A Girl. A Book. A Banana.


How come you aren’t happy nowadays?

I’m happy.

No, you aren’t!

Yes, I am.

Are you really?

Yes, I am!


You can tell me if you aren’t. You know, if there is something wrong.


Does that mean there is something wrong?



You aren’t happy, I can tell. You have been quiet lately.

Long silence.

Are you really okay, darling?

I’m fine.


Is school okay?


Is there any kid who is harassing you?

What is “harassing”?

Disturbing you.

How do you spell that?


No, the other one.

What, harassing?



It has two “s”?

Yes, darling.


Well, is there?

Is there what?

Another kid disturbing you?


Sometimes Kyle disturbs me.

Kyle is a girl?

Nooo! She laughs. Kyle is a boy!

How do you spell that?


Nice, but I meant Kyle.


I think Kyle is a girl’s name.

Hahaha. Nooo!

She finds this funny. Which is a great for me because she finds me funny right about now. So I’m going to wring dry this moment because I don’t know when next she will find me funny given her disposition lately.

I tell her that in my whole life I’ve never heard a boy called Kyle. Does he wear pink bikers under his shorts? (Tamms sometimes wears little pinkish bikers under her uniform by the way, I find it heart-breaking but I have no say over what she wears underneath).

Hahaha. I don’t know.

I think Kyle wears pink bikers under his shorts.

Haha. Boys don’t wear bikers.

(At Impala Club they do!)

Well, I think Kyle does.

Haha. That’s too funny. (She likes to do that, add “too” before says “funny” even if it’s not too funny).


But you are happy, right darling?

Yes, I am.

You can tell she isn’t happy by reading that conversation, right? I mean, you don’t even have to be a fun of the TV series Lie To Me, to know that she is lying. And she has been like this lately; aloof, withdrawn, distant. The obvious reason – which I will disclose in another post – is too clichéd a reason to comprehend. But since she joined class one she has pretty much retained this air of mystery. She seems preoccupied, like she is thinking about her thesis.

She used to be all chirpy in the car as I drop her off in the morning. Now she just sits there, only speaking when I speak to her. Like we’re having domez. Like I did something wrong. I haven’t done anything wrong to her. I swear. Well, apart from that fact that I now insist that she has to read a book a day. Not a whole book, for chrissake, I’m not an animal, but like one story. There stories are like, what, 30 words? Is that enough to make someone sulk with you? No, that’s not a rhetorical question. Tell me, is that enough for someone to sulk with you?

When we get to school she now just says “bye, see you later,” and jumps out. The hell?! As in, if I don’t lean in to kiss her no kiss will be exchanged in that car. None. Zilch. At first I thought maybe it was me, so I bought a stronger mouthwash. I even trimmed down my beard for chrissake because she isn’t hot about my beard. Nothing changed. Only, like, twice a week she will offer a kiss. Twice a freaking week! The rest of the week, I have to initiate it.

You want to know the truth? I’m tired of that shit. I feel like I’m the only one interested in this relationship. I mean, I’m tempted to ask her; where is this relationship going? But I don’t want to scare her off. Not just yet. Look, she used to say “I love You” before she leaves the car. Not always, but like most of the time. Now we can go four days without that. Not like I keep a scorecard in my glove compartment and tick whoever says it and when, but it’s hard not to notice when “I love yous” drop drastically. And please don’t say I sound like I wasn’t hugged enough as a child, this is not the time, Oprah.
Look, if she isn’t interested in me anymore, she should just be a woman about it and tell me the love died. I mean, I will move on. There are plenty of little girls out there who appreciate beards. Do you know how many fathers out there don’t have beards and their little girls wonder if they are in a normal family? Do you?


But seriously, do you think she is OK? No really, ama I’m being melodramatic?

Anyway so I told the Missus. Not like reported her, that would be “told on her”. But I

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told. Expressed my genuine concerns and fears. I figured women understand each other. She said lately she has been like that. But why? She said she didn’t have a clue too. She didn’t know? Gosh, aren’t mothers supposed to know everything? I hear mothers can silently observe the way their daughter applies margarine on her bread and on the third day immediately tell if they are pregnant. Anyway so if figured that if a mother doesn’t know, perhaps Google might?

