Margaret Muthee is a journalist by profession and a creative writer. She is the author of A Season for Mending, a short story collection e-book published by Bahati Books.
A mother of twins, Margaret says she is keen on getting her children hooked on reading by exposing them to books from a tender age. "I did not read much growing up despite being exposed to many storybooks. I feel like I missed out on childhood reading, something I wouldn’t want for my children."
Tell us about that memorable book you read as a child.
To be honest, I didn't do much reading as a child but I remember reading Hekaya za Abunuasi. Later in high school, I read Africa Kills Her Sun by Ken Saro-Wiwa and that marked the beginning of my avid reading.
When it comes to selecting a read, which genre tickles your fancy?
I love fiction. I recently attended a Miles Morland workshop that made me discover gems in non-fiction, especially memoirs, and I am starting to enjoy that genre as well.
Your book, A Season for Mending, is one of the e-books collection on Bahati Books. Does this mean you enjoy reading e-books as much as hard copies?
Nothing matches the pleasure of turning a page…that lingering old smell of a book you cherish or even the simple joy of reaching out for a book from a book shelf.
But again, times have changed and the digital age is here to stay. E-books shouldn’t be viewed as lesser works or a bad thing. Think of it this way – they are more flexible since you can customise fonts, they are convenient to carry around, and in most cases they are cheaper.
If you were to meet three African authors dead or alive, who would they be?
I feel so limited in this one! I would say Jennifer Nansubuga, Ayobami Adebayo and Yewande Omotoso. I greatly admire their work and reading them inspires me to become better.
And Yvonne Owuor, she greatly inspires me and sees a light in me even when sometimes I am in doubt; meeting her is always a pleasure.
Paint us a picture of your ideal reading experience
It does not always happen this way, but here goes: A beautiful scenery, silence broken only by say the chirping of birds and something to sip on. Reading by the lake, ocean or any other beautiful places works magic. Most times though it’s just me in my room, sipping tea. I have toddler twins so there goes some peace and quiet (laughs).
How many books did you read last year?
Possibly the least number of books compared to previous years. I became a mother of twins in April, in between breastfeeding, changing diapers, putting the babies to sleep and waiting for them to wake me up again, I only managed to read short story collections. I hope to do better in 2019.
If you were to recommend two books to a 10-year-old, which ones would they be?
I would recommend Mr. Ali Champion on Wheels, by Ng'ang'a Mbugua, Disability is not Inability by Wairimu Mwangi, The Hidden Package by Muthoni Gichuru and Mother of Trees by Kinyanjui Kombani. They are all compelling and powerful stories.
Do you have friends that you swap books with?
I lend my books to a few friends who I can trust not to lose them or mess them up. I love my books.
If you had an opportunity to motivate someone to be an avid reader, what would be your pitch?
Reading opens up your mind, it grows your imagination and takes you to places you probably may never go.
Are you reading any book at the moment?
Two actually. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald, which is an absolute classic, and Becoming by Michelle Obama.
Anything else you wish to add?
Just a wish. I wish we had more well-stocked libraries to expose children to books and entice them to develop a robust reading culture. I wish parents and teachers encourage children to read storybooks instead of labelling such books as time-wasters. That way, children wouldn’t need to read their favourite storybooks in hiding.