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ITHACA, N.Y. — Three post-colonial exiles in the 1990s are brought together by common histories of betrayal and violence in Cornell assistant professor Mukoma Wa Ngugi’s latest novel, “Mrs. Shaw.”
Two exiles living in the United States are readying to return to Kwatee, a small East African republic, after years under a dictatorship. Kalumba is a young graduate student who meets a retired professor, Mrs. Shaw, a former British settler who fled Kwatee’s political and social unrest.
Kalumba’s girlfriend also is an outcast from Puerto Rico, where her nationalist father remains in prison.
The tale is marked by what the three narrators have remembered or forgotten from their own histories. The young man and the old woman have much in common, but they have differing accounts of what happened in Kwatee.
The 200-page novel was adapted from Mukoma’s manuscript “The First and Second Books of Transition,” which was shortlisted for the Penguin Prize for African Writing in 2010. The book is published by the Ohio University Press in its Modern African Writing series.
Mukoma, assistant professor of English, joined the faculty in the College of Arts and Sciences in 2012 and is a co-director of the Global South Project, which links scholars and writers from Africa, Latin America and Asia with each other and with those in the West to foster a democratic and egalitarian global culture.
A prolific writer and scholar, he is the author of “Conversing with Africa: Politics of Change” (2003); a poetry collection, “Hurling Words at Consciousness” (2006); two works of crime fiction, “Nairobi Heat” (2007) and “Black Star Nairobi” (2013); and a forthcoming volume of poetry, “Logotherapy.”
His commentary has appeared in The Guardian, The International Herald Tribune, The Los Angeles Times, the Sunday Nation newspaper in Kenya and the BBC’s Focus on Africa magazine.