Like what?

The only reason I remembered this play was because it had a mad person in it, and everything I had ever read about mad people stuck in my mind, while everything else flew out.

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The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath.

Whenever I pick a book to read, I know that two things are bound to happen: I am bound to connect with it or drift between a deep connection and misunderstanding of the events in the story.

It’s not perfection or being a snob; but whenever I read a book, I find myself going through emotions that I choose to embrace or discard.

I almost always discard the emotions when am bored. I daresay there’s only one book that bored me stiff, and I have never dared to turn its pages since 2011. It is in my storage container gathering dust as I write this.

I did not know what to expect when I picked “The Bell Jar” off the library shelves this past Saturday. It was a dull looking book, showing feminine feet and that was it…plus I did not understand why the cover designer could not have just had a picture of a bell jar- it would have been easier to deal with.

So, when I started reading the book I found myself going downhill with Esther. The story is told from her point of view but it is not so much so the fact that she is mentally ill, but her descent is what intrigued me. Growing up, I used to love spending time with my aunt, Lillian, and would always take her yarn and hide just so she could pout and cry. I always thought it was funny that for an adult she laughed all the time, and played with yarn.

My parents often scolded me and told me to respect her.

One time, she came home in a blue checkered uniform and I asked where she was going to. I was told she was going to school. I asked if I could go to her school, and I was told that she was going to a special school.

I never asked another question because my parents had the power to silence me with one look.

My aunt Lillian now resides at home, and she suffers seizures from time to time, but there’s nothing much that my grandparents can do except to always watch out for these seizures. She still laughs and knits. She cannot cook now because they fear she might get burned. She cannot sleep alone in her room because she might have an seizure and fall off her bed, and when she goes to use the bathroom, someone has to be close by in case she needs help.

And there’s a part where Esther’s mom tells her, “I know my baby wasn’t like that?”, and Esther asks “like what?”

Her mom then says,

“Like those awful people. Those awful dead people at the hospital. I knew you’d decide to be alright again.”

What her mom didn’t know was that mental illness was not a switch that Esther could switch on or off as she pleased, and by reading this book and thinking of my aunt, and the society I live in, I cannot help but wonder if I have also been doing the same?

In most parts of Kenya, if you are mentally ill people assume that you are a victim of witchcraft or your parents committed some crime that the gods are paying them for through you. In some cases, children who are mentally ill are locked up or hidden so much so that you never see or hear them.

Like what?

Well, that’s the question? Must we have a reference point for mental illness?

And this point, does it make us see the mentally ill as objects that need seclusion from us or as human beings who are struggling to find themselves while we are busy struggling to make them who we want them to be?

” “

You know you are crazy when you describe your friends using punctuation marks.

Growing up in a lakeside town in Kenya, called Kisumu, we had access to one national TV station.

We watched programs as regulated by the government that aired from 7am to midnight. It was called KBC. I remember pretending to use the toilet so I could catch a glimpse of the first episode of The Bold and the Beautiful.

Back then every news piece would feature the President, “Baba Moi alikuwa…” (President Moi was at…) A decade later and we have access to over two hundred channels, the internet and the ability to choose what to watch and take in.

So, today I found myself thinking of quotation marks in the company of a friend. We have often referred to her as CNN, because she’s always the first to know about stuff and sometimes her meddling reminds us of how much reporters can throw questions at you so much so that the phrase ‘no comment,’ seems false.

So there I was, in my red shoes, staring at the cold cement floor wondering why my friend knew so much about other people, and that’s when the quotation marks came to mind. Once I started I couldn’t stop myself because I also realized that I have a friend who always has the final say.

She’s an exclamation mark! I haven’t been able to stop since this afternoon, does that make me crazier than I already am, or is it a phase? Better yet, do you also have friends whose personalities remind you of punctuation marks?

