Stanley Gazemba’s Forbidden Fruit has taken a journey to the United States with The Mantle publishers. The book first emerged in 2003 as The Stone Hills of Maragoli.
In 2003, a book was written by Kenyan writer Stanley Gazemba titled The Stone Hills of Maragoli which really excited its literary community. This was one of the few books tackling the life in rural Kenya and would go on to win the Jomo Kenyatta Literary Prize for the year. It doesn’t get as prestigious as that Jomo Kenyatta Prize.
The writer went on to write other books like Callused Hands which we rather enjoyed and Khama which was also well received.
In spite of getting his name out there in the writing world, his first book has always had such a colourful story. Its first publisher was a larger than life character who quietly left the city and no one knows where he went to. His second publisher was Kwani Trust which is famous for identifying amazing writers but not so famous on managing them by paying royalties and other mundane minutiae.
It seems that the Stone Hills has taken a new identity as it travels to the “land of the free.” Gazemba who secured The Mantle as the publisher states that the book had to get a name change because many US readers have never heard of Maragoli.
The book cover was designed by the famous Kenyan artist Michael Soi. Even with the new cover and name, it’s still at heart the same book if the following blurb is any indication;
“Desperate to make ends meet, Ombima commits a “harmless” crime. When he tries to conceal his misdeed, the simple farm laborer becomes a reluctant participant in a sinister affair. If discovered, the consequences could be disastrous for Ombima’s family, friends, and a spate of unwitting, gossipy villagers.
A delicious tale of greed, lust, and betrayal, Stanley Gazemba’s Forbidden Fruit is more than a dramatic tale of rural life in western Kenya. The moral slips and desperate cover-ups—sometimes sad, sometimes farcical—are the stories of time and place beyond the village of Maragoli. Gazemba’s novel, previously published in Kenya as The Stone Hills of Maragoli, won the prestigious Jomo Kenyatta Prize for Literature.”
If you are in the United States, I highly recommend that you pick up a copy of this book next time you are in the bookstore.