By Bethsheba Achitsa
Published January 7, 2011
Everyone, it is said, has a story to tell about life’s experiences. This appears to be the premise on which a new collection of stories and poems by Ogova Ondego, a creative and cultural entrepreneur in Kenya, is based. The book, an anthology of 19 short stories and poems released by ComMattersKenya of Nairobi in 2011, reads like real life’s joys and disappointments in the life of the author who specialises in issues related to children, youth, mass media, culture and development.
In this fast-paced collection, the author appears to be sharing the stories of his life with the aim of warning and educating the reader, a fete he highly achieves with his accounts that are both moving and depressing.
Ondego argues the stories are not biographical at all. History, he says, is written not to justify anything but to inform, to educate and to caution society. “These stories are not any different. Besides informing, educating and cautioning, these stories and poems are meant to entertain and celebrate humanity.”
The 56-page anthology paints a diametrically different picture of women. In Africa, where women are believed to be subserviently submissive, Stories from Life that is set in both urban and rural areas brings out macho-like feminine characters that are crafty, bold and daring and who always get what they set their minds on.
While these female characters are at first portrayed as shy and reserved, at the end of most stories they are the ones luring their timid and apparently reticent male counterparts into the dingy lodging houses in the back streets of Nairobi to rob them of their valuables or to engage in illicit sexual activities with them as is the case in stories like ‘Beware, that Lady could be Dangerous’ and ‘It Could Happen to You’, respectively.
The writer employs both journalistic and creative writing styles, making the tales presented not just believable and educative but also effectively carries out the role of warning without imposing the lessons on the reader; the author, instead, gives readers the chance to identify the lessons themselves.
Apart from short stories the compilation also contains poems that serve to ease tension created by some of the stories as the reader reflects on the characters and themes encountered as they read along.
The book, that also carries three moving stories from budding writers aged 12-17 years–Fadhili L Ogova, Karama K Ogova and Mina N Ogova–is likely to appeal to anyone of any age as long as they are able to read English. Written movingly in simple language, this book is especially of great value to young pupils and students. Two of the stories were in fact written by the Ogova children as part of their English composition assignments!
Though the youngsters have always contributed to the writing of Ondego since their toddler years, it is only now that their writing has been published under their own names.
With stories of different age groups put together, I think it would be very difficult for one to recommend Stories from Life for people below the age of 18. This is because some stories are about relationships that reserved parents would deem inappropriate for children.
The author’s attitude towards the feminine gender cannot escape the reader’s inquisitiveness. While what he depicts in his stories is a true reflection of what has become of this gender and sex, one wonders why the masculine gender has been portrayed as victim throughout the book. Is the male sex threatened by the emergence of strong-willed female who knows what she wants and will not stop till she gets it?
All in all, the book, that also tackles what happens in the villages on important occasions such as Christmas and Valentine’s Day, is quite an interesting read. It remains important to teenagers who are faced with the duties to develop their language skills and writing prowess during school assignments as this would provide them with better examples of good writing. In the same breathe adults and anyone who cares to learn would draw important lessons from the book and avoid troubles that would leave them disappointed.
Stories from Life is an invaluable addition to the literary world.