While his memoir was being called one of the best books about Africa ever, Binyavanga Wainaina felt there was something missing — the book left out his love life.
This year, he published what he called a “lost chapter” from that memoir, in which he imagines telling his mother before she dies that he is gay. In part, he writes:
Mum. I will say. Muum? I will say. It grooves so easy, a breath, a noise out of my mouth, mixed up with her breath, and she exhales. My heart gasps sharp and now my mind screams, sharp, so so hurt so so angry.
“I have never thrown my heart at you mum. You have never asked me to.”
Only my mind says. This. Not my mouth. But surely the jerk of my breath and heart, there next to hers, has been registered? Is she letting me in?
Nobody, nobody, ever in my life has heard this. Never, mum. I did not trust you, mum. And. I. Pulled air hard and balled it down into my navel, and let it out slow and firm, clean and without bumps out of my mouth, loud and clear over a shoulder, into her ear.
“I am a homosexual, mum.”
With those words, Wainaina became one of the few public figures in Africa to come out of the closet. And he did it at at time when violence against homosexuality is growing on the continent.
Wainaina speaks to Here & Now’s Robin Young from his home in the Kenyan capital of Nairobi.
Some pieces by Binyavanga Wainaina
- I am a homosexual, mum
- How to Write About Africa
- How not to write about Africa – a beginner’s guide
- An open letter to Madonna
- Binyavanga Wainaina, writer and journalist in Kenya. His published memoir is, “One Day I Will Write About This Place.” He tweets @BinyavangaW.