So I went online and Googled; “Moody+6yrs+old+girl+why?”: 2.8M search results in 49secs. Yahoo answers are the dumbest, it’s open season for amateurs. You will find people (OK, Americans mostly) theorising that perhaps her wintry moods is caused by eating pre-package foods, or allergy to certain foods. Tamms is not allergic to any food. Food is her friend. The search results also included a perimenopausal blog. I doubt Tamms is menopausal, or even perimenopausal, whatever that is. Actually I know people who I suspect are perimenopausal who should read that blog. And they are men.

Then I Googled: “Moody+6yrs+old+girl+God+why?” Same search results but only in 31 secs. (Wow, Google, you keep outdoing yourself!).

Then I tried Googling: Moody+6yrs+old+girl+God+why+me? 2.6M results, 0.57secs. The first result? Voices of Infertility.

Undeterred, I tried one last time: “Moody+6yr+old+Kyle”. This I did out of boredom, and curiosity…just a bit. There is an important moral to this story, just in case you are wondering; Google isn’t better than a mother.

Anyway, three weeks later, I’m out of town, and the Missus calls me and tells me she is constipated (when she turns 10 I realise I will have to stop revealing these embarrassing details about her life). She is taken to the doctor who says that he inability to poopo is because she is nervous; that the only thing she can hold back is her poop. Hehe. (Doctors should really be paid more). Is she in a new environment? Doc asked. Yes, she actually just joined class one, Missus told her. Then you need to find out if all is well in school. So I come back from my trip and I’m briefed and I mutter under my breath; “Kyle. That little bastard!”

Next morning I’m in school. I ask the teacher in charge for an audience in private. (We are just about to discuss constipation). Moments later, in a quiet room, I ask her how much she would take if she helped me lure a boy called Kyle outside the school compound. OK, I didn’t. I tell her what the doctor said and inquired how Tamms was adjusting. She says she is much okay, although she doesn’t really speak up when she loses a rubber or pencil. But she says that’s not abnormal behaviour. She says maybe she is just taking a bit of time to adjust to the new teachers and kids. Then she adds, “Some kids are like that.”

Don’t you just hate it when paediatricians and teachers refer to your child in that tone “some kids are like that”? Doesn’t it make you hot under the collar? Some kids are like what? No, say it. You know you want to say it; like what? Huh? Slow? Special? Are you calling my kid special? Huh? What, cat got your tongue? No, no no, don’t call security, what do you mean when you say some kids are like that? What are you implying? Are you implying that I have genes that are retarded? Are you questioning my pedigree? Put down the damn phone, teacher! Do you know who my father is? I come from a long line of fishermen and carpenters. My pedigree is fine! I’m not leaving this office until you tell me what you meant by that statement. Some kids are like that, Jesus! For chrissake, sit your ass down, teacher Doris!

That conversation is happening in my head, by the way. Outside, I just chill. Calm like a pond.

I decide to change the topic.

Is Kyle a girl or boy?

Perplexed: Uhm, a boy?

Who is he? I ask.


Yes, Kyle.

Ah, Kyle (says his second name)!

Yes, who is he?


No, I just want to know.

Has she mentioned Kyle? She asks.

No, she hasn’t. I just, uhm, know him.

She looked at me with that look that seemed to say, Oh, you guys go to the same gym?

Then I come clean: I’m asking because, well, she sort of mentioned in passing that Kyle can be a bit aggressive. (That’s me setting up that little sucker).

Ah, Kyle isn’t a troublemaker. She says delightfully. The troublemakers we know. The she laughs reassuringly.

I want to tell her that the ones you think aren’t the troublemakers are the true devils. They are the masterminds who should be watched around the clock. I wouldn’t be surprised if they are selling hallucinogens in school. Kwanza that Kyle boy sounds like real trouble. Keep that mangy racoon away from my daughter!

But I don’t say nothing. (That’s awful English, by the way). I simply nod like a respectable father and smile understandingly. But then I ask her to please keep an eye on her. I tell her not to hesitate to alert me if there is something I need to know, or do immediately. Then I stand up and thank her with a firm handshake, which I hope she reads as a subtle reminder that the offer to lure Kyle outside the school still stands. Then I leave.

