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Books to read if you're planning a vacation in "kenya", sorted by average review score:

The Giriama and Colonial Resistance in Kenya, 1800-1920
Published in Hardcover by University of California Press (June, 1982)
Author: Cynthia. Brantley
Average review score:

For Africanists and Historians
Brantley's book, The Giriama and Colonial Resistance in Kenya, 1800-1920, is well researched and coherently written. The book concerns the role played by the Giriama (a fairly small tribe whose homeland is near the coast in what is now Kenya) in resistance to colonial rule. A good portion is devoted to the Giriama rebellion of 1913. I find East African history fascinating: I like history have had an interest in Africa since the 1960s and am married to a Giriama. However, this book is not everyone's cup of chai. It suffers from that which makes most scholarly works dry: recitation of lots of facts and cautiously drawn conclusions. It does have a feel of authenticity and some immediateness (my wife knows or knows of some of the individuals that Brantley uses as sources). One item of interest is that one of the main leaders of the Giriama restistance in 1913 was a woman.

Joy Adamson: Behind the Mask
Published in Hardcover by Weidenfeld & Nicolson Ltd (July, 1993)
Author: Caroline Cass
Average review score:

Wow! What an interesting viewpoint!
My goodness! What an expose' of an amazing woman. I only know about what Joy Adamson did as far as Elsa was concerned. I was a child at the time of the book and the movie called Born Free. It captivated me along with many many others in the world. Many people, it seems, do incredible things and must go up against amazing odds to accomplish things for the betterment of a species or whatever. I, of course, am referring to the accounts of Dian Fossey and a few others I can't remember right now.

I don't know if this account is true or partly true or not - I only know that it shows that even the amazing are not so perfect as the movies will lead you to believe. I believe that there is truth in all things and ours is not to judge so harshly because we are not in their heads and hearts at all times.

Joy Adamson because of her "abrupt" manner was able to do things that a "nice" person could not, perhaps? It is a shame, however, that it can be so difficult for people to separate who to be difficult to and who not to in their lives.

This book was a good read, but like I said - probably shouldn't be taken as gospel.

Multicultural Folktales for All Ages: Traditional, Modern Folktales from the Kamba (Kenya) and Tagalog (Philippines) Communities
Published in Hardcover by Vincent Muli Wa Kituku (01 August, 1998)
Authors: Vincent M. Kituku, Felisa G. Tyler, and Scott Taylor
Average review score:

Review of Multicultural Folktales for All Ages
These are lovely stories with insightful commentary by authors after each story. We are using the book for Unitarian religious education program, the moral lessons are so relevant to life here today. Have met one author Lisa Galang, one of the brightest most enthusiatic writers and speakers I have ever met. This book is a treasure in our house.

The Nariokotome Homo Erectus Skeleton
Published in Hardcover by Harvard Univ Pr (December, 1993)
Authors: Alan Walker and Richard Leakey
Average review score:

Homo erectus - Ape? Man? Or Ape-Man?
This book on Homo erectus specimen KNM-WT 15000 is nicely done. Dozens of pictures make for easy comparison to other primates. The pictures are scaled at 90 percent, and are in black and white (which was a let down for [the price]. Some great info and pictures on the dentition of the Turkana specimen are included, including the unusually large roots. This book is not an easy read, but will appeal to those who are familiar with human and primate anatomy.

The Ukimwi road : from Kenya to Zimbabwe
Published in Unknown Binding by J. Murray ()
Author: Dervla Murphy
Average review score:

Bleh! Ugh!
This book is a waste of time, a waste of space, and a waste of money. Demonstrates amazing ignorance about the places and people she visits, and arrogantly assumes the right to make judgements about things she clearly does not understand. People who've lived in the areas she bikes through, especially those who've done any work relating to AIDS or women's issues, have an involuntary gagging reflex whenever someone mentions this book.

Well worth reading
This is an unusually well-written and consistently interesting travel narrative. The author does come across as a tough old crow at times. (I can't imagine why she feels entitled to sneer at hikers who use the Lonely Planet guide.) But who else would have braved such an arduous journey in the first place? I can understand that her opinions about women's issues and the AIDS epidemic might be irritatingly opposed to yours. But isn't one of the points of traveling to meet people who aren't like ourselves?

A different view
A couple of years after reading The Ukimwe Road, which I found to be excellent reporting, I was surprised to find so many negative and emotional views posted here. I have repeatedly recommended this and other Murphy books to friends as good entertainment and the most unbiased sources of on-the-ground information in print. Where Dervla Murphy has gone, we can learn truth that is seldom found in more conventional sources.

The picture she painted of the seriousness and extent of the AIDS problem in Africa was well supported by her first-hand (if anecdotal) evidence. Subsequent developments have shown that her alarming portrayal was accurate, and hers was in print *years* before the authorities began to recognise the scope of the problem. She did an excellent job of illustrating the wide range of psychological devices used to deny or minimise the problem.

Her portrait of the plight of a well-informed woman who despaired of protecting herself against AIDS, saying "You just don't know what it means to be a woman in Africa" still haunts my memory.

Official accounts, however alarming, have not yet caught up with Murphy's detailing of the cultural and social situations that have made the present disaster inevitable. Slowly and belatedly, news accounts are reflecting what she told us years ago. She can hardly be faulted for failing to suggest a solution, when any solution must involve massive cultural change: iconceivable to the locals as well as to western liberals.

This is not a cheerful read, like some of her other books, but it may be one of her most important.

Bias note: I have read and enjoyed almost all of Dervla Murphy's books, and bought a couple. I'll buy the rest for my permanent library when cheaper paperbacks appear. I do not share her political views (which I believe are far to the left of mine), but I do not find that this has made her observations any less valuable. She has my respect.

