She goes by the sobriquet 'the contemporary nomad'. A trained microbiologist who turned into a full-time writer and author of several books, Munira Hussein's story is 'a swim against the current' to pursue individual aspirations. Her real-life experiences— the culture, religion, and beliefs of the environment she grew up in inspire her writing to a large extent.
Her journey through life— one that slaloms through growing up in Marsabit to joining campus in Nairobi to becoming the exigent writer she is today, is nothing short of an inspiration.
Munira Hussein is our author of the month. The Positively African Book Club will have a discourse around her journey, and her anthology titled Unfit For Society. Lesalon Kasaine had a quick chat with her. Here's the conversation; a little introduction into Munira's life as we edge closer to our monthly Book Club meeting.
Who is Munira?
She is just as she is. A writer. A friend. A sister. A reader. A drinker. A traveller. She is every title that she can take on in this lifetime.
What's Unfit For Society about?
Unfit for Society is a collection of short stories that revolve around the community in which I grew up. They factor in the culture, the religion, the beliefs, and a breakdown of how these well-integrated concepts may affect individuals.
Do you consider yourself unfit for society? If yes, how/why?
I used to think of myself as unfit for society but lately, it's been different. I believe that I am what I am and there is no way that can be wrong, especially because it does not affect anyone or anything negatively.
What was your childhood like?
It was beautiful to a large extent. Busy too. Going to school, herding goats, milking them in the evenings, invading neighbours' farms and stealing mangoes and oranges, getting beaten thoroughly for it, getting too playful and letting the goats into people's farms, receiving the consequences with a forgetful mind...you know, normal stuff.
Do you think society can impede an individual's growth because of the expectations they have on them?
Society can do that. But every individual makes up society. While there are certain expectations, I think every individual ought to assess what is important to them and live it in a way that the said society accepts that truth. Society does come around eventually.
Challenges of growing up in the environment you grew up in?
I didn't have a lot of opportunities and exposure. We are a very conservative community, tribal to a large extent, and all that shapes how I should think and be. If I hadn't revisited some of the beliefs I held, I would probably not be here. I am grateful though, that the setting gave me education.
How was the reception of your book, Unfit For Society?
I'll start with back at home. It was fascinating for the community because it was a novel thing. My community was so curious and impressed and it made me very proud. I'll sum up its reception in Nairobi, in Douglas Logedi's words, "too authentic to ignore."
Tell me about other books you've authored?
I have co-authored Through the Journey of Hope, a poetry anthology by the Writers Guild Kenya. It was my debut. When a Stranger Called is an anthology of short stories that 13 Kenyan authors created. I have done some school books for Grades 1,2 and 3, and a poetry anthology, Pace in Poetry by the Booklyst Press.
You write both prose (fiction) and poetry. Which do you love more?
I can't choose. Not just because I write both but because reading both genres gives me distinct experiences.
Your writing process? Consistent/organized or do you write out of a spontaneous burst of creativity?
Mostly spontaneous bursts of creativity but they are recurrent in a way that makes it feel consistent. Does that make sense?
Yes. How was the process of publishing for you?
With my first book, I made several errors especially in regards to the design but I had support from Writers Guild Kenya that made it manageable.
What else do you do to keep body and soul together?
I am more or less a full-time writer but then I am also an editor. All of those things keep me together, of course, plus whiskey and coffee.
Your elevator pitch on why someone should read Unfit for Society?
You'll probably read nothing like it anywhere. There aren't too many people writing about Marsabit the way I do.
Any true/real experiences that inspired your writing?
Growing up in Marsabit, I believed that there was only so much I could do. When I realized that all the limits were a facade, I was hellbent on not having them.
Any other book you are working on?
I am working on a collection of short stories. I have been working on it for over a year now. There's also some poetry and a full-length novel in store. The future is hopeful.
Last book you read. Which one, and how did you like it?
The last book I read was The Great Gatsby. It had me thinking of all the ways that story could have gone differently to give me the ending I desired.
Reading. Travelling. Listening to music.
The Positively African Book Club will be discussing Unfit For Society, on the 27th of October, 2021, at The Chat Room, Kilimani.
Copies of the book are available for purchase at The Writers Guild Bookstore, our partners. They are located at Hazina Towers, Nairobi, Ground Floor, Suite 2A. For inquiries or deliveries, reach them via 0748055879.
Copies will also be available for sale at the book club. To book your slot, contact: 0743-235997 or 0748-055879