Carey Baraka is a writer from Kisumu, Kenya. He is a founding editor and member of Enkare Review.
His writing has appeared in Enkare Review and The Single Story Foundation among other journals, and he has been anthologised by Jalada Africa and Black Letter Media.
Tell me the three books that excited you the most in 2017?
I’m going to interpret this as meaning books I read in 2017 rather than books released in 2017. Lauren Groff’s Fates and Furies did so many things to me. I bought Imbolo Mbue’s Behold the Dreamers to read on the road to Kisumu but woke up super early and finished it before the journey. It’s a happy book, or at least it made me happy, and I like that in a book, the ability to bring joy to one’s life. Helen Oyeyemi’s Boy, Snow, Bird. I almost convinced a friend of mine to name her baby after a character in this book. Almost. She thought it was a stupid name.
Which two books do you hold so dear that they can’t possibly be lent out?
That’s a hard question because I’m the type of person who is going to force you to read a book I like. So the more dear a book is to me the more the likelihood of it not being in my library.
Your fauvorite childhood books? Why?
Harry Potter. I remember being twelve and waiting for the final book to be released then I couldn’t read it immediately because I had to concentrate on my schoolwork and had to wait until the end of the year. Barbara Kimenye’s Moses series. Holy Moses, Rukia, Itchy Fingers and King Kong stood out. I wanted so much to be like them and drink the watchman’s waragi and write a love letter to Miriam Makeba. Which is funny because I can’t really do any of those things now. Especially the first (Hi mum!).
If you were to dine with three writers dead/alive, who would they be and why?
Meja Mwangi. The Cockroach Dance has this absolutely phenomenal character, Dusman Gozanga, who was my first idea of what downtown Nairobi and River Road looked like. Marjorie Oludhe Macgoye. Homing In and Coming to Birth are elemental Kenyan texts. Every time I think of Chelagat Mutai I remember Paulina talking about her (that young Kalenjin girl) in Coming to Birth. Joyce Carol Oates for what she does with her sentences, and her ability to paint a community. I’m obsessed with communities rather than individualities, and I haven’t met anyone who is able to give a community the sort of personhood Oates can.
Which book do you wish you had written and why?
Just one? Wow. A House for Mr Biswas. V S Naipaul’s politics is totally messed up, and while I wouldn’t want to meet him in person, when I read that book I was shocked to discover that was his first book. I loved Mr. Biswas, the character, and I lent out my copy of this book years ago and it has never been returned to me. It’s that good a book!
If you were sent off to Robben Island for a year, which three books would you take with you?