June 27, 2009

Take Me Away to Kenya

Take Me Away

As a lover of books that take place in different cultures and are about different cultures, Take Me Away is a way to share this love with you, my readers and friends!

Each week I will feature a different country or culture (ex. Cherokee, Jewish, etc. that do not have a specific country per se) and list some books that can transport you there.

I am keeping a map of the countries we visit and a list of the specific cultures, which you can see at the bottom of this post. Here is a list of where we've been so far:
This week we are visiting the country of Kenya. Click on the titles of the books to go to Amazon.com or Barnes & Noble.com to read reviews and/or purchase the book.

Here is an easy to see map of Kenya:
To learn more about Kenya click here.

A Woman's Worth by Tracy Price-Thompson
Embracing the shattered pieces of the soul and championing the resilient nature of the heart, A Woman’s Worth takes readers on a journey of startling depth. From a speakeasy whorehouse in the bottoms of Alabama to a luxurious high-rise apartment in Kenya, acclaimed author Tracy Price-Thompson crosses boundaries of sexuality, gender, and culture to accentuate the core of black identity: the enormous strength of family.

The Flame Trees of Thika: Memories of an African Childhood by Elspeth Huxley
In an open cart Elspeth Huxley set off with her parents to travel to Thika in Kenya. As pioneering settlers, they built a house of grass, ate off a damask cloth spread over packing cases, and discovered—the hard way—the world of the African. With an extraordinary gift for detail and a keen sense of humor, Huxley recalls her childhood on the small farm at a time when Europeans waged their fortunes on a land that was as harsh as it was beautiful. For a young girl, it was a time of adventure and freedom, and Huxley paints an unforgettable portrait of growing up among the Masai and Kikuyu people, discovering both the beauty and the terrors of the jungle, and enduring the rugged realities of the pioneer life.

Mama Panya's Pancakes: A Village Tale from Kenya by Mary and Rich Chamberlain
K-Gr 3-Mama Panya and her son, Adika, are all ready for market day where Mama is planning on using her few coins to buy the ingredients to make pancakes for dinner. Adika is so excited that he can't help inviting all of their friends and neighbors. Mama Panya is worried that his generosity may be more than her few coins and their meager supplies can provide. Luckily all of the guests arrive with gifts, and a Kenyan cross between "Stone Soup" and the story of the loaves and the fishes is realized. A recipe, map, details about daily life, and facts about Kiswahili and Kenya are included. With their bold colors, vivid patterns, and lush scenery, the illustrations will transport readers into this country to walk alongside Mama Panya and Adika on their way to market. Details from animals to foliage are depicted clearly and provide more than just a backdrop to the story; they're a great introduction to the landscape and people of East Africa.

Green City in the Sun by Barbara Wood
Set in Kenya, in 1919, this book is of a British family, the Trevertons, who settle on an estate on the homeland of Kikuyu and the antagonism that develops between them and the tribe's own medicine woman, whose powers they disregard.

Desire by Lindsay Ahl
"A dense, dreamlike novel. You wake with a sense that your own world has changed because of this foray through the wilds of Africa, New Mexico, and family life."-Susann Cokal, author of Mirabilis. In 1975 the price of ivory was on the rise, Bob Dylan released a seminal album, and nine-year old Elena Monroe witnessed a brutal murder in the Kenyan river valley. Sixteen years later, Elena must journey from Albuquerque to Africa before her increasingly unreliable and volatile memories unravel her ties to her mother and cause her to lose the man she loves.

Away from You by Melanie Finn
Ellie Cameron, heroine of this well-crafted debut novel of self-discovery, is living aimlessly in New Mexico when she receives a letter from Nairobi, Kenya, informing her that her father, John Cameron, has died and left her his fortune. She flies to East Africa, where she was born and raised until she was 12, when her mother, Helen, fled, taking Ellie with her. Ellie arrives to find her old home gone and a mini-mall erected on the grounds. But the white house next door still stands, where she'd seen Mrs. McMullen, "the cord of her pink bathrobe around her neck." Ellie's father was accused of murder, but the death was ruled a suicide. The slow-paced but engrossing narrative shifts back frequently, sometime too much so, from Ellie's childhood with her expat parents, who indulged in alcohol and infidelity and abused their children and their native servants, to the present, with finely wrought details of white and black lives that are fascinating and authoritative.

