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I'm looking to read A Grain of Wheat, by Ngũgĩ wa Thiong'o. However, I'm very unfamiliar with the history and culture of Kenya, to the point where I know practically nothing about it.

But I do know this: that the history of Kenya is long and complicated, and the culture of Kenya is, well, a culture. Absorbing it all before reading this book seems a little unnecessary, bordering on impossible.

My question, then, is: what should I already know (or familiarize myself with) before going into this book? Do I need geopolitical context? What key elements of Kenyan culture and history should I read about before I pick up this book?

  • I can't comment on Kenyan culture, but "A Grain of Wheat" instantly made me think of the Pablo Neruda poem "El monte y el rio" ("The mountain and the river"). I mention it because the book you're asking about seems to deal with social issues, and Neruda was writing about the suffering of the common people--the redness of the wheat in Neruda has socialist implications. – DukeZhou Oct 18 '17 at 20:41

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