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Kenya's Literary Treasures: Micere Githae Mugo

Lady Speak

You cannot speak of African poetry, playwrights and authors and not mention Micere Githae Mugo. Micere has rightfully earned her position right next to Ngugi wa Thion’go and Chinua Achebe.

She is the fearless writer, poet and activist who has been hailed as the ‘Kenyan Literary Heroine’ and named one of the top most influential writers in Kenya.

Madeleine Micere Githae was born in Baricho, Kirinyaga in 1942. The third child among ten siblings and born to parents who were both teachers, Micere received a solid education. Her parents had hopes that their little daughter would become a doctor, but Micere had other plans for herself; to write.

While still a teenager, Micere began to pen poems paving her way to becoming a poet of great reputation. Micere went to Limuru Girl’s High School which was by then a whites-only all-girls school. Being the first African to enroll at the school, Micere refers to herself as a ‘human guinea pig’ for educational integration.

On clearing her high school education, Micere had already made up her mind about what she wanted to do. She joined Makerere University to study drama. She was so passionate about her studies and loved acting so much that she once won an award for best actress at the Uganda Drama Festival.

Micere was so good at her work that literary icon Chinua Achebe took notice of the young Kenyan girl and encouraged her to pursue her dreams.

After Makerere Micere then joined the University of New Brunswick and returned to teach at the University of Nairobi in 1973. During her tenure at the University of Nairobi, Micere teamed with Ngugi wa Thion’go to write the Trial of Dedan Kimathi which became her first work to be published outside Africa.

In 1980, Micere rose to the rank of associate professor. The activist in Micere landed her in trouble with the government of the day, often harassed and arrested for her activism.

During the 1982 attempted coup, Micere was stripped of her Kenyan citizenship and she and her two daughters were exiled to Zimbabwe which granted her citizenship and they eventually move to the United States where Micere found a teaching job at St Lawrence University in Canton, New York.

Eventually Micere landed a teaching job at Syracuse University as Professor of literature in the Department of African American Studies.

Micere is sister to Robinson Njeru Githae and Mrs Eunice Kiereini. Micere is divorced from her husband Dr Njuguna Mugo who she married in 1971. Mother of two daughters, one who died after a brave battle with ovarian cancer.

Micere, now retired from teaching at Syracuse, continues to write and give lectures in universities across the world.

Micere has accomplished what every writer hopes to accomplish with friends such as Wole Sonyika, Chinua Achebe and novelist James Baldwin, truly her life and career are exemplary and covetable for any upcoming writer.

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