- Write not for money or fame but to deliver an impactful message through your story.
If your story can change one life, you will have saved the world.
Omwa Ombara, a seasoned journalist, was the first female bureau chief of the Standard Group in East Africa. She taught English and Literature in English, and Catholic Pastoral at Loreto Convent Msongari, Nairobi. She lives as a political asylee in the US and is the author of a memoir, God’s Child On the Run.
What are the three most memorable books you have read so far, and what makes them so?
A Suitable Boy by Vikram Seth stole my heart. It is 1400 pages and brilliantly follows an Indian mother’s pursuit of a husband for her well-educated daughter. The book has helped me appreciate cultural conflict and diversity.
The River Between by Ngugi wa Thiong’o is a masterpiece. “Tell Nyambura I see Jesus.” These words mark the triumph of culture over colonialism. I love its historical perspective capturing Kenya’s colonial period. The rivalry between the two villages, Kameno and Makuyu, the intrigues and the love stories and betrayals surrounding Waiyaki and Nyambura, teaches that unity is the key to survival.
Then there’s the allegory, Animal Farm by George Orwell. The animals rebel against a cruel human farmer called Mr Jones, hoping for change and equality. Instead, dictatorship creeps in headed by a pig called Napoleon. As a human rights activist, this book is always a point of reference. We strive so much for change but when new leadership sets in, the more things change, the more they remain the same.
How many books on average do you read in a year, and do you have a favourite spot where you read them from?
I read about 50 books a year, one every week. My favourite spot is on the bus and at the bus stop or railway station when traveling to and from work.
Which is your most favourite genre of books? Any reason?
I love memoirs. They are true to life and authentic. It takes courage to share your whole soul with the world and I value that.
What is the size of your book collection as of now? Where do you get them from,and what motivates you to?
Wherever I have lived, I keep a library. I have about 1000 books currently. I buy 4 books in a month and also pick up cheap copies that libraries sell at $0.25 (Sh. 25). Books can be expensive, especially for students. I have always dreamt of having a resource centre where writers could come and chill as they read and write. This dream is still valid.
Which are your two most treasured books and why? Would you lend them out?
The Bible, because of its dual role as a literature and faith book serves my interests well. My Memoir, God’s Child On the Run, because it gives me the power to own my story. I do not lend books. People rarely return them. I’d rather buy you a copy.
If you were to become a character from a book, who would you be and why?
Wodu Wakiri the Wag in The Concubine by Elechi Amadi. He creates comic relief in a bizarre atmosphere. We should be able to laugh at our own follies. I do.
If you had the opportunity to meet three authors, dead or alive, who would they be and why?
Prof Wole Soyinka. I am curious as to what drove him to write, The Road and his obsession with life after death.