological viewpoint which at first was a slight bit unsettling. I think this is more a collection of essays Wainaina has written and they do follow chronologically for the most part but there are stylistic differences between the chapters. I love the way he describes his childhood in almost a magical tone. One of the most moving chapters concerns his mother's family in Uganda, and the most moving chapter deals with a great loss. Wainaina doesn't seem to...more
missy lambert
This is some of the most beautiful and inventive language I've encountered in quite some time: A memoir written at times like a protracted poem, with deep attention to how the rhythm of the lines shapes their content. It's really, really beautiful and on top of the beauty it made me think in new ways about African history and politics. I mean, see what this does to you:

"International correspondents with their long Dictaphones, and dirty jeans, and five hundred words before whiskey, are slouched...more
Mom
This is a beautiful and amazing book. It is a memoir of the author's growing up in an upper-middle class family in Kenya. Educated in boarding schools, surrounded by loving family, he reminds us that Africa is about more than famine, war, crises.....

Wainaina writes of his childhood in a stream-of-consciousness manner, not always understanding exactly what is going on around him, often using strange sounds (mf-pah!) and his own made-up words,. It's fun to read his descriptions, true to how some c...more
Andrea
Binyavanga is a boy who seems a bit out of step with his family's ordered, prosperous life in Nakuru, Kenya. He observes the world in vivid snatches and his memoir is written in a similar way. It is a bit hard to dive into, but I found it very vivid and engaging once I got a grip on what he is doing. Kenya is a multi-lingual, multi-ethnic country in which most people's views of Africa and the world come mediated through community myths and ideas about the "other." The author does an excellent jo...more
Beverly
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...more
Craig Werner
Having been familiar with Wainaina's writing in periodicals, I was looking forward to this book when it was published in 2011. I started reading it then and got a bit bogged down, thinking "okay, this is Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man" transferred to Kenya." I set it aside and came back to it when I embarked on a trip to Tanzania (one country south of Kenya) in late December. Being able to juxtapose Binyavanga's writing with the actualities of East Africa was perfect. Kenya's different fr...more
Catherine
Wainaina paints pictures with words, whose choice is naturally heavily influenced by his culture. And what a marvelous mixture of cultures he represents. I think this is the first memoir I've read by an African, and there are so many ways of being African. Millions of ways, if you consider how each language and cultural identity multiplies itself in specific individuals. And Wainaina is a good observer and reporter of culture and even family tradition. If you look at it, Wainaina's life is relat...more
Jendella
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...more
Allison Long
I am very glad that I read this book during and after my visit to Kenya. While I found the writing disjointed and sometimes hard to follow, I recognize the author's intent to convey the many-cultured, complicated nature of his home country as well as that of several other African nations. It was the kind of writing that made me expect a horrifically graphic account of a first sexual encounter, but such never materialized, specifically. The whole of the book, rather, was completely visceral and s...more
Lenny Husen
This book gave me a Right Brained Headache.
I am tremendously impressed with this writer's achievement and each paragraph is like a separate poem.
As a more left-brained person, this was another book I rushed through because I got tired of the confusing segue-ways and non-sequiturs. The book was written like a series of dreams and disconnected memories.
Other people have reviewed this book better than I ever could.
The author describes his journey as a chubby, weird kid growing up in Kenya who di...more
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Great African Reads: February: Biography/Memoir | "One Day I Will Write about this Place" 16 36 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
More about Binyavanga Wainaina...
How to Write about Africa Discovering Home Kwani? 4 Kwani? 01 Kwani? 03

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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...” 4 likes
“It is an aspect of Kenya I am always acutely aware of - and crave, because I don't have it all. My third language, Gikuyu, is nearly non-existent; I can't speak it. It is a phantom limb...” 1 likes
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