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Dust by Yvonne Adhiambo Owuor

Dust is a 385-page book written in a prose of arresting power and has been described by critics as “a stunningly original work of art”. It ranges over the contemporary history of Kenya, offering a stark portrayal of the lingering effect of conflict and colonialism on people and their individual identities.

The by won the coveted prize in 2003 and is a recipient of the Chevening Scholarship and an Iowa’s Writers’ Fellowship. She was also named Woman of the Year (culture and arts) by Eve Magazine in Kenya in 2004 for her contribution to the country’s literature and arts.

Owuor has gone places since then, from 2003-2005, she was the Executive Director of world famous Zanzibar International Film Festival and she has also been a TEDx Nairobi speaker and Lannan Foundation resident.

The book is set in contemporary Nairobi where a young man named Moses Odidi Oganda bleeds to death in the streets, murdered by the police. As his lifeblood — full of memories, colours and songs — pours into the dust, the stories that tumble forth reveal the violent upheaval of Kenya’s own life, reaching from the Mau Mau uprising of the 1950s to the murky intricacies of modern-day corruption.

In the captivating story, Oganda’s grief-stricken family journeys home to Wuoth Ogik, their crumbling, coral coloured far out in Kenyan dry land, built 50 years ago by a British colonial officer, whose name they no longer dare speak.

The mystery of his disappearance is woven together with the secrets, desires and shadows within their decaying desert house. In the parched landscape where the Ogandas live, stories are of paramount importance — and this is a story about stories, about how myths come to pass, history is written and war stains us forever.

With strength, empathy and grace, this book brings together the shards of a family and nation’s shared and hidden history, which gradually come clear and are exorcised.

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Yvonne Adhiambo Owuor

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