Dear Cute Guy at the Bookshop

Hi,
So, this is awkward but indulge me for a while, will you?
You walked into BooksFirst today at 11:08am. I checked the time because I have never seen a cute guy walk into BooksFirst. I am a regular there, so that’s why.
You can ask Bob, William, Steven or Caleb. They are the ones in blue shirts who help you get that book you need.
You walked in like a thief does when in a mansion. You were wearing a blue polo shirt ( I hate those stiff collars, I never liked polo shirts) and black fitting jeans. I was looking at The Last Legion by Valerio Massimo Manfredi. You know, we share the same birthday, it’s just that Valerio is older, Italian and has written more books than I have. Remember? It looked something like this: ach You looked around starting from the “How-To” section through to the classics. Your thumb caressed each book, making a few stops at the Mills & Boon section to admire the covers, and the Historical Fiction section where you pulled out a few books. I read the back cover text of The Last Legion five times. I would stop to stare at you wondering when you would get to the Classics, but to my disappointment you turned at the Sci-fi section and headed straight for the ‘New Releases.’ I looked up and met your eyes. You smiled and I smirked. I will admit it was a stupid thing to do, but my facial muscles were suffering from the disappointment of your movement. You called Caleb and asked him, “Excuse me, do you have a copy of Fifty Shades of Grey?” I saw Caleb look around, but his first gaze was at Sci-fi and that’s when I interrupted.
I walked up to you and my bag hit you on your left hip, and you almost tipped over. It was not my intention to distabilize you.
I am sorry, but why would you walk into a Bookshop and seriously ask for a copy of Fifty Shades of Grey?
So, I picked it up from the shelf and gave it to you. You smiled and asked, “You sure know the books here, so, have you read this book? Is it good?”
I wanted to ask you, “define good?”, but could not say a word because then you would feel foolish. I just met you and making you seem foolish would not be an ideal move.
I said I had and you smiled and asked, “would you recommend it?”
I whispered, “Not in a million years.” You must have heard me because your right hand, (where that tatoo of an eagle is, or is it a hawk) dropped the book. It landed on the floor.
You picked it up and asked, “why? Everyone is talking about it?”
“Well, just because everyone is talking about it does not mean it’s a good book. You know just like there was so much hype about Twilight, but there was nothing there.”
“You also don’t like Twilight? What do you like?”
“A list of great stuff, but listen, if you want to read it, well, go ahead, but you could start by watching the movie first, at least that would get you thinking about the trilogy.”
“It’s a trilogy?”
“Yes, there’s Fifty shades Darker and Fifty shades Freed.”
“You have read all of them?”
“Yes, and my inner goddess wanted to aim a quiver of arrows at the fact that the book exists!”
You laughed and walked out without the book.
You only told me, “thanks, maybe I’ll run into you again.”
I said, “maybe.” But, here’s the thing you cute guy, I think you went ahead and bought the book. I think you went back to the shelves and got that book, even though Caleb is murm about it.
It is 1:48pm and a copy of “Fifty Shades of Grey” is missing from the shelves…I know because I am looking at that blank space and wondering just how much you pursue your interests.

Why would you listen to that song?

I would tell you a lot about my friend, but nothing seems to set us apart more than our music preferences.

I listen to quite a range of genres except Reggae.

She listens to Reggae more than she can utter a well structured sentence. She asked me today,

Why would you listen to that song?

The song being It feels like tonight by Daughtry.

We argued about it by staring at each other until she blinked and asked me:

So, what is your book, Fire, all about?

Hello reader, if you are reading this, please know that Writers are always asked that question, sometimes we feel as though you have nothing to ask save for what you want to hear. What’s the book about? Well, how about you read it and then tell me what you think it’s about?

And at this point you will say that you do not want to waste time reading something only to hate it, aha! That’s exactly what you should do- at least that way you will know what you hate and what you love, so…how about asking, what the book is NOT about?

My English teacher would have struck my fingers at that, but what the book is not about is always an afterthought.

I thought about her question and I realized that’s what blurbs are for. I was getting angry at her while I had already hinted at what the book’s about by lying through my teeth with well written words. I checked out what I had written on Goodreads and found this:

A boy is born in the land of Leo. As the sound of the cattle horn is heard, everyone in the Kingdom celebrates the birth of not only a boy, but the Crown Prince. His name is Ustawi.

The hands that hold him foretell a prosperous future, but just like every dream has it’s valleys, so has Ustawi’s birth. One man has seen the evil that’s to befall the kingdom under the boy’s reign, his name is Ukweli. He is the Seer.

Fire begins the story of the Prince’s life and as you read through a story rich in culture and customs you can only ask yourself, can the Seer fight the gods? Can he avert the impending doom that’s to come?

I wrote the same thing on Amazon too, and it got me asking, “really Dora? Really?” The truth is ugly and just as beautiful as its purpose and what I really wanted to say was:

Fire is about a boy whose birth is celebrated and his reign dreaded.

I thought about it and that’s what came to mind, and even though it seems as though the first piece of work needs more time and revision, it does feel good to get mixed reviews.

I am still waiting for the ugly and ugliest reviews because in a way…if one person loathes the book, then it would reinforce the feeling that there’s a lot more to be done, and right now as I still listen to Daughtry, that’s what I feel like. Sometimes all it takes is just a simple question that seems silly and meaningless to get us thinking and admitting our flaws and strengths.

You are something, Garp!

I am reading The World According to Garp by John Irving.

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I write. I sometimes call myself a writer, you know when I put these words together and they make people feel different things at the same time.

Sometimes, I call myself an “aspiring writer,” because I haven’t written a classic like Things Fall Apart, Arrow of God, No longer at ease, and let’s just say that this list would not end.

Sometimes, like right now… I am in between a Writer and an Aspiring Writer.

I was prompted to read this book because of what was written on the back cover,

This is the life and times of T. S. Garp, the bastard son of Jenny Fields- a feminist ahead of her time.

I could not help but want to read about Jenny and how she managed to raise her son- and just how much influence she would have on Garp, but somewhere along the way, Garp says that he did not know it then but at eleven was when he was set out to be a Writer.

I asked myself,

When did you know that you wanted to be a Writer?