Moi: The Making of an African Statesman
Published in Paperback by Michael O'Mara Books (20 November, 1998)
Author: Andrew Morton
Average review score:

MOI - The making of a wily fox
Andrew Morton has done it again. He has effectively wheedled and cajoled his way into untold millions of pounds by stroking another despot's ego to the hilt. The Moi of his fashioning rises like a graceful, genteel albatross, obliterating any image of the ruthless, compunctionless savannah cockerel that Kenyans knew as their daily reality for over two decades. Mr Moi must be cackling hoarsely at how gullible the West is when they so readily take to Mr Morton's feckless spiel.

Please the Subject
An invaluable resource of history on a great leader. However, the author hasn't brought out the other side of Moi - his dictatorial mien!

As a Kenyan citizen and knowing how Moi has ruled for the past 24 years, I can see the motive of Morton's book as that of pleasing the SUBJECT in order to capitalise on the situation. Morton must have been definitely compromised, to please the establishment, thus not to write much negative things about Moi's person and rule.

There's more to Moi than one can extract from Morton's book. Hoping a future write-up will expose the areas that were left out.

The True Picture Of Moi
Andew Morton is a foreign journalist who has come to realize Moi's role in Kenya.The only true patriotic Kenyan I know is president Moi.A man who has tried to keep Kenya united despite the economic and tribal hardships.Many who pose to lead Kenya have not shown any national interests outside being president for the sake of it.Andrew has truely written of who Moi is and what Kenya leadership entails .Many in the West don,t exactly understand the intricacies of Kenyan cultures and behaviours.This book will stand the tests of history.It is a great book about a great leader.
Zeberio Amwoma[Minnesota]

Blue Africa : travel in South Africa, Zimbabwe, Kenya, Tanzania, plus Indian Ocean islands of Mauritius, Madagascar, Reunion, Seychelles
Published in Unknown Binding by Horwitz Grahame ()
Author: Colin Simpson
Average review score:

Champion for superfluous detail
I could recommend this book to every aspiring travel writer as an example of what not to do. I was totally uninterested as to what wine the writer ate with his dinner, the quality of his seat on the airplane, or any other of the zillions of details he insisted on providing. I was interested to know his impressions of the people and cultures he found in those very interesting lands he visited. I did not find out. This book was written for readers of the Ladies Home Companion, I reckon.

Kenya (Festivals of the World)
Published in Library Binding by Gareth Stevens (January, 1997)
Authors: Falaq Kagda, Elizabeth Berg, and Falaq Kagaa
Average review score:

This series has some wonderful details of foreign festivals, but the Kenya book is NOT AGE APPROPRIATE for age 4-8, as indicated on the summary. The text is more a grade 5-8 level, and there are 4 pages devoted to male and female circumcision of young people, including a definition in the glossary. We ordered it for our K-grade 5 school, and reluctantly, will be returning it, as we feel it is not age appropriate for our students. (And we are a very liberal school.) Our teachers feel it is appropriate for grade 6 and up.

My Kenya Days
Published in Hardcover by Morehouse Publishing (April, 1994)
Author: Wilfred Thesiger
Average review score:

I waited a long time to read this book, therefore I was very disappointed with the outcome. Pages of name dropping and casual references to animals and tribes. There was no meat or thread of interest to carry the reader through this literal journey. Compared to his other books this was a bomb.

Undercurrents of Ethnic Conflict in Kenya (African Social Studies, 3)
Published in Paperback by Brill Academic Publishers (August, 2002)
Author: John O. Oucho
Average review score:

Undercurrents of Ethnic Politics in Kenya
How to manage ethnic politics is probably the most challenging political task facing Kenya today. That applies to other countries in Africa too; to Asia (Sri Lanka, Indonesia) and to ex-Communist states as well--witness Bosnia and Chechenya. There is now a considerable literature on the generic nature and process of ethnic conflict that is often appllied by experts to explain group-based political violence in all these situations and the best of it originates from anthropologists working in Africa as far back as the 1940s. Its message is that ethnic identity is a plastic phenomenon; it changes over time depending on the issues at stake. Human action makes and dissolves ethnic tensions and groupings sometimes very fast.

This strange book is written by a Kenyan demographer who either ignores all this or is unaware of it. Oucho says that there has been a change in Kenya's demographic profile due to outmigration of tribes from their ethnic homelands. Colonialism only developed a part of Kenya (the highlands, kikuyuland, and Nairobi, Mombasa) which still attract local immigrants. Overall this has favoured the Kikuyu whose cunning,trickery,lies and hard work (believe it or not Oucho is that blunt) has earned then enormous riches, compared to other Africans. This Kikuyu domination is resented by all other tribes, so Kenya is in big trouble due to Kikuyu greed. This ethnic diatribe, blaming it all on Kikuyu greed and character flow, is the "undercurrents" of ethnic politicis in Kenya. True, some Kikuyus have made illegal fortunes in land transactions since independence but so have others as the crimes of the Moi regime now show.

What a big joke, this book is! Afrikaners ruling apatheid south Africa said so about their Jews. As do Indonesians of the Chinese minority. One logical answer to Oucho's problem would be some kind of final solution to the Kikuyu surely, even if Oucho never mentions that. He favours "positive" as opposed to "negative" conflict but fails to show how to prevent the Kikuyus from hijacking it for their selfish gain as he says they did in the three major parties involved in the 1992 multiparty elections.

In Holland there are still many right wing zealots and Anti-semites who preach as version of this odious theory,
rather than the proper findings of ethnic violence worldwide that we mentioned earlier. Had this book been publsihed in Holland there would have been an uproar. Oucho has his reason for writing it. Brill the publisher based in Leiden ought to be taken to task for publishing such an bizzare book basd on dangerous half-truths.

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