The Mzungu Boy

by Meja Mwangi

Against the backdrop of the struggle for British-ruled Kenya’s struggle for... read more

Against the backdrop of the struggle for British-ruled Kenya’s struggle for independence in the 1950s is a story of an unlikely friendship between two boys, one black and one white. Kariuki’s strong bond to nature and his love for the land and landscape of his homeland help him endure a life that is often dismal. His family works for Bwana Ruin, a harsh white landowner. The pressures of their existence make his parents’ lives difficult in ways Kariuki doesn’t fully comprehend; what he does know is their anger when it is directed at him. When Bwana Ruin’s grandson, Nigel, arrives from Britain, Kariuki and the white boy hit it off. Among the others in Kariuki’s village, Nigel is known as mzungu boy , or westerner. Nigel’s sense of entitlement is not as entrenched as his grandfather’s, but his privilege makes him almost wholly oblivious to the fact that their friendship is dangerous for them both. When Nigel is kidnapped by the Mau Mau rebels, Kariuki helps free him, but the Kenyan boy pays an enormous price. Kenyan writer Meja Mwangi’s story ends on a hopeful note as it underscores that growth and change are possible, both for individuals and for a nation. (Ages 10–14)

© Cooperative Children's Book Center, Univ. of Wisconsin - Madison, 2006

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