The Lifestyle Library: Kenyan Women in Literature


Grace Ogot (1930-2015)

Grace Ogot wasn’t only a writer, she was also a pioneer of female empowerment. A nurse, journalist, politician and diplomat by profession. Together with Charity Waciuma, they became the first Anglophone (English-speaking) female Kenyan writers to be published. A Year Of Sacrifice, first appeared in the African journal Black Orpheus in 1963. The Black Orpheus was groundbreaking as it was the first establishment for African literary periodical in English, publishing poetry, art, fiction, literary criticism and commentary. Ogot went on to have a stellar carrier!  She later published her first novel, The Promised Land. Published in 1966, her work would later on be heavily influenced by Luo cultural traditions. She was one of the first Kenyan members of parliament and she became an assistant minister.

Ogot’s Library:

  • The Other woman
  • The Strange Bride
  • Land Without Thunder: Short Stories

Dr. Margaret Ogola (1958-2011)

Dr. Margaret Ogola, was a caring woman with the ability to bring words to life. A writer, a pediatrician and the medical director for Cottolengo Hospice for HIV and AIDS orphans. Dr. Margaret Ogola’s most notable novel The River and the Source has been translated into Italian, Lithuanian and Spanish and became a standard read in the Kenyan school curriculum. The book describes the changing lives of 4 generations of Kenyan women.

The novel went on to win the Jomo Kenyatta Prize for Literature in 1995 as well as the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize for Best First Book in Africa. A true activist, her work with the national coordinator for charities such as The Hope for Africa Children’s Initiative, CARE, Society for Women and AIDS, and Save the Children changed healthcare. She was recently honored by google for her contribution to literature and activism.

Ogola’s Library:

  • I Swear By Apollo
  • A Biography: A Gift of Grace
  • Place of Destiny

Yvonne Adhiambo Owuor (1968 – Present)

Born in 1968, Yvonne Adhiambo Owuor was named ‘Woman of the Year’ in 2004 for her contribution to the country’s literature and arts. To better understand what a phenominal creative Owuor is, all you have to do is look at her body of work. A well versed screenwriter she went on to become the Executive Director of the Zanzibar International Film Festival from 2003 – 2005. Owuor won the Caine Prize for African Writing in 2003 and even appeared in several publications worldwide. She won the Jomo Kenyatta Prize for Literature in 2015 for her book Dust, which portrays twentieth century violence in Kenya. In the review of Dust in The New York Times, Taiye Selasi wrote: “In this dazzling novel you will find the entirety of human experience.” Her words transcended paper and land on the big screen where one of her stories, The Knife Grinder’s Tale, was released as a film in 2007.

Owuor’s Library:

  • The Dragonfly Sea
  • Weight of Whispers 

Okwiri Oduor (1988 – Present)

Okwiri Oduor a Kenyan writer born in Nairobi and influenced by international and African literature won the Caine Prize for African Writing in 2014 making her the third Kenyan winner of the prize. Okwiri Oduor was included in the Hay Festival’s Africa39 list of Sub-Saharan African writers under 40 with talent and potential to define trends in Africa.  Her winning story My Father’s Head has an interesting transition through the various themes of religion, death, memory and heritage in Kenya. What makes Okwiri story telling a winner is the fact that she refuses to be defined by just one identity in African literature. Her work has was commended in the 2012 Commonwealth book awards.

Oduor’s Library:

  • Rag Doll
  • The Dream Chasers