What you need to know:
- Illicit sex emerges as a central theme because, apparently, it has become part and parcel of life.
- Emotional brokenness is exposed and suicide is explored as a deeper underlying issue that can be traced to childhood.
- The shame of femininity is brought out by Eunniah Mbabazi in Illusion.
Title: When a Stranger Called and Other stories
Author: Writers Assembly
Publisher: Writers Assembly
Reviewed by: Rumona Apiyo
Available at: karuganonyenda.com (Sh900)
When a Stranger Called is an anthology of short stories by young writers with old souls — The Writers Assembly. The writers are Kenyan, not the big names of Nairobi Noir, but big names that have grown from writing comics on Facebook — someone said Facebook will not make you an author, well, it has happened.
Charles Chanchori and Munira Hussein, the owners of this project, say they just wanted to experiment, therefore, there was no unity of a particular theme. The stories took the chance and entangled themselves over thorny issues affecting the millennials.
Relationships have been examined and what and who exactly is to blame for the broken society. For suicides, for divorce and not leaving struggles of creatives on the loop end.
They consider how the presence of a working husband or a jobless one makes or unmakes the home. The voices of feminists haunt the pages of this book. Illicit sex emerges as a central theme because, apparently, it has become part and parcel of life. Some unsure of who or when to practice it with. Predatory priests, mothers and fathers make these stories too true.
Explode in adulthood
Emotional brokenness is exposed and suicide is explored as a deeper underlying issue that can be traced to childhood. More of a time bomb waiting to explode in adulthood. Reminds me of someone I met briefly on the staircase last month only to be told he jumped off the roof three weeks ago. September is also the month we talk about suicide prevention; maybe we be more with the conversations this time round?
Various faces of trauma have been studied, “you had to tell people you got a promotion when your husband can’t get a job,” says CJ Gicheru in Wairimu. The craving to show care to the people we love most. To shield them from pain and financial distress explores Charles Chanchori in God Laughs: “Two men with people they care most about and only they can help, but too broke to do that at the moment, sit across the table from each other, a bottle of wine between them.”
The shame of femininity is brought out by Eunniah Mbabazi in Illusion. The excitement of being a Cucu in the current times when newly married couples prefer spending time together before starting a family is well told in Lullabies by Michelle Chepchumba.
To these writer, relationships do not work because we are afraid of consistency and we tend to sabotage everything good that happens to us because we would rather be victims than take responsibility and we get overwhelmed, we take our lives like Raha in Ivy Aseka’s Voices.
These stories struggle to define if at all we have purpose in our lives. Someone like Francis had survived suspensions, censures, and risked excommunication. His mind was full of impure thoughts, but he still ends up as a priest. Why do we hand ourselves to sexual predators?
Difficult questions on what marriage is in our times are answered by Brian Mbanacho in The Wind that Brought her Back. “Marriage is not something you can will someone into because you are ready. Enjoy spending time with your daughter for now.” There is us ‘Waiting on God’ that we barely know, we debunk on the experiences others have told us. There are Two Lines by Ken Okumu, Just a day’ by Ndugu Abisai, The Last Hook Up by K.Kimuyu and, lastly, the Thorns I Live By by Hellen Mwololo.
I love the fact that these writers have observed literature stylistic devices such as dialogue, timelessness, character interiority, good plotting, excellent characterisation and, of course, there are two or three stories that don’t sit well with me because I did not see the tail or the head of the stories. It is just writers showing us their prowess in language use but once you are done reading the story you wonder what is that I just read?
These stories will discomfort you, but like Makena Onjerika says, that’s okay, that is what good fiction should do. These stories did not just happen, it was combined efforts both financially, intellectually couple with a lot of procrastination, submitting of poor quality stories, rigorous editing and, of course, that took a year to birth the book.
As an avid reader of Kenyan content, I must admit that young writers are breaking boundaries and believing in themselves and shying away from the mainstream publishers who keep on sideling them. They are taking matters in their hands and throwing themselves into the murky waters and for sure they are coming out alive.