BY THE BOOK: Haroun Risa

Haroun Risa is an actor and writer based in Nairobi, Kenya. PHOTO| COURTESY

Haroun Risa is an actor and writer based in Nairobi, Kenya. He’s featured in both local and international film and TV productions, including the highly acclaimed Sense8. He’s a writer at Afrikan Film Centre, Nairobi. He practices palmistry and has great interest in numerology, chiromancy and astrology.

He spoke to

What three books excited you the most in 2017?  

Dan Brown’s Origin. His fusion of futuristic gadgets and events with a man who loves ancient things and history really appealed to me.

I also enjoyed Children of Blood & Bone by Tomi Adeyemi. The author created her own reality in the book.  My favourite was Trevor Noah’s Borna Crime. This book is downright amazing! It’ll make you have more respect for Trevor Noah and his art.

Which two books do you hold so dear that they can’t possibly be lent out?

Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code, and a copy of the Bhagavad-Gita. Plus, Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye.

Your favorite childhood books? Why?

My favourite childhood books were the Goosebumps series by R.L. Stine, the Macmillan Pacesetters series (I was always guilty of reading them in class), John Kiriamiti’s My Life in Crime and Son of Fate, and Meja Mwangi’s books like The Cockroach Dance.

Meja Mwangi haS a brilliant way of showing the Nairobi underworld that appealed to me right from the start, and Goosebumps was so gripping and engaging.

If you were to dine with three writers dead or alive, who would they be and why?

Toni Morrison because The Bluest Eye was magical and it would be amazing to know what inspired her to write about beauty in such a context, Anne Frank because she had a brilliant mind and made you think hard about what you had and made you be grateful you didn’t have to face horror like she did, and Dan Brown because of his way of using themes like the Illuminati, Free Masons, history and dark arts.

Religion always appeals to me, and I feel I’m learning something new, especially when I see something factual he has included in his stories).

Most unforgettable character from a book?

Wamathina from Son of Fate by John Kiriamiti. You feel that he really is controlled by destiny, by events beyond his control despite his attempts at redemption.

If you were sent off to Robben Island for a year, which three books would you take with you?

A Tale for The Time Being by Ruth Ozeki, The Bhagavad-Gita and Mastery by Robert Greene.

Do you think book festivals, literary prizes and writing workshops are important to a writer’s growth?

Yes. You get to meet and mingle with established writers who are more than willing to show you the ropes, you get to learn about what to improve in your literature through feedback and criticism, and you get your name out there too. They’re a chance to grow and learn more.

Tell me about the last book that made you cry?

It was a movie, actually. Arrival (2016). Some scenes where Amy Adams plays with her daughter got to me a lot, and I had come across the film a few weeks after my mother’s burial.

As for a book, it was two; An Ordinary Man by Paul Rusesabagina (the man whose story became the Hotel Rwanda film), and Trevor Noah’s Born a Crime.  

Among your contemporaries, who’d you consider the most exciting newcomer in the writing world and why?

Florence Onyango, Simon Waigwa and Alex Nderitu. These three are individuals I’ve seen with great potential to release amazing novels.

What are you currently writing?

My novel, Mombasa Raha, My Foot, is currently being edited and refined, and I’m working on the second novel, Choohanesburg. I also have a third novel, Banglapesa, which I’m co-writing with Mary Mwema. The fourth book I’m working on is The Mogadishu Affair.


BY THE BOOK is a literary series that covers authors, bloggers, actors, academics and poets of note in the African continent. For comments or inquiries, e-mail: [email protected]