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Grace Ogot, Global African Diaspora Development Network (GADDN) special on African Literature

Grace Ogot, celebrated Kenyan writer of ethnic Luo origin, accomplished midwife, tutor, journalist and a BBC Overseas Service broadcaster and the first woman to publish a novel in East Africa and second in Africa after Nigeria`s Flora Nwapa.

Grace Emily Akinyi Ogot(born May 15, 1930) is a celebrated Kenyan writer of ethnic Luo origin credited for being the first African woman writer in English to be published with two short stories in 1962 and 1964. Ogot was not only an authorand the first woman to have fiction published by the East African Publishing House, but an accomplished midwife, tutor, journalist and a BBC Overseas Service broadcaster. Grace Ogot was a founding member of the Writers' Association of Kenya.

“When you are frightened, don’t sit still, keep on doing something. The act of doing will give you back your courage.”~ Grace Ogot

Ogot has also published three volumes of short stories, as well as a number of works in Dholuo. Her attitude towards language is similar to that of her fellow Kenyan, Ngugi wa Thiong'o's, but until recently her writing has not received the critical appraisal bestowed on Ngugi's writings. In 1975, Ogot worked as a Kenyan delegate to the general assembly of the United Nations. Subsequently, in 1976, she became a member of the Kenyan delegation to UNESCO. That year, she chaired and helped found the Writers' Association of Kenya. In 1983 she became one of only a handful of women to serve as a member of parliament and the only woman assistant minister in the cabinet of then President Daniel arap Moi.

As a woman known widely for her anthologized short stories and novels, Ogot`s first novel The Promised Land (1966) was published in the same year as Flora Nwapa's Efuru and deals with the subject of migration. Her stories—which appeared in European and African journals such as Black Orpheus and Transition and in collections such as Land Without Thunder (1968), The Other Woman (1976), and The Island of Tears (1980)—give an inside view of traditional Luo life and society and the conflict of traditional with colonial and modern cultures. Her novel The Promised Land (1966) tells of Luo pioneers in Tanzania and western Kenya.

Ogot’s family members shared her interest in politics. Her husband, served as head of Kenya Railways and also taught history at Kenyatta University. Her older sister, Rose Orondo, served on the Kisumu County Council for several terms, and her younger brother Robert Jalango was elected to Parliament in 1988, representing their family home in Asembo.


*Ber wat (1981) in Luo.

*The Graduate, Nairobi: Uzima Press, 1980.

*The Island of Tears (short stories), Nairobi: Uzima Press, 1980.

*Land Without Thunder; short stories, Nairobi: East African Publishing House, 1968.

*Miaha (in Luo), 1983; translated as The Strange Bride by Okoth Okombo (1989)

*The Other Woman: selected short stories, Nairobi: Transafrica, 1976.

*The Promised Land: a novel, Nairobi: East African Publishing House, 1966.

*The Strange Bride translated from Dholuo (originally published as Miaha, 1983) by Okoth Okombo, Nairobi: Heinemann Kenya, 1989.

Days of Grace Ogot as a woman of culture and letters

By Prof Chris Wanjala, Nairobi, January 6 2013

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