Tuesday, 6 January 2009

Writing about yourself writing about yourself in the first person in the first person is confusing

The more I write and rewrite about Kenya, the more I learn about it. I’ve been speaking to my friend out there, an Indian fella in a similar mixed-race situation to me, about his experiences and whether he goes through what I went through. The problem is when writing a non-fiction book, even if it’s about your own experiences, is the worry that you’re grossly misinterpreting a society, a culture, and a country from the year-long snapshot of it. Did I really imbibe Kenyan culture, did I see and experience everything and everyone from every walk of life? No. But the tiny niche I carved out for myself, in sleepy singular Mombasa amongst the coasties and shifty Asians was enough of an immersion for me to write about it. But am I wrong? Did I get the wrong end of the stick? Speaking to Birju, my Indian friend in Kenya, it appears I didn’t. I was always afraid to approach him with some of my observations of Kenyan, Asian and Causcasian life out there but talking to him and interviewing him it appears I was fine. I had nothing to worry about. Part of that paranoia is the feeling that maybe you’re the only one who can see what you see, and you interpreted something differently to its intention. All your book becomes is a subjective mirror of events that transpired, filtered through your opinion-o-meter. Then I read this article by Binyavanga Wainaina and felt inspired by his candid view of those trying to capture Africa as a whole. I was amazed that I was quite spot on in my conceit, which is the subversion of the ‘white man amongst the natives’ genre. I play an ‘Asian man amongst the white natives’. The writing process is a tough one. The adage is that writing it’s easy. Editing it isn’t. Nimer once asked if I was good at rewriting my work. I said yes because in theory I thought myself to be my best/worst critic. Reworking the book has been tougher than I thought though. Entire passages and anecdotes get confined to the out-takes/blooper reels for narrative ease. I have to be persistently tough on myself and that’s always hard because we’re taught to love ourselves and each other, or so says Jerry Springer. So, not much happening in the world of Kesh. My cousin, BuzzLightBrown, furnished me with some dope beats I’ll be looking to work, and the book will be finished this month for the greater book. Although, now I've decided to draw a simple comic panel to start each chapter, this may prove to be a stretch. How’s your year?

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