BY THE BOOK: Doreen Eshinali Khamala

Doreen Eshinali Khamala is a writer from Nairobi, Kenya. PHOTO| COURTESY

What you need to know:

  • A reader’s encouraging comment led her to publish her first book titled Life Before 25.
  • The book is about growing up, experiencing life through high school, campus and a little after campus.

Doreen Eshinali Khamala is a writer from Nairobi, Kenya.

Her first writing appeared in her journal as she was an introvert but it eventually made its way to the public through a blog she started in 2016 called Living and Learning with Doreen where she published her first short story Mother and Daughter Part 1 to Part 4.

A reader’s encouraging comment led her to publish her first book titled Life Before 25. The book is about growing up, experiencing life through high school, campus and a little after campus.

In 2018 March, she published her second book, Toxic Soul Ties. It’s the story of her life.

She spoke to about her literary favourites.

Tell me the three books that excited you the most in 2017?

The Secret Lives of Baba Segi’s Wives by Lola Shoneyin would be my first. As an African young lady who believes in monogamy, I wasn’t sure this tale of Nigerian women in a polygamous marriage would have anything to say to me.

Still, once I read the first chapter, it was nearly impossible to put this novel down.

The Hate That I Give You by Angie Thomas would be the second. I can say that this book was inspired by “Black Lives Matter” movement. If you want to have your heart ripped out,  read this book. If you want to read a great book about a girl dealing with family and relationships, read this book. If you want to cry, laugh, and then cry some more, read this book. If you're ready to change this world, read this book.

Lastly, Homegoing by Yaa Ngasi which was not an easy read. I found myself thinking at time, did that really happen in our history, and it is quite sad to think, yes, it did.

I was emotionally conflicted reading this book because it deals with horrible atrocities. But I feel I learned so much about the Ghana history, even though it was fictional.

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

Your Soul Is A River by Nikita Gill and The Sun and Her Flowers by Indian-Canadian Poet, Rupi Kaur. Both books revolve around a journey of growth and healing through trauma, the struggles of life, expatriation and rising up to find a home within yourself.

Your favourite childhood books?

I can never forget the Sweet Valley High Series. I related which Elizabeth and Jessica Wakefield, the beautiful blonde twins. Typical teenage stuff: young love, drama at school, difficulty at home. Also, the Goosebumps book series written by RL Stine. As much as I never enjoyed horror movies and I still don’t, I loved these books. They challenged my deep fear and anxiety at a young age. I was the girl who wanted Sweet Valley High and Goosebumps books as homework.

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

Just three? That makes it hard. I have multiple answers for it, but for now I’ll settle on the following. Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, through her work, she made me realise how we as women can have successful careers as writers. Shonda Rhimes, as a producer of the most-watched series; ‘scandal and how to get away with murder’ and an author, I have so much to ask her concerning her. Then, Francine Pascal, the Sweet Valley High Series author. Just to tell her, she got me hooked.


Most unforgettable character from a book?

Jessica Wakefield, from Sweet Valley High Books. She was flirty, mischievous and irresponsible, while her twin sister Elizabeth was warm, friendly and sincere. Truth be told, I grew as a Jessica.

Which book do you wish you had written and why?

I wish I had written The Hate That I Give You because, this story needed to be told. It was about time someone wrote a book dealing with social issues of race for a young audience.

This novel educates. It may be fictional in the sense that Angie Thomas created this story using fictional characters, but what happened in it is scary real.

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

The Bible, The Notebook by Nicholas Sparks and Pacesetter Novels (which would definitely fall under “the books I wouldn’t possibly lend out).

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

Of course, they will definitely make writers feel appreciated for their incredible work. For the rookie writer who is looking for a breakthrough to the seasoned writers who just want to see what is there in the market.

Tell me about the last book that made you cry?

My Book Toxic Soul Ties. Writing this book brought so much emotions that needed to be forgotten. I cried writing it. I cried re-reading and then cried some more until I couldn’t cry no more. That there was my healing process.

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

Najwa Zebian who is on-point with her poetic work with her Best-Seller Mind Platter which is a combination of reflections on life, written in the voice of every person who has felt unheard, mistreated, misjudged or unseen. Her other book is The Nectar of Pain collection of poetry that the pain of love and loss gave birth to. She says, “When pain knocks on your door, let it in. If you don’t, it will knock harder and harder. So let it in. Spend time with it. Understand it. The walk it to the door and let it leave because it’s time for you to welcome happiness.’

What are you currently writing?

At the moment, I’m not writing any but I’m always sharing my thoughts and feelings on my blog and my Instagram page. Maybe through that, another book will come up.