She wears many hats; author, editor, Spelling Bee judge and pronouncer, and an enthusiastic English and Literature teacher.
Besides her involvement with the Ministry of Education in writing school textbooks, she has also authored fiction books for children and young adults including, It Looks Like a Goat and Shades of Life. Pasomi Mucha speaks to Nation.co.ke:
Describe to us your ideal reading experience.
Legs and feet warm as toast under a rug or duvet; something to sip, rain drumming on the roof, open window beside me with a view to green nature for me to look at as I occasionally look outside while reflecting on what I am reading. If there's someone to share the most impactful bits of the read, all the better.
Which are your three most treasured books?
Let’s push the bounds of your question and talk about the young me and the older me. I read Emily Bronte’s Wuthering Heights when I was quite young and it had so major an impact on me that I would converse aloud with Heathcliff, et al – they became imaginary friends.
Much later, I bent to look at books at an Inama (street) bookshop one day and became curious about the seeming grammatical error in the book title PS; Your Not Listening by Eleanor Craig, so I bought it. Little did I know that it would impact me so much that it would change the way I interact with all my students. I believe it made me a better teacher.
Stay With Me by Ayobami Adebayo is brilliantly executed writing. It is one of the books my sons and I have read and discussed at length.
Do you lend out your books?
Sigh. That's hard. On the rare occasions I do, it is with trembling hands and lips. Any book that comes into my possession becomes a member of my family. Parting is sorrow, and I have learnt, painfully, that borrowed books hardly ever come back.
Tell us a little bit about a story you read and will never forget.
Tekayo by Grace Ogot. I read that story while I was still young, and it wreaked havoc in my imagination. My mind kept creating mini-movies of Tekayo creeping up on the poor children, striking them, cutting them up and roasting their livers. I'm still queasy about eating liver, by the way.
Only much later did I expand the analogy to include paedophiles and all who mishandle public policy and coffers, the environment as well as the hearts and minds of seekers of God. They are modern-day Tekayos.
If you were to become a character from a book, who would you be?
The ‘who’ I have in mind is actually a blend of two women. There is the fictional Akoko Adoyo Obanda Akello Veronica in The River and the Source by Margaret Ogola, and the real-life Patricia Nombuyiselo Noah, who I met in Born a Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood by Trevor Noah.
Trevor says of his mother, “No one showed her. She did it on her own. She found her way through sheer force of will.” These words describe Akoko and Nombuyiselo really well.
Maybe because I am generally rather timid, I love that about both of these women – that they stepped out and did the unthinkable, thereby changing destinies and opening hitherto unimaginable vistas for themselves and so many after them.
How do you handle difficult reads?
I have realised, to my great horror, that, with time, I am tending towards ‘reading for entertainment’ rather than reading for intellectual and phrenic expansion.
I want to make deliberate effort to change this, to get through and gather depth from the works of writers such as Frantz Fannon. Also, I have been convincing myself to read Kiswahili books because I love the language and I want to speak it better.
If you had the opportunity to meet three authors, dead or alive, who would they be?
Marguerite Annie Johnson, better known as Maya Angelou: reading her is like immersing yourself into the song a soul would sing if it could – she is profound, larger than life, poesy.
Franz Fanon: we studied some of his work in college. There is an intelligence and uniqueness to his thinking that I wish I could interact with on a one-to-one basis.
I’ll cheat and mention a number of Kenyan writers who I have never met in person: Meja Mwangi, whose works are so real I feel I could reach out and touch his characters; Margaret Ogola, my students actually enjoy reading her art; Marjorie Oludhe Macgoye, whose works are so comfortably African, one would think she was born and bred in an African village; and lastly Barbara Kimenye, her Moses series is among the reasons I love to read, and her stories are full of wit.
As a teacher, what is your take on the reading patterns among the young generation?
Our young people fall into an interesting sharp divide of those who read and those who would rather do anything else than read.
Sadly, many of those who read are going for Sidney Sheldon, Dan Brown et al, rather than our home-written books. We are writing interesting stories but not publicising them enough, not getting them out there and exposing them to our young people.
As families and schools, we need to make a conscious, deliberate effort to create scheduled reading time at home and in school. We need to provide books and be seen to be reading ourselves because example is better than precept.
We need to provide forums where young people can share with us and with each other on what they read and the impact it has had on them, what thoughts and feelings it has provoked.
If you were to recommend three books to a 10-year old, which ones would they be and why?
Barbara Kimenye’s Moses Series is a good read with simple language and tons of humour. There’s a whole raft of Kiswahili storybooks in the market. I would recommend these. We are losing our indigenous languages. Maybe we should at least retain Kiswahili so that we do not altogether lose our identity, and reading would be a good way to do this.
And, well, there’s my book, It Looks like a Goat, because it is an interesting mix of humour and a sprinkling of food for thought – even if I say so myself.
Take us through your checklist when it comes to picking out your next read.
There is no clinical precision in my choice of next-to-read. I always have tons of books waiting in the wings once I am done with one. I pick one depending on how gutted I am by the previous read or whether I am in the mood for light-hearted or heavily themed, profound human philosophy writing.
Did you enjoy your last read?
That, I did. It was the festive season cum holiday so I was in the mood for a tale that would entertain and yet cause me to reflect – and I found that in Jojo Moyes’s Me Before You.
She’s a captivating writer. I bought all three from Kindle Store.
If you were to give an elevator pitch on the need to read, what would you say?
A nation that reads
Is a nation that leads.
A nation where none will read
Is a nation where follies will breed.
Share with us your reading goals for 2019
I hope to have read a book every week. I am not doing too badly at three books so far. I hope I can make my students read at least a chapter a week beyond their set books and put together a brief report or narrate what they have read.