RIP Binyavanga Wainaina (1971-2019)

Prominent Kenyan author and LGBT icon Binyavanga Wainaina died on May 21 2019

22 May 2019 - 12:34 By Mila de Villiers
Kenyan author Binyavanga Wainaina during an interview with AFP in Nairobi on January 27 2014. Wainaina, who was an icon for gay rights across Africa, has died aged 48.
Kenyan author Binyavanga Wainaina during an interview with AFP in Nairobi on January 27 2014. Wainaina, who was an icon for gay rights across Africa, has died aged 48.
Image: Simon MAINA / AFP

Distinguished Kenyan author, journalist and LGBT activist Binyavanga Wainaina has died, aged 48.

Wainaina, named one of TIME's 100 Most Influential People in 2014, published his debut book, a memoir titled One Day I Will Write About This Place, in 2011, to critical acclaim

Prior to the publication of his memoir, Wainaina was announced as the winner of the 2002 Caine Prize for African Writing for his short story, Discovering Home.

Wainaina publicly outed himself in 2014 writing a short story, described by the scribe himself as a "lost chapter" of his memoir titled I am a Homosexual, Mum. This was followed by a tweet reading: "I am, for anybody confused or in doubt, a homosexual. Gay, and quite happy." This decision was spurred by an increase in anti-gay laws which permeated Africa at the time. 

How to Write About Africa, a satirical essay published in Granta magazine in 2006, remains one of Wainaina's most significant contributions to the global literary sphere.

The previous editor of BooksLIVE, Jennifer Malec, had the fortune to interview Wainaina when he visited Johannesburg in 2015, in which they discussed his book recommendations, pieces he was working on and why he disliked being referred to as the "the black Jonathan Franzen from Africa". Click here to read their conversation.

The tributes paid to this exceptional author and icon attest to the impact he had on African literature - and society - as a whole:


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