We have started this system where she reads to earn money for junk food. The Missus picked this from one of those Facebook mother’s group. I think it’s Kilimani Moms or something like that. (Note: why is it called Kilimani Moms when half those moms don’t live in Kili?). The thing with reading with Tamms is that she can decide to read her own things.

So for example, we are reading a sentence that goes.

The big bad wolf waited for the lovely princess by the bush.

But when she reads it, she says:

The big bad wolf waited for the banana princess by the bush.

And immediately I’m like, “Tamms, where is banana in that sentence?” She keeps quite. She is lying on me, on my chest, on the sofa, our reading position. I read somewhere that this gives kids more confidence. Clearly it’s given her too much confidence she is seeing bananas.

“Where is the banana?” I ask again. A bit rough, I know, but I’m sort of pissed that she isn’t taking this seriously.


“There is no banana,” sniffs a timid voice.

“So then what’s this word?”

“Lovely.” She whispers then she looks at her mom to rescue her from this bad bearded wolf that is worse than the wolf in the book waiting for the lovely banana, or princess. Ok, maybe its late and she is tired and isn’t focusing. Maybe.

From the corner of my eye I see the Missus shoot me a dirty disapproving look. She thinks I’m too hard on her sometimes. But someone should, or she will be seeing more than just bananas in a sentence. Who knows, next it will be avacados. Or Rhinos. There is no telling, guys. Nip it at the bud.

“You have to concentrate, Tamms, you cant say there is a banana when there isn’t a banana, OK darling!” She shakes her head. Now she wants to break into tears. So does the Missus. Oh, crap. Everybody wants to cry, over a mere banana. So I step away from that landmine.

This is my submission. I make her read because girls should read. That’s the kind of girl I want to raise; a reader. A woman with a book is an empowered woman. Teach her how to love books first before she can learn to love a lip-gloss. Books bolster a woman. Books turn girls into ladies. And you don’t find many ladies around and when you do, you wont forget them quickly. Books arm women with confidence. A woman who reads will not shy from challenging an idea, a thought or an argument. Their opinions are not cowered or tamed. And this is what I think our little girls should amount to; ladies who have embraced books, ladies who constantly seek knowledge. That’s a solid woman.

A woman who reads isn’t just joy to herself, she is joy to people she interacts with. And the time to start this affair with books is when they are young. When they are still wearing pink bikers to school. But they can only love reading when they are surrounded by books. If they are socialised in it. Half the social problems women face, problems of interactions, wouldn’t happen if they just learnt to pick a book in their earlier years.

Still not convinced? Read “Don’t date a girl who reads” by Charles Warnke? Google it. That’s what happens when you raise a daughter who reads; they intimidate men so much that the only befitting way to describe them is through satire. That’s what you want of your daughter. You want her to carry books in her purse, not another series of Real Housewives of Atlanta.

Think of it this way. When a man sits down with a real airhead of a woman, the man will always somehow step down to meet her at that mediocre level. But when you are the airhead and you sit down with this real sharp woman, the woman will rarely step down to meet you in your stupid hovel. They are more impatient and dismissive. You just have to step up and try meeting her in her level, even if you only offer an illusion of it. This simply means that a smart woman will unconsciously inspire her surroundings. Now imagine hundreds of thousands of these women, women with hundreds of books in their hearts, imagine what these women can do to their intellectual surroundings. Just imagine that.

Look, Gang. Eventually, it doesn’t matter how many inches of heels a woman wears, true elevation comes from what she has read. And you can take that to the bank.

So, I say more bananas to our little girls.

[Photo credit: Getty Images]

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  1. Don’t I envy that little girl…make sure she reads Mill’s and boon’s at teenage.
    great read Biko and hilarious.

  2. Finally! a post on fatherhood.
    But NO, you should date a girl who reads http://www.goodreads.com/quotes/437516-you-should-date-a-girl-who-reads-date-a-girl

  3. nice piece, it was sweet when you were sulking about the kiss and declining ‘i love you’ take it easy biko

  4. Nice piece as usual. You dearly love and are over protective of your daughter. Its time she gets a sibling, just saying.

    1. It would be a mighty coincidence if you’re the same Nyar Murang’a I hear daily on some breakfast show on radio.

      Is it you?

