BOOKS: Letters to and from mothers

Saturday January 25 2020

'Letters on Daughters and Mothers' by Susan Wakhungu-Githuku. PHOTO | COURTESY

'A Letter to my Mother from your Daughter' and 'A Letter to my Daughter from your Mother' by Susan Wakhungu-Githuku. PHOTO | COURTESY 

MARGARETTA WA GACHERU
By MARGARETTA WA GACHERU
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Susan Wakhungu-Githuku, renown for publishing the books Life Journeys, Wisdom of the Elders and Kenya: 50 Years Since Independence, is about to launch her 11th book—two books titled Letters on Mothers and Daughters. One book is A Letter to my Daughter from your Mother and the other is A Letter to my Mother from your Daughter.

Unlike most of her other books, these two are paperbacks.

“We have only published two other paperbacks,” Githuku says. “One was by Chef Eamon Mullan, the other by Jeff Koinange.”

Each of the books of Letters contains frank and intimate thoughts by about 40 women. Most of them are Kenyans, and others from elsewhere in Africa, Europe and the US.

She does not include a letter to her own mother, but says she was a wonderful, loving and selfless woman.

“I’m very thankful for my mother, but not all the women writers had glorious things to say about theirs’,” she adds. The same could be true of some mothers who didn’t necessarily have positive things to say about the daughters.

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“The point is these books are filled with vignettes that reflect facets of the most intimate relationships in their lives,” Githuku says, adding she does include an epilogue in which she describes and thanks her own mother, Grace. She emphasises that in Letters, it’s the mothers and daughters themselves that are the storytellers.

The book launch with be at Zen Garden in Nairobi on February 22.

Githuku is encyclopaedic when it comes to Kenyan heroes for she has written about many of them.

Long before she launched Footprints Publishers in 2010 with her book profiling the lives of 74 outstanding Kenyan women (Life Journeys: Seeking Destiny), Githuku was a human capital consultant, making it her business to motivate.

“I feel it has been my destiny to unleash human potential,” says the woman who at one point in her career was in charge of talent development for Coca Cola in Africa, Russia, Eastern Europe, India and the Middle East.

She later formed her first company, Human Performance Dynamics Africa.

“We were strategists on diversity and inclusion, running workshops everywhere from Beijing and Istanbul to Frankfurt, Dakar, Rabat and the US,” she recalls.

Love for writing

But since she started publishing books in 2010, she’s tapped into a new dimension of her background and education.

“My first degree is in Economics and Psychology, but I also studied journalism and have loved writing for the media,” Githuku says, recalling how she’s had bylines in The EastAfrican, Daily Nation and even Kenya Times.

“For Kenya Times, I wrote about sports,” she says. Githuku represented Kenya in several major tennis events, and was even nominated to the Kenya Olympic Team for the 1988 Seoul Games. She won gold and silver at the All Africa Games in 1978.

Currently, Githuku is in the process of publishing her latest book on Kenyan runners titled Going the Distance: The Greatest of Kenya’s Relentless Runners.

“It has taken me 10 years to produce this book since I wanted to accurately and comprehensively chronicle 60 years of Kenyan runners, from 1958 to 2019. Also, I had to find the best photographs of men like Kipchoge Keino and Ezekiel Kemboi.”

The other thing that Githuku has done is to come out with a smaller, more compact edition of her double-volume book Nairobi 5453 FT, which features Personal Musings and Photographic Slices, both in paperback.

“The main reasons I started Footprints were, first, for us as Kenyans and Africans to appreciate ourselves in all our beauty and intelligence. It was also to ignite conversations and stimulate discussions about who we are as amazing human beings,” Githuku said.