Dance of the Jakaranda
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About the Author
Peter Kimani is a leading African writer of his generation. Born in 1971 in Kenya, he started his career as a journalist and has published several works of fiction and poetry. He was one of only three international poets commissioned by National Public Radio to compose and present a poem to mark Barack Obama's inauguration in January 2009. Kimani earned his doctorate in Creative Writing and Literature from the University of Houston's Creative Writing Program in 2014, and is a faculty member at Aga Khan University's Graduate School of Media and Communications in Nairobi. Dance of the Jakaranda is his third novel.
"A multi-racial nation-building tale that begins during the construction of the railway from Mombasa to Nairobi. There are three men at its heart: two white, a British administrator known as 'Master' and an Anglican minister; one brown, an Indian technician who sires a male child, a birth that will reverberate down through the years."
"Kimani's novel has an impressive breadth and scope. His illustration of the construction of the railway from Mombasa to the hinterland of Kenya in the early 20th century follows three men--a British colonial administrator, a Christian preacher, and an Indian--whose lives have intersected in unexpected ways."
--Los Angeles Review of Books, "Reclaiming Africa's Stolen Histories Through Fiction"
"A fascinating part of Kenya's history, real and imagined, is revealed and reclaimed by one of its own."
--Minneapolis Star Tribune
"Transporting the reader through history, the book leaps to the 1960s with the taste of independence in the air. Our protagonist is now Rajan Salim, grandson of Babu. As the doors of the Jakaranda Hotel remain open, everywhere you turn there is a reminder that although the colonialists may be gone and the war may be over, the battle has just begun."
--African Arguments, included in list of Must-Read Books of 2018
"Dance of the Jakaranda, the new novel by Peter Kimani, is a layered and moving exploration of the history of Kenya, juxtaposing a story of conflict during the nation's colonial period with a narrative set in its early days of independence. It's a novel in which the central characters constantly surprise the readers, and Kiman's explorations of history encompass multiple sides of art and infrastructure."
--Vol. 1 Brooklyn
"Destined to become one of the greats...This is not hyperbole: it's a masterpiece."
"But the novel has way more strengths than I can describe here, including the beauty of lyrical narration that combines irony, flashback, humour, allusions and inter-textual references, all of which are expertly manipulated to give the reader a gem of a story populated by composite characters, a story that, though revisiting old themes and times, does so with the freshness that one would expect of established literary geniuses."
"The author has built here not only, on these pages, not only a railroad, but the singular triumph of a highly diverting novel. Besides weaving an excellent plot-line, he offers the reader a classic, understated writing style that haunts much of this book, turns it into a minor masterpiece."
--RALPH Magazine, Starred review
"Dance of the Jakaranda is colorful and ironic...A fascinating story told in an unforgettable voice."
--The Guardian (Trinidad & Tobago)
"Kimani is the first African novelist to use historical fiction to claim Indian diasporic history and political belonging as one that is unquestionably Kenyan...Kimani's most radical contribution in writing Dance of the Jakaranda has been his demonstration of how historians can recover this African South Asian identity. The constitutional recognition given to Indians fifty years after their deportation shifts popular discourse a hair's breadth away from the politics of indigeneity, giving the South Asian diasporic archive a small but significant opening to locate a thick, albeit contested, history of belonging in its Kenyan homeland--a history, as Kimani reminds us, that is replete with contradictions and rumor."
--American Historical Review
"Peter Kimani, an acclaimed writer and poet, has brilliantly constructed this novel's plot...[His] lyrical prose, such as portraying the train as 'a massive snakelike creature, ' and his breathtaking descriptions of 'God's country' bring the beauty of the land before our eyes."
--Historical Novels Review
"A rich tableau of layers and textures...The book has some brilliant moments of vivid and evocative writing."
"Through lyrical, seductive prose, Peter Kimani weaves an impressively intricate tapestry of events and characters that give much-needed names and faces to an important facet of Kenya's colonial history."
--Black Books Quotes
"A compelling story conveying a powerful social and cultural critique along with a marvelous portrait of the beauties and wonders of Kenya, all punctuated with tragedy."
--New York Journal of Books
"This very human face of a multi-racial developing country shines a light on not only our differences but our very basic similarities."
--Eyes on World Cultures
"An epic account of 20th century Kenya."
--Africa Is a Country
"In this clever and mesmerizing story, the author takes the reader on a journey to another time and place, where twists and turns provide a truly entertaining ride."
"Kimani steps into the minds and hearts of all his characters, regardless of the colour of their skin and decisions they have made, be they good or ill."
--A New Day
"I loved the storyteller's voice and the gradual unravelling of the secrets of past generations, which had long shadows that reached into the present and affected the young couple at the heart of the story. The historical matter is deftly woven in."
--The Girdle of Melian
"Dance of the Jakaranda is a rare gem: a new story, a new voice, a new way of seeing the world. This is what a brilliant novel looks like. Peter Kimani is a rare talent, an important new literary voice in Kenya, in Africa, and the world."
--Mat Johnson, author of Loving Day
"In this racially charged dance of power, the railroad into the interior of the country becomes a journey into the hearts of men and women. It is a dance of love and hate and mixed motives that drive human actions and alter the course of history. Kimani's writing has the clarity of analytic prose and the lyrical tenderness of poetry."
--Ngugi wa Thiong'o, author of Birth of a Dream Weaver