BY THE BOOK: Amos Onyango

Onyango has, so far, authored two books titled Twists and Turns: A Story of Survival and Cyber Bullying: A Crime against Humanity. PHOTO | COURTESY

What you need to know:

  • Onyango has authored two books.
  • He reads between 150 and 200 books a year.
  • His memorable books inlcude Thomas Sankara Speaks, Unbowed and Dead Aid

Amos Onyango holds a Bachelor of Education (English and Literature) from Kenyatta University, Kenya. He is the Project Manager of The PLO Lumumba Foundation and Personal Assistant to Prof. PLO Lumumba.

He represents Unashamedly Ethical (South Africa) in Kenya. He is also the Kenyan representative of African Economic Congress (Nigeria). He is the Kenyan representative of Tribal Freedom Fighter (TFF) based in South Africa.

He is also trained on Cross-Cultural Communication by Heinrich Foundation (Germany).

Onyango has authored two books titled Twists and Turns: A Story of Survival and Cyber Bullying: A Crime against Humanity.

What are the three most memorable books you have read so far, and what makes them so?

Thomas Sankara Speaks by Thomas Isidore Noël Sankara tops the list. In just four years in leadership, President Sankara had started economic reforms that lifted Burkina Faso away from dependence on foreign aid. He led a modest lifestyle and did not accrue material wealth.

He encouraged self-sufficiency, including the use of local resources to build clinics, schools and other infrastructure.

Unbowed by Wangari Maathai is memorable for it is a true story of courage, persistence and success. Despite the many hardships that Maathai underwent, she stood her ground in the protection of forests, spearheaded sustainable development in the grassroots and tirelessly fought abuse of human rights.

Dambisa Moyo’s Dead Aid is another memorable book that highlights how overreliance on foreign aid affects African nations leaving them with nothing but hunger for more aid which leads to underdevelopment.

Moyo recommends solutions to Africans’ woes through embracing self-reliance and promotion of local markets in order to boost the economy.

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 between 150 and 200 books. I have a special place in my room where I read them from, especially in the early-morning hours and on weekends.

Which is your most favourite genre of books? Why?

My most favourite is non-fiction books. I read such books because I want to master the real issues affecting society. I am open to other genres though.

What is the size of your book collection as of now? Where do you get them from and what motivates you to?

I have about 520 books. I purchase most of them from the streets and a few copies from bookshops. I also download and read e-books.

Which are your two most treasured books and why? Would you lend them out?

I treasure Thomas Isidore Noël Sankara’s Thomas Sankara Speaks, because at the age of 34 as the President of Burkina Faso, he fought corruption, promoted reforestation, averted famine, supported women’s rights, developed rural areas, and prioritized education and healthcare.

What touched me most was when he lowered his salary to only $450 a month and limited his possessions to one car, four bikes, three guitars, a fridge and a broken freezer!

I also treasure Unbowed, by Wangari Maathai. In this memoir, Maathai vividly demonstrates that you do not need to be in a position of power to impact the society. Through her courage and determination in environmental conservation, she showed the world that you can make a difference by doing a small thing like planting a seedling and watering it.

About lending out these two books, yes I can, but only for one week, on condition that we swap with the borrower’s favourite books.

If you were to become a character from a book, who would you be and why?
I’d be Othello in the play Othello by William Shakespeare. Othello is a celebrated soldier and a trusted leader.

Although proud and jealous, I admire him for believing that men should be transparent.

If you had the opportunity to meet three authors, dead or alive, who would they be and why?
I would like to meet Dambisa Moyo of Zambia, Chinua Achebe of Nigeria and William Shakespeare of England.

I would like to meet them so that I may listen to them and learn more from them.

Any book that you read that was out of your comfort zone? Any reason?
The Merchant of Venice by William Shakespeare. According to me, this play, written in Early Modern English, was very befuddling!

I really struggled to understand it. For instance, while I thought the word ‘fearful’ meant frightening, in Early Modern English, it actually meant untrustworthy!

If you were to recommend three books to a 10-year-old, which ones would they be and why?

I would recommend Animal Farm by George Orwell. It will definitely inspire children not to use power for their personal benefits or to manipulate others.

Integrity Series by PLO Lumumba will inspire children to be practical and have a sense of morality in the society.

Two Truths and a Lie by Ammi-Joan Paquette and Laurie Ann Thompson, will help children to figure out what is true and what is a lie.

Have you ever had bad commentary about your writing? What did it say and how did you deal with it?

Yes! Someone once told me that my writings are very blunt! I responded positively, and promised to improve in my next book.

What are your thoughts on the reading culture of Kenyans in the face of popular culture?

It’s somehow poor. This is largely affected by divided concentration due to technological distractions! A majority of Kenyans spend most of their time chitchatting on social media.

E-books versus hard copies, what is your preference and why?

I prefer hard copies because I can easily read without straining my eyes.

What was your last read and how did you find it?

It’s titled Why Africa is Poor and What Africans can do about it by Greg Mills. Mills explains why Africans are poor and suggests what we can do to ensure that we are poverty-free.

If you weren’t an author, what would you be?

I’d be a farmer. Food is a basic need to all, so by practising farming, I would somehow help feed the many starving people in the country.

What piece of advice would you wish all aspiring authors to keep in mind?

I would encourage all aspiring authors to learn from every circumstance. Learn to always see failure as a challenge to pull you up and keep going, no matter the magnitude of obstacle.

The late Prof. Wangari Maathai once said, “Every person who has ever achieved anything has been knocked down many times. But all of them picked themselves up and kept going, and that is what will make you succeed”.