HOME IS A CASTLE OF STORIES

A CASTLE OF STORIES




I am told that I was born in Tabaka mission hospital. I am not sure about that. I could have been born anywhere. That hospital is in south Mogirango, perched upon this hill of soapstone. It was built by missionaries, way back before the term ‘millennial’ was coined. The hospital is part of a larger complex: a church and a nursing school. You look at it and fall in love, it’s a work of art. Futuristic. Postmodern. In the gardens of this social behemoth, staggers this one old tortoise. It’s been there since time was time. It knows where the bones are buried.

In the maternity section of this landmark, I took my first breath. There’s a photo of me when I am one hour old. I look so innocent and sweet. I am curled up beside my mum, she’s tired. A contingent of aunts flanks her sides. I have no idea where my father was at that moment. Did he have any idea that he had ‘another rock for his sling?’ Do you know that line? I have been gazing at that photo recently, tears come to my eyes. I was so beautiful, so fragile. My eyes are closed and I’m smiling. I look at how I have turned out, over two decades later and I love myself. But I love my one-hour old self more. I was…. So pure.

I think about the cameraman who took that photo. What happened to him? Did he succeed in his art? Or photography was a side hustle then? Folks are making millions from photography these days. Wherever he is, I hope he's happy. That picture stole my heart. My dad showed it to me recently and I struggled to push back the tears. I am writing this and my eyes are wet. We really can’t fight emotion, can we? That’s why writing is beautiful, I do it alone and can cry alone. I don’t have the nerves to cry in front of a crowd. I can’t do it. Men should cry alone.  

After I was born until I started school, I can’t account for that period of my life. I don’t know what happened. I have no idea where we lived. I don’t know what I did. It’s a fogged out past. It’s a bottomless void. Memories jut out like desolate trees in the savannah. It’s a buried winter. And I try to construct it with scanty details, snippets of memory and stories from my parents.


At some point, we lived in this house with lots of cats. Actually, the cats had their own room. This explains why I’ve grown up liking cats, I bond with cats effortlessly. Sometime last year, with my dad, we visited one of his friends who’d jetted in from abroad. A Summer bunny. There was a small cat lolling around the house. In no time the cat was beside me, trying to bite off my fingers. The summer bunny was shocked.

“That cat is shy, it rarely plays with visitors.”

I thought. ‘This is my cat spirit coming alive.’

Anyway, where were we? The house with lots of cats. It was a rental and my parents were not cool with that life. They bought a plot and built a house in another village. Where they would raise us eventually, (with my brothers, not the silly cats). It was in this village where I would grow up to be a man. The same village where I was circumcised. On its pathways, I experienced my first heartbreak. It is in this village where I am writing this story.

The village stole my soul.

When we first arrived, I did not know a lot of people. Actually, to this day I know a handful of folks. There wasn’t much to do, nowhere to go. It was school then home. And the school again. In between, I discovered books. During the holidays, I would remain at home alone, my parents off to work and my brothers off to I don’t know where. Engulfed in loneliness, I would devour kids’ books. I was around six or seven at the time. I read lots of stories about elephants and rabbits and lions and mice. I read stories in Ekegusii too, which helped a great deal because I am so eloquent in my mother tongue. While most of my peers’ struggle to speak in Ekegusii, I can walk right into a council of elders meeting join the discussion.  
My reading habits haven’t changed. I can’t let go of a beautiful book. I want to read all the books I can get. And I’ve read loads of them.

Recently, I finished this epic book I have been reading. And I thought to do a special on books which have stayed with me over the years. This is not an accurate list. I’ve forgotten some of the titles I read in primary and high school.

Shoe Dog by Phil Knight.

There are no words to describe it. Few books can capture you from the first word to the last. And when you finish, you want to reread. I’ve read it twice this year. First time on Amazon then@rafubooks gifted it to me in some competition.

It’s the best first-person narration you’re going to read. Phil, the creator of Nike, takes you on his extraordinary odyssey of building this sports mammoth. It’s true, honest and beautiful. Words fail me. He talks of pursuing victory in different fields. It’s the same dream which guides everyone. Whether in business or the arts.

