Title: When the Sun Goes Down
Author: Emilia Ilieva and Waveney Olembo (Editors)
Publisher: Sasa Sema, 2011
Genre: Fiction (Anthology)
Reviewer: Manuel Odeny
This title When the Sun Goes Down and other stories from Africa and Beyond is an anthology of sixteen short stories by Emilia Ilieva and Waveney Olembo, both dons in Egerton and Kenyatta university respectively.
Since literature is taught as a mirror which reflects the society this collection as a high school set book in English subject reflects not only to the Kenyan society but also at the international scene with increased titles from foreign writers.
Firstly with 16 stories with international writers, the book has surpass last year’s set book Half a Day and other stories which had 12 from Eastern and North Africa, this new set book has writers from Colombia, India, USA and Japan for the first time in Kenyan set books.
With the high rate of globalization brought by the speed of internet connectivity and media problem in far corner of the world like economic recession, terrorism attack and global warming affects us making this new set up a welcome.
Even though descriptions of the settings and characters may be alien to Kenyan students and readers, their themes are highly linked to us. The international story Tuesday Siesta by Colombian Gabriel Marquez and Sandra Street by Trinidadian Michael Anthony tackle issue of global warming and environmental degradation in an easy writing prose.
Equally, the issue of poverty is brought fore by USA writer Tillie Olsen’s I stand Here Ironing which contrasts the image of the rich western image.
On the other hand, the collection by the two writers Ilieva and Olrmbo has also managed to pass across readers the themes of HIV/AIDS, gender relations, corruption, war and human relations and peculiarities.
The main story When the Sun Goes Down written by Kenyan Goro wa Kamau and gave the book its title, talks succinctly on how society treats and stigmatise HICV/AIDS victims by following the lives of positive couples struggling for acceptance from their neighbors.
The story too like Kenyan Grace Ogot’s Bamboo Hut and Moroccan Leila Abouzeid Two Stories of a House also tackle the issue of gender relation not only in the family but also among members of the society.
Ugandan Moses Isegawa’s The War of the Ears which tackles the use of child soldiers in an African setting resonates well with the readers with the sentencing of DRC warlord Thomas Lubanga by ICC last week. Isegawa who was a refugee in Gulu Town of Northern Uganda writes from experience to invoke the image of a society living in terror of warped children militias. Interestingly, Isegawa is the author of Snakepit which had favorite reviews in Kenyan media few years back.
Other stories like Arrested Development by Zimbabwean Sindisile Tshuma talks of corruption and poort road infrastructure akin the chaotic matatus in Kenya while Sefi Atta from Nigeria talks about the issue of emigrants from West Africa going to Spain through North Africa by following the hazardous journey of a would be emigrant in Twilight Trek.
As an anthology the editors of When the Sun Goes Down have managed to open up high school students to literature of the world by increasing their appreciation with foreign writers. Equally, by mixing seasoned writers like Kenyan Grace Ogot and Nigerian Cyprian Ekwensi with new hands in literature like Sindisile Tshuma, Sefi Atta and Moses Isegawa, readers will appreciate the value of a story regardless of the timeline used.
With the government approval of the short story title with foreign writers for the first time shows that the high school students who are highly connected with Facebook, twitter and contemporary media will have the urge to not only read and appreciate African literature but open up to the world.