A richly detailed picture of the challenges and hardships confronting indigenous village peoples in contemporary Kenya.
Hanny Lightfoot-Klein, author, Prisoners of Ritual; Children's Genitals Under the Knife; The Doctor and the Poet Steeped in wisdom and conflict, these pages tell a poignant, vivid tale of Kenyan sisters who struggle for a brighter future against the bonds of cultural traditions and sacrifices. The author writes with a calm authority, her prose richly detailing the setting and its people. Kirsten Johnson is a remarkable new voice writing in the tradition of authors such as Chitra Divakaruni and Alexis D. Pate.
Christine DeSmet, author, faculty associate and director, Writers' Institute, University of Wisconsin-Madison Kirsten Johnson's first novel, Footsteps, opens the door to life in a traditional, east Kenyan village. Johnson creates deep layers of authenticity, describing faces in firelight, capturing village customs and dialogue, and introducing us to fascinating words in the native languages of Swahili and Kitharaka. One wonders how on earth she came so close to the intricacies of the circumcision ceremonies of young teen boys and girls. She writes with great sensitivity to the feelings of those circumcised, as well as the often conflicting perspectives of the adults surrounding them. With all the shrill debate and despair over female genital mutilation and Africa's HIV/AIDS rates, it is a relief to read about young girls' actual experiences, their anxieties, pain and even triumph, as they create new paths, leading away from those of their brothers, fathers and lovers..
Madeline Uraneck, Teacher trainer, Lesotho College of Education and returned Peace Corps volunteer, southern Africa When you read Footsteps, you can almost smell the smoke of the cooking fires, hear the rhythm of African song and see the red clay of the footpaths around Kanini's village. In short, Kirsten Johnson has made the Kenyan bush come alive!
Ms. Johnson's characters are Kenyans struggling to make sense of the changes taking place all around them. The protagonist, Kanini, faces challenges all her life - physical challenges, for sure, but more importantly, challenges to her beliefs and upbringing. Tradition has given a number of people the power to control her life, and they do ... forcing her to set aside her hopes and dreams. But somehow she survives and, in a sense, prevails over these setbacks and disappointments.
Kanini's experience can help Americans better understand why Africa continues to struggle. But in the shadows of this struggle, we also find seeds of hope in the form of Kanini's sister, Gatiria, and a new generation that is ready to lead the people forward.
Mark Green, Director, MalariaNoMore Policy Center, Ambassador to Tanzania, 2007-08, Member of Congress, 1998-2006