Books and Things

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Gang,
Next week Tuesday is our closing day here.

This means we are slowing down this slowjam. Like really slowing it down. But first let me tell you something about writing a book. But first first, let me tell you what happened a couple of months ago in this Whatsapp Group I am in.

In every Whatsapp Group there is always someone who doesn’t sleep. No matter what time you go on Whatsapp they will always be awake. Send them a message and suddenly they are online. And typing. And they don’t stop typing and sending messages even when it’s obvious that you fell asleep and are no longer online. These are mostly people who are deeply troubled by order and seasons and time. They are very reflective but also very annoying because they spend so much time consuming debrisonline they imagine they have reached the zenith of their knowledge. And you can’t tell them shit. You can come two of you with references but they will never take shit from you. They know what they know and they know more than you. Insomnia does that to some.

Anyway, this one time they sent me a book on Whatsapp. It was a PDF book. We had been chatting about sombre literature, sad stories and I said I’d rather read a sad story than a happy story anyday and they had said I had – I repeat – psychological issues – and I had gotten defensive as one should be confronted with a big word like ‘psychological.” These people work as nurse assistants in a gynaecologist’s office. How did I meet someone who works in a gynae’s office when I don’t have the natural orifice for that? I had gone to interview this gynae and we struck a conversation about the painting in the office in the silliest of ways. It was a portrait of a little doe-eyed girl with pink cheeks and I said, “When I was a child I would always look at the eyes in a painting like this and was sure they were looking at me, even when I moved. They still kept looking at me.”

She popped her head up from the reception counter where she was sitting in for the receptionist who had run off to buy fruits or new eyeliner and said, “I’m sorry, are you talking to me?”

I said, “No, I’m addressing the gathering in this room.”

There was nobody else in the room, just me and her and the girl on the wall. And a Money Plant.

“I thought you were on the phone.”

I said, “Did that happen to you as a child? Look at a portrait and imagine they were staring at you and only you?”

She said, “Yes, I think it happened to a lot of people. It’s the mind of a child.”

“I have never gotten over that. I still think the portraits look at me. Means I’m still a child inside, no?”

She laughed and said nothing because sometimes you don’t have to endorse idleness with a comment. I went in, did my interview and when I came out she said, “Are you the same guy who writes?” Sometimes it takes someone long to figure out that Jackson Biko and Bikozulu are the same people. One lives online, the other lives in the flesh. Some think Zulu is my name. Some write it as Biko Zulu; two words. Those are the ones I want to push down a staircase. Anyway, that’s how we became acquaintances and then friends. She likes books and that’s how we got talking about John Boyne’s book called The Boy In Striped Pyjamas which I hadn’t read but had watched and it was utterly devastating and powerful. Now her argument was that as a writer I needed to have read the book, not watched it. And I agreed with that argument but I reiterate that I ran into the movie before I knew of the book and she had said that then I should have made a point of reading the book after the movie. I said, I’m human, not a robot. Which is something that felt right to say at that time.

Anyway, she said, “I will send you the book.” I thought she would send a rider with the book, instead she sent a PDF copy of the book on Whatsapp and that right that is the bee on my bonnet; when people share PDF copies of books. Apart from being cheap it robs the writer of their hard earned sweat. It’s a terribly unbecoming behaviour. I think that’s the word I used; unbecoming. She didn’t see anything wrong with it.

“What if I don’t have money to buy the book?”

“But you do!” I cried.

“How do you know?”

“It’s what, 800 bob? You mean to tell me you don’t have 800 bob?”

“How do you know my finances?”

“I don’t. But I know you can afford 800 bob. You work for a gynae!”

“So I must make money.”

“You have 800 bob, just buy books, don’t rob writers.”

“It was shared [the book], so I’m just sharing it too.”

“Yes, the person ahead of you skipped the red light, so you just skip it as well, right? You have no choice at all in this matter.”

Anyway, she didn’t see what that hullabaloo is all about.

But I do. Writing a book is a task. Hell, writing a small feature from your head is gruesome. OK, maybe gruesome is dramatic but yes, it’s tasking.

Florence Bett wrote a book.

Bett is the lady who I ran the writing masterclass with for years. Before that she had a job as an auditor at PWC but then realised she loved writing more than auditing but then what do you do at a crossroad like this? Who quits an auditing job for writing, for the unknown? Bett did. Cashed in her chips and joined the rest in the trenches to, you know, make her bones. It isn’t easy, that road is littered with the bones of romantics. People who were chewed and spat by the roadside by the insatiable beast of writing who demands and demands and you have to keep giving because love dictates that.

Five years later, she wrote a book about finance because you write what you know. Or what you love. The book was titled SHOULD I? Your questions about Money. Questions like: Should I buy a car when I don’t have land? What should I know before joining Sacco? Should a rookie like me put money in shares? Why am I so insecure when I don’t have enough money? How am I always broke before my next payday? Should I borrow money from my woman?’ It’s a book for men and women in their 20s and 30s; “Young and hungry. Those making their own money from their jobs and/ or businesses.”

Money isn’t a sexy topic but she writes it in a sexy way; with cheek and wit. It’s easy to read. There are commonly asked questions then there is her answer. It’s light and bright and she seemed to have more fun writing it than is allowed. But then someone said that publishing is writing giving birth, it can either go two ways; you might say never again and close that chapter. Or you might go back to the delivery room again pretty soon.

Bett went down the road a second time with yet another book. This one is titled HOW MUCH? The life of your money.

At the risk of hyperbole, this is a great book to lap under your arms. Especially if you call yourself a ‘sapiosexual.’

