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10 minutes with Kenyan writer, Binyavanga Wainaina

Posted on 22/09/2014
By Commonwealth Foundation
“The stories that are hard to tell are the ones you don’t have the language for yet. Once you have language to write it – the aesthetic picture to know how to pull it off – there’s nothing to fear. I decided eight months ago to come out and say I’m gay or whatever, but it took me eight months to see a picture of how I could write it.”
Binyavanga Wainaina

Binyavanga Wainama (Photo Credit Francesco Alesi)
Photo Credit: Francesco Alesi

A Caine Prize winner, satirist, journalist, African food expert and founding editor of the literary magazine Kwani? Binyavanga is a celebrated Kenyan writer.
In 2014 he came out as gay when he chose to make public a lost chapter of his memoir, One Day I Will Write About This Place (2011). The same year, Binyavanga was included in Time magazine’s list of the 100 Most Influential People in the World, with Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie citing the way he had “demystified and humanised homosexuality”.
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One Day I Will Write About This PlaceOne Day I Will Write About This Place, Binyavanga Wainaina (2011) – Binyavanga’s memoir was described by Tim Adams in The Observer as “a sub-Saharan Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man”.
I am a homosexual, mum (2014) – In response to anti-gay legislation in several African countries, Binyavanga used this story, written as a lost chapter of his earlier memoir, to announce publicly that he was gay.
Binyavanga Wainaina Interview (2014) – in this detailed profile, Binyavanga talks about his writing, coming out in Kenya and the current state of gay rights in Africa.
How to Write About Africa (2008) – In a mock tip sheet for Westerners writing about Africa, Binyavanga highlights stereotypical depictions of Africa. Binyavanga offers satirical advice such as the instruction to “always end your book with Nelson Mandela saying something about rainbows or renaissances. Because you care”.
Talk to Al Jazeera – Binyavanga Wainaina: Rewriting Africa (2013) – Binyavanga talks about his essay on Africa, the use of the continent as a photo opportunity and how to break the lens of media distortion.

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