|A Brief Review of
Reviewed by Rebecca Henderson.
Despite all these achievements, One Day I Will Write About This Place was a difficult book for me to get into. The literary devices seem too self-aware and deliberate, creating a distance between the reader and the story. In a memoir, the story should pull a reader in and give identifiable, relatable experiences told in a distinct way. Wainaina definitely tells his story in a unique way, but his presentation of the details of the story, including his presentation of himself and other characters, only serves to hold the reader at arm’s length. So much of what he has written in this memoir is too stream-of-consciousness and disjointed to allow the reader to become involved in the overarching story. I write this as someone who enjoys reading poetry as well as poetic prose, who doesn’t mind working a bit to dig out the meaning of authors’ words through their unusual technique. And yet, One Day I Will Write About This Place seems overly preoccupied with its own unusualness. I walked away from the book with a new curiosity about African history in the 20th century, but without much sympathy for the main character of the memoir or lasting impact from the story he tells.
C. Christopher Smith is the founding editor of The Englewood Review of Books. He is also author of a number of books, including most recently How the Body of Christ Talks: Recovering the Practice of Conversation in the Church (Brazos Press, 2019). Connect with him online at: C-Christopher-Smith.com