The sixteen short stories featured in this collection (published in 2010) come from various corners of Africa and beyond. Contributors include renowned authors like Rydah Jacobs (South Africa), Moses Isegawa (Uganda), Grace Ogot (Kenya), Sefi Atta (Nigeria), and many others.
The stories, some published before or appearing for the first time, cover captivating examples of challenges faced in our present society. The reader is bound to go through a rollercoaster of emotions as the themes of the stories have a wide range: from corruption and corrupt regimes to fear or guilt and how they can cripple an individuals’ thinking; from a mother’s concern for her children to sickness and the stigma that comes with it; and from the different cultural diversities to the cruelty of most political regimes in Africa. But there are also some positive themes and stories that tell of hope and renewed dreams that come when the sun goes down.
When The Sun Goes Down, the story on which the book title is based, is written by Goro wa Kamau. It is a story about HIV/AIDS and the stigma that still comes with it in most societies. Steve is an established businessman who has moved from a struggling open air mechanic with hardly any friends to a successful entrepreneur with crowds of friends. But Kanja has been his friend since childhood. Steve’s life has been one long struggle full of drudgery but when he meets Maureen; she lights the sun in his life. Maureen is widow and she refuses to marry him saying she has a lot of baggage from her past. They remain friends but before long, have a child together. Then Maureen discovers she has the HIV virus, Steve too and before long the whole village is talking about them, the friends disappear; only Kanja sticks around. Steve is grateful he still has a friend:
“…………when you are suffering from AIDS, one good friend is all you need to make life less suffocating. A person is only a person through other persons.”
It is obvious that Kanja only sticks around to confirm the rumors and Maureen breaks down when she learns that to be smiled at is not to be loved. Steve’s love, courage and support for Maureen endear him to the reader but the stigma they face is upsetting.
I enjoyed the collection and would especially recommend it for younger readers. Each story has a short bio about the author and some questions to think about and appreciate the lesson behind each story. It features beautiful illustrations too.