    2. On the contrary, I am not the lady you are talking about, but am a product of Murang’a county, the land of jiggers.

  5. Awesome read Biko! i can totally relate..my 5 yr old reads alot of her own things too, seriously. but its quite funny. More bananas i agree:-)

  6. Golden piece and am excited for obvious reason–I love reading very much. I believe there is nothing like a good book, and got so excited at the point you make a submission about “girls should read…”

    1. I really don’t mean to offend you but i genuinely read your name incorrectly at first glance. Then i re-read it… N now i appreciate the very banana that bikozulu sees as a threat to his daughter’s reading skills. This was a nice read… Coincidentally on women’ day! Shout-out to girls who read!!

  7. I introduced mine to books pretty early – 14yrs later – that girl devours books and writes awesome compositions! Good job Biko – it pays off.

  8. Now, Biko, i envy your relationship with tamms despite the erratic kisses. Maybe i should put a campus girl in the family way, get a daughter, and shove literature down her throat. No airheads in my house, yawa. Anyway, Tamms will come around, don’t get a hernia over it. If you do, find a shrink.

  9. Hmmm. So my father borrowed from this school of thought all those years ago?! He started buying my sister and I books when we were about Tamms age. We turned out great…If I may say so myself. You are right, books are everything. Tamms is blessed. Ps. Love your fatherhood posts a whole lot.

  10. I’ve been an avid reader all my life and I’m not young, i’ve also taught my kids to read. My mantra is ‘don’t leave the house without a book!’ which means don’t sit staring at nothing in cars, office receptions or anywhere else – read instead.

    Great piece Biko. Keep her reading and let her infect her peers.

  11. My boy is 8 yrs, enjoy the moment while it lasts, I miss how my son used to read ambulance -ambulanse. They also tend to lose focus and read words that aren’t there.

    And babies don’t come from supermarket anymore, they come from the womb after a wedding.

    Now he says I embarrass him when I kiss him goodbye when he’s boarding school bus, he demands that I let him wait for school bus alone since Sandra does the same and Sandra is beautiful.

    1. Oh I so feel you! Mine tuns 8 in May. And I have been the mother initiating the ‘I love you’s’ and no hugging him in front of his friends.. he comes running to me when he is really excited. But a few times, he calmly walks to me… and i have to fight the urge to run… Sigh.

      And reading is precious. I ensure we carry books everywhere. Which means i also spend a lot on books for him. We read everywhere and during midterm and school holidays, its 10 pages per day. This year i should make them 20.

    2. And yes Biko, you were not hugged enough as a child.

      P.S – I do not want to sound alarmist but I would say, check what is happening with the little girl. Because something is. Don’t give up when she is monosyllabic. Use subtle cue questions – Ask her if she wants to change schools, move to another place or something. It’s not normal for a child to hold poop because of nervousness (or fear). Get to the bottom on it. Something is not right.

  12. When I become a father, I will come back to these posts to learn a thing or two on Fatherhood…

    P.S: all the best with BAKE 2014.


  13. Nice…but please learn some spelling (you meant fan, not fun; their, not there; and quiet, not quite)

  14. profoundly Uplifting…….soulfully passionate…..the future is brighter if we have more paps like Biko!

  15. Thank you Biko now i know who to blame for my predicament my one and only loving dad he never made me read books it’s no wonder i carry the series of housewives of Atlanta in my purse instead of books…sigh.

  16. This piece brought back sweet memories..I read books throughout my childhood & to this very date I believe a woman ain what she wears but what she knows….

  17. “…the girl who reads knows the importance of plot. She can trace out the demarcations of a prologue and the sharp ridges of a climax. She feels them in her skin. The girl who reads will be patient with an intermission and expedite a donouement. But of all things, the girl who reads knows most the ineluctable significance of an end…” this story is awesome Biko!thank u for the reference. Now i’ll go read all the books I can find:-)

  18. But again my man,too much book is bad for a woman.

    “And further, by these, my son, be admonished: of making many books there is no end; and much study is a weariness of the flesh.”

    1. Its not blasphemous for the laity to poach upon the preserves of the clergy man.Too much insight in there,i dare you!

  19. if you go on like this we’d all want to become fathers. you make it sound so good. best blog 2014!

  20. it doesn’t matter how many inches of heels a woman wears, true elevation comes from what she has read.- wonderful read!!

