By Sarah Alaro
Published June 11, 2011
“History is written not to justify anything but to inform, to educate and to caution.” This is the premise upon which Stories From Life, an anthology of fictional stories and poems is based. The stories appear not to be solely written as a record of history or a store of information, though. This book of 19 creative stories and poems also aims at entertaining and celebrating humanity. The author, they are four; Mina Ogova, Karama Ogova, Fadhili Ogova, Ogova Ondego, draws his ideas from things that happen in contemporary society as well as his own life experiences not forgetting Biblical history which in fact appears to be basis for some stories in the book. In the author’s introduction, Ondego-who specialises in issues related to children, youth, creativity, mass media, culture and development-writes that his “work is influenced by the Hebrew prophets of old as recorded in the Bible.”
The main themes that stand out in this book are the increasing rate of crime in our society today, immorality, and the changing role of the woman. The author brings out clearly how things have changed from crime committed by men who rob people in broad daylight to crime committed by women who lure men into their dens and steal all their money. He also gives a picture of how different life in the city is from life in the village. The author seems to subtly indicate the fact that people today do not want to work hard for money but prefer to get it the easy way in stories like Beware, that “Lady” could be Dangerous.
Ondego, not only talks about life stories as we know them today, but also in an interesting way, retells stories from the Bible so that it is easy to relate to them. One of the stories “The Princess in Tatters” is about the birth of the Messiah which is an actual story in the Bible but the author recreates it for the contemporary reader in the way he imagines the events might have taken place today. He intends to promote fiction writing by expressing what happens in life as we know it and does a good job of taking the reader back to how life used to be or still is for some people especially in rural Africa.
But what qualification does an urban African have in writing about rural Africa?
“My rural and urban African experience and globalisation, otherwise known as westernisation, have also left a mark on my work”, the author who declares that writing isn’t “a profession but a calling, a nerve-wracking adventure and lifestyle that serves an almost prophetic role”, writes in the introduction.
These interesting stories will leave the reader laughing at themselves and reminiscing on days gone by while at the same time informing them of the dangers that lie in our streets and the beauty of celebrating humanity.
One of the stories that aim at celebrating humanity and togetherness is Christmas in my Village. Togetherness stands out in this story as people get together to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ. Some of the stories in the collection are interesting ones from children(F Ogova at 12, M Ogova at 13 and K Ogova at 17)who actually wrote their stories as part of their English class work! But just looking at the stories of these children alone may not tell the whole story; they have always worked behind the scenes as readers and evaluators of the work O Ondego writes for young people. It is only now that their own work is being included in an anthology under their own names.
The author engages the reader’s senses as descriptions of scenes are well written making it possible to picture the situations as they play out. The poems in the collection, too, complement the stories that come before or after them and play the same role of informing, educating and entertaining. The author does not tell the reader what to think but lets the reader decide or judge a situation on their own depending on the story or the poem they have read.
With a copy of Stories From Life costing KSh350, this 56-page book is definitely worth the reader’s while. It is simple and easy to read and would be a good reference material for pupils who would like to improve their language writing skills. It is published by ComMattersKenya in Nairobi, Kenya, in 2011.
Other titles by Ondego that are worth finding and reading include From Terror to Hope (2009), The Braggart’s Day (2005) and How to Write on 1001 Subjects! (2011).