He narrates how at twenty-four, he’d never been with a woman, I felt sorry for him on that. And how his first heartbreak ripped him open. The girl was a blue blood, she wrote him a letter to cut him off. He closed his business, stayed in his room for days. But he met another chick, Penny, hotter, more feminine who would end up to be his wife.

A small warning* break up with me, but don’t send me a freaking letter!

Shoe Dog is more like a journey on a plane. You can’t alight till the airport. In the pages, he infects you with ambition and hunger for more. How he sold everything to tour the world at twenty-four. All for the crazy dream he had, to sell shoes. Fifty years later, his crazy dream is the world’s leading sportswear maker. NIKE.

I can talk about the book all year long. But one thing I’ll say is that if reading it doesn’t change your perspective. Nothing can.

The brief wondrous life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz

Its humour in a tragic life. You feel sorry for Oscar Wao, but you laugh at him in the same measure. He’s an obese boy struggling to lose his virginity. In college, he meets the narrator, Yunior, who sleeps with his sister(Oscar’s) and lots of other chicks but can’t give him tips on how to land women.

It’s also a book detailing the dictatorship in the Dominican Republic. El jefe, the dictator, is referred to in all manner of ways. Some called him the ‘failed cattle thief.’ This El jefe guy loved women so much that it’s reported, he had a police unit which looked out for the hottest women and reported to him.

It’s a funny story. Which makes you laugh and scares you a little bit at the end’s men will go to fill their carnal wants. The story is full of men doing all they can to fulfill themselves sexually. You will be happy to learn that Oscar Wao finally lost his virginity before he died. It was a neighbour, a hooker. When it happened, he almost threw a party. Later, the hooker’s boyfriend, a police officer, killed him.

A thousand splendid suns by Khaled Hosseini.

It follows the life of a girl named Miriam. A bastard child. Born to a noble father and a peasant mum. Such a child is frowned upon by society in the middle east. She’s married off at a young age to hide the family’s shame.

It’s a sad story, how Miriam tries to be a wife to this older man. She gets pregnant and the man wants a boy. She gives birth to a girl, more fury in the house.
Read it, feel the sadness yourself.

Fearless by Ifeoma Chinwuba

This was gifted to me by Khainga O’okwemba. The president Pen international, Kenyan chapter. There’s a white boy suffering from this disease which might kill him at any moment. To survive, he needs to live in the tropics. His mom is in a coma. Thus, he leaves with his father who is appointed a headteacher in some school, deep in Nigeria.

Living with Nigerian folk, the boy learns their ways and is even circumcised amongst them. He learns African science and has powers to summon rain and heal people. With this new-found knowledge, he uses African herbs to treat his mother who was almost dying. Back in Nigeria, he is the leader of age set he was circumcised with. They call him Fearless. I’ve read it twice, wonderful narration.

Pour me a life by A A Gill

Gill was a celebrated UK journalist. Dyslexic. He also wrote for Times and Esquire. As a young man, he was lost in alcohol. As he puts it in his memoir, ‘I was lost in the haze of the drink.’ He doesn’t account for his twenties and some of his thirties; he says he doesn’t remember anything. Most of the time he’d blacked out.  

As with most cases, he hit rock bottom. Then decided to go to rehab. After that, he only drank water at parties.

Pour me a life is a witty memoir. Funny. And early on, he sets the pace. He writes.

‘I’m not shifting through this soggy tangle of a shredded life for your benefit, I have no message, no help. This isn’t a book to give to your sister whose son is having too good a time or the fat friend who struggles with his cravings.'

And then he launches into his life story. Alcohol. Dyslexia. Having cancer. His love life and children. If you did read uncle Agony in Esquire and his pieces on Sunday times, you’ll adore this book. I’m planning to re-read it again. He says that English had no rules of grammar and whatnot. Those trying to bring in rules are afraid of the power the language has, I felt that.

Sadly, A A Gill passed away, cancer. But his writings seat at the core of my heart.

