I caught up with Yvonne Adhiambo Owuor shortly after the pre-release of her first full-length novel, Dust. Over a pasta lunch, we discussed Kenya’s 50th anniversary of independence and the lessons Death can teach us.
“Traveller, seeker, arts event developer, Indian Ocean lover and writer” is how Yvonne describes herself. I’d say the writing aspect has definitely taken precedence lately over everything else.
She won the Caine Prize for African Writing (2003) for her short story Weight of Whispers. Her other short stories include Dressing the Dirge, The State of Tides, and The Knife Grinder’s Tale (which was made into a film of the same name).
Her debut novel, Dust, has been published in Nairobi by Kwani Trust (December 2013) and in New York (Knopf, 2014). When I asked her what inspired her to write it, she said, “It’s about the unspoken stories in the silences.” Specifically, she was referring to all the stories that Kenyans don’t want to confront but need to in order to truly find peace.
While the story first tickled her mind in 2005, it was only after the post-election violence in early 2008 that she was motivated to work more industriously on it. And the result is marvelous. Listen to the interview to hear the opening scene: it will leave you wanting more, which you can get on Amazon.