The answer I got was, “I don’t know, I find such peace writing, and it’s all I think about when I wake up, but am also working as a Research Assistant. I have bills to pay, and books to share.”

So,I put the book down, angered by Garp’s conviction and my lack of it.

I picked it up today when I was waiting to be served at a Government office and the secretary was keen on reading her newspaper instead of looking up at me.

Helen, Garp’s wife, tells him at some point that a boy, Randy, wanted to be a writer, and Garp (because his jaw is wired shut, writes down on a piece of paper)

Everyone wants to be a writer!

Really, Garp?  Right now, when I am in between states is when you spring this up?

I shut the book, put it back inside my bag and for the millionth time told myself,

“You are a Writer, there’s no in between or what if’s just sit down and finish writing that book!”

PS: There book was made into a film on 13th August 1982, starring Robin Williams.

What Roark said to Steven.

There was this lady, Ayn Rand.

Ever heard of her? She wrote this book, The Fountainhead, which is solely based on Howard Roark, an Architect like no other.

In the book, Roark seeks out a sculptor named Steven Mallory and asks him to do a statue for the Stoddard Temple, but Steven has his doubts about why Roark wants him to do the statue when there are so many “celebrated” sculptors that he could hire.

Roark tells him:

Your figures are not what men are, but what men could be and should be.

Now, I have read this book four times and it was only yesterday when I started asking myself, what did Roark mean by that? Why couldn’t he just tell Steven that he liked his work? But, Roark is not the type to ‘like’ stuff- he does not do surface appreciation, when he knows what’s deep within- and that made me ask the same about art.

Are artists creating to please, or because they should for the sake of bringing to life what’s within?

Can art be sold to the highest bidder at the cost of its integrity?

I thought about this the whole of last night, as I write the second book in the Currents series. (PS: The first book is already out. It’s called Fire.)

And while I was at it, I came across the works of Aristotle and this shed a light on my dilemma.

Fiction is of greater philosophical importance than history, because history represents them as they are, while fiction represents them ‘as they might be,’ and ‘ought to be.’

The question of art and money will always be a constant talk because when an artist expects appreciation for his work in the form of money- he/ she is trading.

It’s just that with trade, something’s got to give and the artist’s greatest challenge is to ensure that he/she does not compromise truth for the sake of money.

The People of Leo

The people of Leo are as vast as soil particles, but all believe in the god, Mie, and they do their best to live peacefully with one another.

At the center of Fire, is the Royal family in Leo. While writing this book, my focus was on the Swahili culture and I used Kiswahili names for the characters and the places that are the setting of the story.

I believe that the Swahili culture is rich, not only in their sayings (methali) but also in their customs regarding marriage, social norms and respect for elders and even though I was never good in Kiswahili in school, I did look into it deeply to create the backbone of this story.

Allow me to introduce you to the first half of the characters in Fire:

  • Uwezo, meaning,(Might or Ability), is the King of Leo.
  • Ukweli, (Truth), is the Seer and happens to be King Uwezo’s older brother.
  • Pendo, (Love), is the Queen of Leo. She is Uwezo’s wife.
  • Ulioko, (Present, as in what’s present, or what’s there), is the Informer. His duty is to make the King aware of everything that is happening in the kingdom.

In Africa, most cultures and customs as diverse as they are, believed in many stages of life and it began at birth with the naming ceremony.

Children were named based on seasons, after a relative or ancestor, and in some cultures this was a festive time and it involved the whole community. It’s the basis of Fire, because the desire for a legacy begins when a young Prince is born.

Welcome to the land of Leo

Leo is the kingdom of life, wealth and peace.

It is the land that is looked upon by others as the perfect example of what the gods expect of human beings while on earth. It’s the setting for the Currents series.

Every day we warm ourselves by fire

Wash ourselves in water

Feel the wind in our hair

Walk upon the earth

The first book in the series is titled “FIRE,” and it begins with the King’s desire for a legacy. His wife bears him a son whom he names Ustawi meaning “Legacy.”

Fire_Cover_for_Kindle

Fire is available on Amazon; both Kindle and Paperback copies are available here.

Here’s what readers think of it:

At this age and time I didn’t know authenticity from our writers could still be expected but ‘Fire’ is a complete reminiscence of what pure art in literature ought to be/used to be.

Read the complete review here

Another reader had this to say:

My take on this: Buy it and read it and here’s why:
1. She uses Kiswahili, which gives the story a strong East African setting, and if you love the African culture and customs then you would be introduced to a kingdom where words are as rich in proverbs as our great ancestors talk were.
2. The plot and twist towards the end. It’s a subtle twist that’s enacted by Ukweli and it casts a shadow on his role as the protagonist in this story.
3. There is the kingdom informer known as Ulioko, who comes across as a very sneaky and power hungry man- and in reading Fire, you cannot help but ask where his loyalties lie.

Check it out here

Fire is the first book in the four part series and it welcomes you to the land of Leo. There is a blend of African folklore and use of Swahili names, and in it’s own way, ushers you into a world where anything is possible with the birth of an heir.