  21. Either way,I still think you were too hard on her just coz she inserted the word banana in her story. You should leave a little space for imagination, I think. Anyway,what do I know about raising a daughter…still,an enjoyable piece

  22. Proverbs 23:23 Buy the truth and do not sell it…. Get wisdom, discipline and understanding.

    Even God knows Books are to be bought, read and not given away.

  23. Oh BTW Biko, Tamms may like Kyle and that’s why she’s nervous….this happens to small kids too. Organize a play date with Kyle and see how she behaves around him.#amjustsaying….but then again what do I know?

  24. lovely piece…Biko,so soft n mushy but firm at the same time.the intended message settles in!
    reminds me of my dad when we were young,he would buy any reading material as long as you asked for it,he wanted us to cultivate a reading culture…he he ,he ensured each of us had 3 dictionaries,yes 3 !
    long live dads who care!!

  25. “There are plenty of little girls out there who appreciate beards”. …Errrr …. maybe you should rephrase that Biko.LOL

  26. I love. I love. By the way, the poop thing is real at that age. Why they hold it in, only God knows but keep encouraging her. Give her goody points or treats. The junk food makes it only worse, by the way. Enjoy those moments on your chest. Precious. Take loads of mental pictures for when she become a preteen.

  27. “…imagine what these women can do to their intellectual surroundings. Just imagine that.”

    And Imagine I will for the week and many days to come.

  28. When a man sits down with a real airhead of a woman, the man will always somehow step down to meet her at that mediocre level. But when you are the airhead and you sit down with this real sharp woman, the woman will rarely step down to meet you in your stupid hovel.

    i love this

  29. Biko. I love your writing. It is catching and ‘holding’ at the same time. I love how you developed the story and ended it with a final emphasis on the need to initiate a culture of reading amongst our young girls. Its impressive what you did here.
    PS: you must be a good father too.

    Email me sometime…loll. I mean I know your busy but hey, shoot this gal an email at [email protected] sometime when you get a chance. Im convinced that An email straight from you, about anything would feel like a getting a flight ticket straight to heaven.
    Take care,
    Faithful reader,

    St Louis city, USA.

  30. Eventually, it doesn’t matter how many inches of heels a woman wears, true elevation comes from what she has read.

    Am stirred!

  31. We need more little girls to read and in turn we have a society of readers. My son has started reading at age 5.Mind blowing as always

  32. haha Biko, Let Tamms grow, give her some space.
    And Nice piece, always capturing- i want to try and blog you out of that award, so jealous

  33. You never fail to amaze…I would read your blog even if its in the middle of the night.And yes,girls should read.I grew up with books all over,and thats exactly how I want my kids to grow up too.

  34. How is it i’m reading this three days later?? I heart this post Jackson,you impress me every single time! Ps. I’ve voted for you…a couple of times…

  35. Great read and very true indeed. I wiish more parents would emphasise the importance of reading not just to their girls but to the boys as well.

  36. wow…awesome read, im always looking forward to read from you, nimekubookmark, i dint know it was going to end with the girls reading bit…nice. its true…i have three baby girls n will try this

  37. i watched an interview by a writer who said that he began by changing people’s stories around to make them more interesting to himself. maybe that’s what saying banana instead of lovely is about, also a killer metaphor if you give it some slack

  38. Lemme simplify this for you. Those kids have a crush on each other, it’s too ealry but this is 21st Century. Hence Kyle harassing Tammy n Tammy getting constipation.

  39. My heart bleeds when I read this, single mum I am. Great read too. I am alomost inspired to write my version of this. Tried to get mine to read everynight, but between life and everything, we stopped, though we read over the weekend and I am now focused on teaching him simple skilss like washing his clothes, bathing, lighting the jikoand stuff.

    How did I miss this, did you twit this? I did not see it.

  40. I am still on this line, “The obvious reason – which I will disclose in another post – is too clichéd a reason to comprehend.”

    I’ll wait til the next post to see if any of the things that came to mind are accurate.

    I, particularly, enjoy the posts under “Fatherhood.” It is great to read about parenthood from the perspective of a father.

