African Book Talk Series - 'The Havoc of Choice' by Wanjiru Koinange

'The Havoc of Choice' by Wanjiru Koinange was the third book in our African book talk series. 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.

January 25, 2021


Our third book in this series was 'The Havoc of Choice' by Wanjiru Koinange". The book 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.


Program Moderator:

Mshaï Mwangola Ph.D.– Oraturist / performance scholar.


Wanjiru Koinange– Author.


Webinar Highlights:

Mshai Mwangola- The havoc of choice is a book set in Kenya, it’s about Kenya, it’s also set partly in the United States, even though some way it’s a real Kenyan story, it’s a story that could happen anywhere in the world especially in places you are soo confident they have their whole act together. (Time frame from minute 9:27- 9:50)

Wanjiru Koinange- Essentially, we are all connected by the things we all want, it doesn’t matter where you are in the world, we all want to feel respected, we all want good leadership, we all want the basic values that we strive for as human beings who have a moral compass at par with each other. (Time frame from minute 10:03- 10:20)

Wanjiru Koinange- I don’t know if you learn anything more is being confined within the four walls of a classroom but what I know you learn from is time dedicated to a topic that interests you. (Time frame from minute 19:38- 19:50)

Wanjiru Koinange- The book takes us through what it was like to be in the middle of what was Kenya’s worst election. In the end, there are obviously casualties; there is a reflection on choices and repercussions on love and family. It’s a book that on the surface looks as if it talks about choices because it’s not only about elections, it’s about how you make any other single choice in your life for wee have an army of people who we don’t see whose existence is to make your life more easier and more comfortable because for the middle class it's very rare that the effects of the violence will hit them as it does to those living in the slums. It’s a book that kind of lays down as many details of what transpired in Kenya in December of 2007. (Time frame from minute 37:30- 38:40)

Mshai Mwangola- One of my favorite quotes from the book is from Anne, there is a point where she says, “You have the benefit of all my poor decisions.” I think that it’s quite a critical line that states that we learn from our choices, it won’t all go well but we learn from our choices. (Time frame from minute 39:42- 40:03)

Wanjiru Koinange- We really think about things that are high level, when we say Kenya is corrupt we blame the leadership first and on the other hand, Kenyans are corrupt every day such that even if we had a leadership that was clean, there would still be soo much work to do and instead of expecting to curb corruption from the top to bottom. We need to start doing it from the bottom upwards, that way when we are calling leaders to a certain standard, it’s a standard that we have lived and we leave every day. There is a lot of work to be done around our collective reflection as a country and also individually and this book forced me to and I hope it does the same to readers. (Time frame from minute 49:10- 49:55)

Wanjiru Koinange- I hope that the book encourages us to think beyond ourselves when we are making a decision. Just take 7 seconds to think about who does this decision affect and how can I consider them. If we make the big decisions the way we make the small decisions, we will be in a much better place as a world. (Time frame from minute 58:24- 59:00)