The Week’s Highlights 2/3/2024

The Week’s Highlights 2/3/2024

People are always curious to find out about a Book, the author, and the behind-the-scenes of the thought process that go into scenes and characters of books. This week, we uncover Kefa’s Quest.

Kefa’s Quest is a coming of age story of a young boy who is facing insurmountable challenges on the onset of adulthood. The story is set entirely in Kenya, Africa. It deals with issues that young people often have to grapple with, such as the transition from childhood to adulthood, social problems such as poverty, discrimination, injustice, and corruption. The story has complex, multidimensional characters. It is action-driven and fast-paced.

The author uses themes like suspense and mystery, this heightens the tension in the book and gives the reader quite the rush. The author also used the words Kiswahili and Bukusu in a beautiful context. The general language used is clear and straightforward and it ensures ease of readability. The story is written with empathy and advocates fighting for what is right and just.

About the Author

Muthoni wa Gichuru is a Kenyan author. Muthoni’s first published novel, Breaking the Silence (2010), was the first runner-up for the Jomo Kenyatta Foundation Literature Prize YA category. She is a multiple Burt award winner for African writing for YA literature, 2016 and 2018. Muthoni is also a short story writer. She was shortlisted for the Commonwealth Short Story Prize 2015 and longlisted in 2018. In 2018 she was a finalist for the Africa Book Short Story Competition and in 2019 was shortlisted for the Queen Mary Wasafiri Literature Prize for the category of life writing. Muthoni wa Gichuru was shortlisted for the Miles Moorland Writing Scholarship in 2017 and 2018. Muthoni lives in Thika with her husband and three children.

A Glimpse into the Story

The beginning of the story is set in Kimilili in Western Kenya. Mt. Elgon, usually wreathed in a blue–green mist, provides a beautiful backdrop for Kimilili. Mr. Elgon is a mountain of caves, such as the Kiptum caves, and also teems with wildlife. I grew up in Laikipia, and every morning, the sight that greeted me was the snowcapped view of Mt. Kenya. When I got my first job in Western Kenya, where the town of Kimilili is, my eyes naturally sought the nearest mountain. Later, the story moves to Nairobi, in the slum of Kibera. Growing up in a rural area, I was shocked at the indignity of urban poverty when I came to Nairobi. In the village, everyone has a place to live, even as squatters in someone else's land. I wanted to show the sting of poverty through the eyes of Kefa but also show that no situation is really impossible.

I got my first job in Kitale, which neighbours Kimilili, a town in Bungoma County. I arrived in July and lived with a Bukusu family for a month (Bukusu is a subtribe of the Luhya that predominantly live in Bungoma). It was the season of Kuuminya- this is a season where initiates- boys who are between the ages of 12 and 15 are preparing to be circumcised, usually in August. Singing would rent the air as the boys went around the village singing and ringing bells. I wanted to capture that memory of a people still steeped in culture. Later on in Nairobi, I encountered street children and street families, and I tried, like most people do, to pretend that these people who live in the streets, begging and scavenging, do not really exist, but my conscience would not let me. As an artist, I wanted to write about them in an attempt to prick people's consciences, showing that these people exist, they are not rubbish, and we should all do our bit to help them.

The Bukusu are a people still steeped in their culture. I was particularly impressed by the respect children showed to elders. When a child is shaking the hand of an elder, he or she bows slightly and holds the right hand with the left hand above the wrist. When a person asks for something, even theirs, they add a syllable – ko, which could you please. The Bukusu will also say thank you for everything- for example, when you greet someone and they respond, "I am fine," the person will also say, "Thank you very much!" I was a bit surprised by this but later came to find it quite endearing.


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