Columbia Global Centers | Nairobi invites you to our virtual book talk series, featuring African Authors! With this series, we hope to offer a platform where African writers can engage a global audience, offering not just their work, but exciting perspectives on how personal, political, and cultural experiences drive their storytelling.
Our third book in this series is "The Havoc of Choice" by Wanjiru Koinange, which is a story about family, politics, and journeying through a fractured country in a delicate time. Based on events around the Kenyan election of 2007, the story follows the lives of Kavata, the daughter of a corrupt politician, her husband Ngugi who decides to run for office with the support of his father in laws endorsement, their two children, extended family, and their household during the weeks and before and after an election that will change their lives and scar Kenya for a long, long time. This book is one of the first pieces of long fiction from Kenya that explore its 2007 post-election violence (PEV) in such detail, hopefully the first of many. When the violence breaks out, each of the characters in the book is in a different part of the country, and through their attempts to travel back to Nairobi - the reader is exposed to all the ways that PEV affected different parts of the country. The Havoc of Choice is a delicate and deeply personal attempt to understand the root of this spontaneous yet organized conflict and to figure out what healing looks like for the people of Kenya.
Mshaï Mwangola, is an oraturist / performance scholar who uses the lens of culture in her work as an academic, artist and activist. She holds a doctorate in Performance Studies from Northwestern University (USA), a Masters of Creative Arts from the University of Melbourne (Australia) and a Bachelor of Education from Kenyatta University.
Mwangola chairs the Board of Uraia Trust, which is the biggest non-state facilitator of civic education in Kenya. A member of the Executive Committee of the Council of the Development of Social Science Research in Africa (CODESRIA), she is also a founder-member of the intellectual collectives, The Elephantand The Orature Collective. Through the latter’s artistic arm, The Performance Collective, she co-facilitates the monthly Pointzero Bookcafé, which features public performances and conversations around literature.
Wanjiru Koinange is a writer, restorer of libraries and entrepreneur from Nairobi, Kenya. She was raised on a farm on the outskirts of the city with her four siblings. She obtained her Bachelor’s degree in Journalism and Literature from Nairobi’s United States International University, after which she worked as a talent manager for some of East Africa’s most renowned artists and musicians – then as a festival and events manager. She then later pursued a Masters in Creative Writing from the University in Cape Town. During this time she also worked to explore how art may be used as a catalyst for social change. This was channeled through the global non-profit organization, Africa Centre. While in Cape Town, she also served on the editorial team of Chimurenga.
Her writing has been published in several journals and magazines across the continent including Chimurenga, SlipNet and Commonwealth Writers where she served as a cultural correspondent for East and Southern Africa in 2015. During this stint, she published this piece about the McMillan Memorial Library – Kenya’s second oldest library.
This article was the major inspiration for the formation of Book Bunk which Wanjiru co-founded with Angela Wachuka in 2017. This independent non-profit organisation renovates and manages some of Nairobi’s most iconic public libraries. The McMillan Memorial Library and two of its smaller branches in Kaloleni and Makadara are the organizations flagship projects. The formation of Book Bunk Trust was inspired by a core belief that our public spaces are essential to a collective Kenyan imagination, and can be steered to become more than just rooms full of books to act as Centres of knowledge, art, sharing and community.
Wanjiru is also a publisher at Bunk Books, an imprint of Book Bunk Limited which is the commercial arm of Book Bunk Trust.