Celebrating East African Writing!

A letter from Michela Wrong – It’s our Time to Eat.

I gather a PDF file of my book is now available on a Kenyan website, so I thought I better make my position on this clear.

 Just so there is no confusion: this is a bootleg copy. When I was putting feelers out to the Kenyan media over a possible newspaper serialisation, I entrusted a copy to several individuals in Nairobi on the strict understanding it would go no further. My trust was clearly betrayed. So it’s an illegal pirate version (I can’t vouch for its contents even being same as the book, by the way, it may well be an early version deposited before a final edit was done at Christmas) — and anyone passing it along is also doing something illegal.

 I understand why people are doing this. I’m incredibly pleased there’s so much Kenyan interest in the book, and I also quite understand the huge exasperation people feel at not being able to get their hands on the book immediately because booksellers are hesitating to stock it. As PEN says, it should surely be every Kenyan’s right to read what they damn well please, whether they end up agreeing with it or not. This is is just another form of censorship, with worried booksellers doing the government’s job for it. However, if my book keeps circulating in this form in Nairobi, it has damaging implications not just for me but for any author who wants to write about Kenya in future. They will struggle to find a publisher willing to put money behind them, as Kenya will have won a reputation as a country where books get stolen, not sold, and copyright law has no meaning.

So please have a heart and don’t pass it around like this. If you control the website(s) concerned, please take the PDF file down. This “it’s impossible to buy” business is, in fact, exaggerated. The book CAN be easily bought, off Going down that route doesn’t take that long, it’s perfectly legal and yes, the copies are arriving in people’s PO Boxes without any problem. I have the facebook messages from satisfied customers in Nairobi to prove it. I’m also encouraging   acquaintances who travel to Nairobi regularly to go in carrying a couple of copies of the book. I bet most of you have these kind of connections too, given the size of the Kenyan diaspora, and could do likewise.

Personally, I wouldn’t want to read the book on a computer screen. And if people are going to go to the lengths of downloading the PDF onto a memory stick, taking it to a photocopying centre and laboriously having all 339 pages printed out, I would have thought they might just as well order the thing off Amazon and wait for a week.


12 comments on “A letter from Michela Wrong – It’s our Time to Eat.

  1. Marvin K. Tumbo
    March 15, 2009

    This book is a collector’s item. Downloading it is not doing justice to the author, the book itself and the message that the book tries to pass across to Kenyans.

    I do not have the book yet, but I am patiently waiting to buy mine. You should too. In the same way that messages are usually lost in translation, the lessons of this book will be lost in piracy and bootleg copies.


    Marvin Tumbo


  2. Doreen Baingana
    March 17, 2009

    How tragically ironic that a book about corruption should get stolen and passed around illegally! One wonders if it is the corrupt who are dieing to get their hands on a copy to see if they are inside. Perhaps the only way they know of to get a hold of it is the usual: theft.
    This is no way to fight censorship; it punishes the author, the publisher and aspiring writers. Go back to your bookstore and insist you need the book. What if enough of us do this? What can we do to stop our government’s pressure on bookstores?


  3. Alfred T. Kisubi
    March 19, 2009

    Sorry to hear about this latest episode of copyright infringement, which ironically involves a book on corruption. Like Githongo I too witness graft looking for a job in Nairobi in the early 1980s, when Moi was President. I even documented it in a poem which ironically appeared in the KANU paper “Kenya Times”, as the “best poem of the month’. Later it was published by BkMk Press in “Time Winds”. Here it is:


    I go from office to officeand back
    Giving up.

    Beginning again
    The next day –
    Only to learn
    Their office has refused
    No body knows why.
    As usual!

    I move furiously
    Up and down potholes
    From a police stationI hear a man screaming;
    They are beating him;
    I wonder if he knows why

    The next day I spend 12 hours
    And digging my way through life
    Their office has refused:
    Everybody says, Chai!
    But, nobody knows why.
    As usual!


  4. Clifford Oluoch
    March 19, 2009

    Any writer’s nightmare! The curse of technology and computers, but I still insist that nothing beats the feel of a book in your hands. Buy the books, after all we spend so much money on other useless things.



  5. Peterson
    March 20, 2009

    its too bad intellectual theft is still a criminal offence


  6. Dickson MIgiro
    March 25, 2009

    A Kenyan solution to a Kenyan problem. I have seen said PDF copy but as most Kenyans struggle with screen literacy, I think they will be reaching for the hard copy pretty soon. d


  7. David Wanjohi Kiruga
    June 8, 2009

    The book must be the answer to the Kenyan people’s thirst to know how the big, fat cats are eating the taxeswhile the common man dies in hunger state. A recommendation for all those who love Kenya. Let the truth be exposed and no other way as Michela Wrong puts it. Cant wait to have mine.


  8. Burjeson
    June 10, 2009

    I get sick when i think of the low level corruption has taken our society…I wish every Kenyan could buy it legally from the stores and read it..then we know why our foolish tribal tendencies to vote in recycled so called leaders will never help this country. We must rise above our petty ethnic instincts and get modern and allow this country to prosper..!


    June 27, 2009

    It is amazing but not surprising that some people are poaching on intellectual property to make money where they have invested no personal efforts. This is a strange Kenyan culture which is prominently encouraged by our so-called shameless political leaders, bureaucrats, administrators, and technocrats.

    It is the greed, arrogance and impunity that our leaders lead in showing an example that those who are poaching on Michela Wrong’s book ”Its Our Turn to Eat” I feel must be talking about.

    If we really want real changes in the way we are governed, the law is applied equally to all citizens,the national cake is equitably distributed, and if we really want to have a country where there is no extra-judicial killings, then good people, we must order this book directly from although I have tried to do so in vain myself. But I shall continue trying.

    It may be surprising to know that with the history of corruption and impunity in Kenya,I would not be taken aback if we were to be told that it is the same booksellers who have organized the electronic copies of the book in order to make quick easy money.

    I will do everything to get the real thing even if I have to travel to a third country to get a copy. On the other hand if we could be provided with the bank name, account and cost then I would not hesitate replace my order again. I need to read the real thing.


  10. njeri ngeru
    January 7, 2010

    It is such a pity to know that there are people reaping where they have never sowed. The book is very useful and it has opened up my eyes concerning corruption in Kenya. I first borrowed it from a friend but now I have sent my boyfriend to buy it in Europe so that we can own it. It is such a breathtaking story of a country that is suffering from a very daedly disease.CORRUPTION.

    The book that I had was having a price tag of a very affordable price. I urge people to tell people to buy the book and stop this corruption. It is just sick or should I say Psychotic.

    Njeri Ngeru


  11. whatktdoes
    March 18, 2010

    I myself have bought a copy of “It’s our turn to eat” and am immensely enjoying reading it. However I do not agree with the premise that downloading illegal books is necessarily bad for the author. If anything it makes it circulate more widely and entices people to buy it more (anyone who loves books will always prefer to have the real thing but by having digital copies available it ensures more people get to read it).
    For more on this subject please refer to the writings of Cory Doctorow.

    Katy Fentress


  12. Bonney Akusu
    June 25, 2011

    I just bought a copy last 2weeks though now i have gone through it all!!!!!!!!!!!!,it’s a big shame to realise that corruption is stuck there above and no signs of ending it unless we all become john githongoing,all what i can urge fellow kenyan’s is to get a copy of their own and get to know whats happening in there home land,”tribalism being the major factor”,i wonder instead of preaching brotherhood there are preaching house of”mumbi”……


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