You can get them Here or on their pages @_craftit.

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43 Comments
  1. “When I was a child I would always look at the eyes in a painting like this and was sure they were looking at me, even when I moved. They still kept looking at me.”
    I still see this to date.

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  2. My friends find some aspects of my life fascinating and they suggested I start writing about these escapeds so my grandchildren know I lived. I downloaded a diary App mbu to try and write chei! Stuff is hectic! Please pay for books and happy holidays

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  3. The girl from Kaplong? I’ve been looking for that book for sometime now. I read about her on Himiza Afrika.. Nice to finally have a link to it.
    Next week we all come with snacks and our report books for closing day?
    Mark Alphy nafunga na wewe..

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  4. I almost asked myself why Bett had to resign from PwC to write instead of writing while she works, but then I remembered: I was working on my first book when i was tarmarcking these Nairobi streets of yours. Then I got a job (the first month they paid me 18K and off I went to Mombatha to see many waters for the first time, ndacokire itari oo na ki!). Anyways, that book remains as it was 7 years ago, only that I lost it after a small but amicable discussion with some boys in Githurai at night nikitoka night shift. I think I will look for HOW MUCH once I am done with Njaga the Town Monkey which I am currently reading.

    Merry Christmas team. Off to Kastoria for the holidays. Just kidding.

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  5. As I read through, I got excited because I thought to myself, finally. ‘Another one!’ (Dj Khaled’s voice). Disappointed.
    Give us another read Biko. Even if you call it ‘Mondays,’ it’s alright.
    But thanks for the recommendation – I fall within that age bracket so I’ll get the first one to pick Bett’s brains a bit.
    I agree though, pirated books fly off the shelf faster than the legitimate copies. It’s unfair why lie. Support authors wadau.
    But I think Kenyan authors should also publish more online versions – epub and the likes. Ata wewe Biko. It’s such a hassle getting a legitimate soft copy edition to be honest.

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  6. Reminds me that I was in form 1 when I decided I was writing a book for the first time. I lost the manuscript when I was about 50 pages in.
    I have harboured the thoughts of making the leap and I think 2023 is the year I finally write, and hopefully, publish.
    I agree, let’s all buy genuine books as writing one may take an incubation period of 15 years plus, like my case.

  7. Ooh no it’s closing day yet again. Time waits for no king . Thankyou Biko for bearing the pains every other week. Or should I call them cramps

  8. I have read ‘Should I’ and will definitely buy Bett’s second book. Sure, writing is not easy and we should not rob writers. So many Kenyan writers are writing Kenyan stories that clearly resonate with us, Let’s support them

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  9. Biko Zulu has to be better than Bazokizo… which what my hubby thinks your name is . When he finds me reading and wants to sound clever and engaged, he says, “oh, you’re reading Bazokizo?”. I say yes, and smile. Explaining will steal time from my story. And what good is it anyway, he will never remember!

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  10. Yes, the person ahead of you skipped the red light, so you just skip it as well, right? … just buy books, don’t rob writers.

    As usual, this is such a good read Biko. Perhaps you could include where we can get this book. I’m interested.

  11. I belonged to a bookclub. It irked me when people shared PDF copies or recommended vendors who sell pirated copies. Why people can’t see this is theft beats me. And then we talk about corrupt institutions‍♀️.

  12. Interesting stuff. However, highly acclaimed international best sellers have been authored by people still plying their professions. Doctors, lawyers et al.
    I feel Bett should’ve found a balance between her profession and writing.
    Writing is a labour of love which doesn’t pay unless you’re extremely lucky the first time. Like winning the lottery.

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    1. That’s quite true, Gitura. Quite true. For me, though, nailing that balance was so elusive that eight years into my writing, I stopped seeking it altogether. Going in 150 per cent was the only way to turn the hobby into a career.

      Happy Holidays! I hope you get a chance to read my work, Gitura.

  13. Great piece. Let’s promote our writers and pay for the books. The second time I heard the term sapiosexual. The first time someone told me am one and I felt stupid since I had no clue what it meant. After the conversation I rushed to google and checked and there it was complete with examples. Not sure if am really one…
    Well done. Your writing always inspires me.
    Should just call you Jack instead of having to remember the difficult one!

  14. There was a time I was so sure I can write a book and I even indulged in it while in high school..but like you said writing a book is a task but I prefer saying it’s gruesome

  15. “Some write it as Biko Zulu; two words. Those are the ones I want to push down a staircase.”…
    I belong to that category right there☝️.

  16. I love this. I was looking for a Young Adult novel the other day. But I was specifically looking for Kenyan authors. Or Afrcian. It broke my heart to realize that most Nairobi boookshops cater to the expats or maybe im in the wrong bookshops(its a major one). I could only find the Harry Potters and such and they told me thats what the youngins read. But is it really? Or is it that as a society plus bookshops, we have not exposed them to African writers? Or is it that African writers dont really write ie are not as many and dont explore as many topics? Because i remember back in our day and pacesetters were a dime a dozen. We loved african books!!! Plus the african adult books i have found in bookshops have been a bit sad in terms of content. Most are from black authors from the US, delving into content i cant relate to. The remaining ones by actual african authors seem a bit dark in terms of covering a lot of suffering. Is it just me? I crave an escapist novel by african authors. At the same time, i appreciate any recommendation of african authors.

    A review of African books every once a year would be nice.

    I will definitely be buying the book you have recommended my way.

    If anyone has recommendations of any african books i should read, please shoot. Thanks.