Petals of Blood by Ngugi wa Thiong'o
Primary schoolteacher Godfrey Munira requests a posting at a far-away, rural location, hoping to escape his feelings of failure, his disappointment with himself. He is sent to the village of Ilmorog, where he crosses paths with Wanja, a beautiful bargirl come to live with her grandmother; Abdullah, a former freedom fighter who now runs a small shop and bar; and later Karega, a former student expelled from a prestigious secondary school for participating in a strike, then reduced to selling petty wares to tourists. These four friends (and sometimes lovers and sometimes rivals) participate with the native residents of Ilmorog through ups and downs, through drought and urbanization. The principal theme of the book is disillusionment with independence, which replaced a few elite whites tightly holding power and money in Kenya with ... a few elite blacks holding power and money in Kenya. And as Ilmorog develops, just as in Kenya's post-independence transition, those who fought longest for change aren't those who see the benefits. The theme is not a happy one, and the novel holds out no clear solution (one character finds religion, another finds alcoholism, a third finds labor unions - and incredible hostility towards them by those in power) but it reflects true frustration on the part of many unable to climb out of abject poverty. (from reviewer Magic Man on Amazon, which was best synopsis I could find.)

This is by no means an exhaustive list. Do you know of some books that take place in Kenya that you want to share? Or do you want to share other thoughts? Please leave a note in the comments! And be sure to check back next week for a trip in books to Haiti in the Caribbean!

The Take Me Away Map of Countries Visited:

create your own visited country map


  1. One of my most favorite book where the location is Kenya is:
    The In-Between World of Vikram Lall by M.G. Vassanji

    This book and author has won several awards.
    it is a novel that explores being East Indian in Kenya from the colonial time to the present. Well-written with such beautiful language.
    Everyone that I have recommended this to - has also loved it.
    Grab a cup of tea and enjoy this story.

  2. I loved Flame Trees!

    Out of Africa
    White Mischief
    West with the Night

    There are a lot of great Kenya books.

  3. I didnt know Flame Trees of Thicka was a book. I used to love that show when I was a child. I used to watch it every week with my parents it was my "stay up past bedtime" show :)

    There are lots of flame tree's where I live and they grow beautifully.

    Great post. Africa is somewhere I would love to visit.

  4. i love this--what a terrific idea! i clicked back to check on 'take me away to turkey'. my dad lived there as a child and he took us back when i was in college. it was such an exotic place--we loved it even though we had serious reservations about going!

    i'm looking forward to your future 'travels' through books.

  5. A nice variety of books to choose from. Petals of Blood appeals to me most. I reviewed two very enjoyable books set in Kenya.

    1.A Guide to the Birds of East Africa by Nicholas Drayson:


    2. The Camel Bookmobile by Masha Hamilton (very brief)


    I can also recommend:

    3.Shadows on the Grass by Isak Dinesen, "a final chapter to her African reminiscences". Things she thought she'd overlooked putting into Out of Africa.

    4.The In-Between World of Vikram Lall by M. G. Vassanji, which won the Giller prize and was longlisted for the IMPAC Dublin Award.
    5.West With the Night by Beryl Markham, a fascinating female aviator who led a remarkable life in Kenya.
    6.Elephant Memories: Thirteen Years in the Life of an Elephant Family by Cynthia Moss,in Amboseli National Park, Kenya.

    Happy reading everyone.

  6. My this post took me straight back to my childhood. I remember watching the Flame Trees of Thika. Definitely one I would like to read.

  7. While these all sound so good, the Green City of the Sun and Away from you really intriqueed me.

  8. I'm ashamed to admit that I haven't read any of these however without your very cool feature I wouldn't have even been aware of them!!

  9. I've seen several of those books in the bookstore, but I had no idea they were about Kenya.

    Do you take requests for countries?

  10. The Flame Trees of Thika and Desire sound particularly appealing. I love these posts of yours!

  11. Thanks for all the book recommendations for Kenya as well as all the love for the Take Me Away feature. I am so pleased that it is helpful and fun!

    Heidenkind- I had not thought of taking requests. I have several countries that I do have in the works and I do want to make sure that a variety is presented in the feature, but absolutely if you or anyone want to see a specific country or culture featured, I would be happy to work with that!

  12. What a great idea for a series! Desire and Away from You both sound good and have great covers!

  13. I am SO excited because I just found Away from Me at a book sale in Greensboro! Woohoo! I will let you know how it is when I finish it. I have several others to read, of course, but I am so excited. I am going to add it to my 21 Cultures Challenge! (great excuse to read it soon!)


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