The book thief by Mark Zusak.
The book is narrated by death. Set in Nazi Germany. It’s about a girl and her naughty friend, Rudy Steiner. They like going around stealing. The girl enjoys stealing books. Back at home, in their basement, the girl’s family has a secret. They are hiding a Jew.
You can guess how that goes.


Heart of Darkness by James Conrad
Conrad was this polish guy who somehow converted to be English. Anyway, he wrote of his journey along the Congo River. It’s one of the most controversial books of the past years. He names Africans as savages, blah, blah. Even Achebe, in the Amherst lecture. He took time to bash this book.

I like it though. It’s a book you enjoy reading. The wordplay is superb.

Half of a yellow sun by Chimamanda Adichie
Do I have to talk about his one really? It’s about the Biafran war and some university lecturer’s family. I read it in high school, mostly during math lessons.  None of Chimamanda’s books come close to this one. I’ve tried to read the others, I fall asleep. This was a winner.

The Godfather by Mario Puzo
I’ve read it twice. I am that guy who repeats good books. It’s set in post-world war two America. When the depression was biting but the American Mafia was rising. Though it’s fiction, the book gives insight into the mafia families of the time. The Corleone’s were one kick-ass family. Mario Puzo did romanticize about Don Corleone a lot though. Mafia dons were not that loving. Watch, ‘making of the mob.’ The AMC documentary which traces roots of the American mafia and you will understand.

All in all, the Godfather stole the show during its age. It still does. Of the Mafia figures, I like Scarface Al Capone.

In God’s name by David Yallop.
This investigative journalist turns Vatican upside down as he writes about the murder of Pope John Paul 2. In the end, your accusing finger points only in one direction. The Vatican called the book an elaborate work of fiction. Why is that?

Inferno by Dante Alighieri
This is the longest piece of literature in the world. I am yet to finish it. I don’t think I will. Once in a while, I read it for its beautiful wordplay. Dante documents the seven stages of hell.

 It goes, ‘midway upon the journey of life, I found myself within a forest dark. For the straightforward pathway had been lost.’

Come on, tell me if you won’t read any further?  

This is how you lose her by Junot Diaz
It’s a collection of short stories of the girls, he dated. And how the relationships eventually ended. He writes about your girl warning you about cheating.
‘One day, she opens your mail and discovers you’re cheating, not one girl, not two but fifty chicks. And she’d sworn that if you cheat, she would drive a machete through you.’
This collection makes you laugh at breakups. It’s a funny book.

A guiding hand by Denzel Washington
It’s more of self-improvement. Denzel writes about his journey to the pinnacle of Hollywood. And then other leaders in different fields document their stories of success. How they rose to the top. It’s a book which tells you that everything is possible.

A million little pieces.  James Frey
James is an addict; he’s abused all drugs in the world and he wants to die. Somehow, he goes to rehab and an extraordinary story rises. He’s a man covered in darkness. He must fight the addiction or it will kill him. Amid the ruins of that destroyed world, he finds love. Another addicted chick called lily. It's written in the present. Read it and find beauty in the debris of drug addiction.

The Clash of civilizations and the remaking of world order by Samuel P Huntington.
This book looks at the new war going on in the world post the cold war. It’s a war of identity and culture and belonging. You read it and realise why Trump doesn’t want immigrants in his country. You will understand why the radical middle east is in a constant battle with the west. And if they can’t find a way to co-exist, then battles will rage on till everybody is wiped out.

This book is touted to shape the future of mankind. We can only wait and see.

I have realised I am past the 2500-word limit. If I continue, I’ll be writing a novel about books to read. Which isn’t fair. This blog is for entertainment, not telling folks which books they should read. People have their own tastes. You had a glimpse into my reading world. That’s what works for me. What works for you?

Photo credits @chief sareto

6 comments:

  1. I also hope he is made millions or at least thousands from his photography

    ReplyDelete
  2. Being persistent in one's passion is the greatest deal.

    ReplyDelete
  3. @Osoch your stories are the best
    🤗🤗

    ReplyDelete

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