  41. absolutely hilarious… #cant stop laughing… and the part where you say “When a man sits down with a real airhead of a woman, the man will always somehow step down to meet her at that mediocre level. But when you are the airhead and you sit down with this real sharp woman, the woman will rarely step down to meet you in your stupid hovel….” Boy! i so Love!

  42. Nice to see you’re helping her start out early but pray do steer her in the right direction lest she turns into one of those who believe the Twilight saga and it’s ilk are the height of literary culture..

  43. I 100% support instilling the reading habit early. My dad did it for my sister and me when we were young though he was a lot sterner. We had to read a book a week – many were classics picked out by him. We had to underline new vocabulary in the books we read and we would discuss them afterwards followed by an exercise constructing sentences to ensure we understood how to use those words. I am grateful to date – I express myself really well in both spoken and written English and that is largely because of that practice.

  44. ……………You see the weird chick sniffing the pages of an old book in a second hand book shop? That’s the reader. They can never resist smelling the pages, especially when they are yellow…………..


  45. I totally agree Biko. There’s something different about girls who read. You can talk n talk n talk but not get bored with each other. Its exciting to engage them, thrilling. They are so attractive, but not in a way that u want to jump into bed with them at the earliest opportunity. Its not that you are in her friend zone, no. Such lingo is for those who don’t read. You both love n desire each others company, and its such a wonderful feeling.

  46. ‘It doesn’t matter how many inches of heels a woman wears, true elevation comes from what she has read’ ‘Teach her how to love books first before she can learn to love a lip-gloss’ Amazing!! I’ll start carrying mine in my purse

  47. I like that…’books turn a woman into a lady’ they surely did me, well after I stopped reading Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew… but this is not about me so, you’re doing a great job and she will grow up to be a lovely girl with you as her father.

  48. I really look forward to your Fatherhood posts. You never disappoint. I loved the imaginary showdown with the Teacher, hilarious! As for parenting as I’m sure you know, there is no formula, you just pray you’re getting it right.

  49. I live in Atlanta. I am loathe to carry a copy of the real housewives of Atlanta, even though its my guilty pleasure! Give me a book anyday and don’t mess with my library membership!! Great piece Biko, makes my routine drop-in to high school sweet!!!

  50. I make her read because girls should read. That’s the kind of girl I want to raise; a reader. A woman with a book is an empowered woman. Teach her how to love books first before she can learn to love a lip-gloss. Books bolster a woman. Books turn girls into ladies. And you don’t find many ladies around and when you do, you wont forget them quickly. Books arm women with confidence. A woman who reads will not shy from challenging an idea, a thought or an argument. Their opinions are not cowered or tamed. And this is what I think our little girls should amount to; ladies who have embraced books, ladies who constantly seek knowledge. That’s a solid woman.

    so true.

  51. Great one. I laughed all the way through to the last few paragraphs where the juicy advice (about women reading more) begins. Great start, great flow and great ending. I loved it!

  52. Great flow as always. Here’s the thing I have been debating with my pals. All those books on how the ‘Prince’ swooped and saved the ‘poor girl’ and so on? Should I banish them from my digs? Almost all of them have the same theme. I wonder if I want my 5yr old gal read and internalise that it’s okay being rescued, etc.

  53. Monsieur Biko, I think that it is time you referred to a previous post “The Parents Consortium” in reference to how kids adjust…:-)

  54. I came across your blog today as I perused the list of BAKE winners, I gatta say I totally love your writing style. Its hilarious and informative. I particularly love this piece for its empowering truth. Your daughter is very lucky!

    In retrospect I wish I read books written by local authors, telling stories that I could relate to culturally and socially. But I grew up reading Snow white and Cinderella stories. Stories that teach little girls – there will always be a man who will ride in on a horse to save your ass with a kiss or a sword. Stories that show images of white girls and women. And folks wonder why so many black women are bleaching their skin, why would they not when they grow up with white beauty ideals expressed in every medium imaginable. Hopefully, this will change some day, or it is too late!

  55. i came across this today after my boss told me she has a low opinion of people who read novels, thats because i never lack one with me, i am still appalled by her lack of knowledge.

  56. A late read on my side but this sentence rips from me laughter…
    “Clearly it has given her too much confidence she is seeing bananas.”
    It is hilarious how you effortlessly put words together and the network
    the words create!

    Big up Biko!!!
    Nice Read.