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Book Review: 'Long Walk to Freedom'

This is me in my den, holding Nelson Mandela's delightful autobiography Long Walk to Freedom. More about it in the story of mine below.


There are books I always look forward to reading once I begin devouring them. Books that leave me wishing I had the knowledge and writing prowess of their authors. Nelson Mandela's delightful memoir Long Walk to Freedom has been one of those books.

Well, I had always desired to read Mandela's autobiography ever since I was at the university in JKUAT in 2007. But it wasn't until two weeks ago that I managed to lay my hands on the book after I found it on sale at a bookshop in Nairobi. I hastily bought it, and wow! Once I began reading it, I could hardly put it down.

Mandela wrote the autobiography in a voice I can relate to. The kind of voice I have always yearned to possess in my writing. He starts by telling us about his childhood years in a village in South Africa. After his father died when he was nine, Mandela moved to a more sophisticated place where he was raised in the house of a regent who encouraged him to pursue a good education. So he was taken to school.

A born leader, Mandela was bestowed with leadership positions while in school. He also seems to have been a born troublemaker because at one point while at the university, he was expelled for failing to comply with regulations.

When he was expelled from the university, Mandela went back to the regent's house where he had been brought up after his father died. And you know what? He was greeted with news that the regent had arranged a woman for him to marry. Not one to fall into the vicious trap of an arranged marriage, Mandela ran away from the regent's home and travelled to the city of Johannesburg to begin a new life and carve a niche for himself there.

Life in Johannesburg was tough for Mandela. But through resilience in the face of difficulties and through the lasting friendships he formed in the city, he was able to wither the storms. He finished his university degree while working in Johannesburg, and then established a lucrative law firm. He also married a woman he loved called Evelyn.

While in Johannesburg, Mandela started getting involved in the political struggle of his people against oppressive white rule in South Africa, even after someone advised him not to. That involvement in politics led him through many trials like divorce from his first wife. It also led him to hide from authorities. Eventually, he was found out by the authorities and arraigned in court where he was sentenced life imprisonment.

As it turned out, Mandela didn't spend all the remaining years of his life in jail. He was released in 1990 but after having spent more than two decades in prison - twenty seven and a half years to be precise. His many years in prison appear not to have been wasted because they earned him fame and honour all over the world.

From his autobiography, I was able to deduce the following traits that made Mandela a great man:
  1. Love for learning: Mandela was an avid reader even though he didn't enjoy the freedom to read whatever he desired for much of his life.

  2. Being diligent: Mandela was an early riser. He was such a hard-working lawyer and politician. At one time in the '90s, the then British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher advised him to slow down.

  3. Having courage: Mandela risked his life to fight for the rights of his fellow countrymen who were being oppressed by a prejudiced regime.

  4. Passion for physical exercises: Mandela enjoyed boxing, running and tennis. He believed that physical exercises are the key not only to good health but also to peace of mind.

  5. Love for people: Mandela loved people from all walks of life. He was especially fond of children.

  6. Having a forgiving attitude: Mandela forgave all those who imprisoned him. I have noted how, in the autobiography, he spoke so well of the two wives he divorced, which implies he was never a bitter man.

  7. Love for nature: Mandela took great pleasure in observing nature. In prison, he developed a hobby of gardening which brought a feeling of fulfilment to his soul.
For me, reading the autobiography has made me appreciate the freedoms I enjoy here in Kenya - freedoms such as being free from fear, writing stories about life, reading whatever I like and travelling where I want within the country. Mandela didn't enjoy those freedoms during much of his life. He wasn't even permitted to attend his mother's funeral.

All told, Nelson Mandela's Long Walk to Freedom is a gripping autobiography written in a series of short chapters that make it easier to read. I highly recommend it to anyone who craves to understand the genesis of greatness.

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RECOMMENDATION: If you've enjoyed this review of mine on Nelson Mandela's autobiography, you might also enjoy another review I wrote on Ben Carson's Think Big. Just click on that link in blue to dive straight into the story.

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Lifting Others Up

With permission, I have extracted this picture-quote from a website called Everyday Power. All rights reserved worldwide.


Today dawned bright and clear here in Kiserian. From my bed, I could hear the birds whistling as if celebrating the start of a new day. I could also hear Dad doing some errands in the house. As for me, I got out of bed at exactly 7.00am and went through my morning routine of saying the Lord's Prayer, stretching with rollers, making my bed, cleaning my room, showering and washing my clothes - all the while crooning some hymns whose lyrics I have memorized. I have discovered that crooning hymns while going through my morning routine makes the tasks seem easy to do.

After I was through with the morning routine, I assisted Dad wash dishes because I thought he has been doing too much work since our farmhand went away a week ago. And wow! By the time I finished doing the dishes, I felt some peace in my heart and some clarity in my mind.

Because of the pleasant feelings of peace and clarity I felt in the morning, I couldn't let today pass without me writing a story for this lovely blog of mine. But what shall I write about? I wondered.

While wondering on what to write about, I perused a diary where I jot down ideas. And in the diary, I came across notes I had written on lifting others up. I then resolved to write a story from those notes even though I sensed they wouldn't amount to a blog post of reasonable length.

Let's face it: this world is full of folks who put others down at every turn. I have observed that in social media as well as in my day-to-day interactions with people. Like you'll find a guy saying demeaning words to others in an attempt to vent their frustrations.

I have also observed such kind of behaviour in churches as well. For instance, there was a Sunday afternoon I dropped by a certain church in Nairobi to borrow a small Bible called Gideons that is distributed for free. I was feeling particularly moody and disturbed that Sunday afternoon; that's why I craved to get hold of a Bible and read several verses from the Book of Psalms.

When I entered into the church that very afternoon, I found several people lining up to be prayed for by a pastor. I, too, lined up with the intention of asking for a Bible when my turn to see the pastor reached. As I lined up, I saw from a distance that the people ahead of me in the line would fall down on the floor when the pastor touched them, as if they had been struck by lightning.

And you know what? While I patiently waited for my turn to see the pastor, some members of the church withdrew me from the line and began to interrogate me. When they asked me whether I was saved, I replied, "Sure, I have always tried to be. But I think that's a question whose answer only God can judge."

The interrogators weren't pleased with that reply I gave when they inquired from me whether I was saved. So they instructed me to leave the church, probably after realizing I wouldn't fall down when the pastor touched me, as I had seen others do. I did try to resist leaving the church but they forced me to go away with their stern words and disapproving facial expressions.

Instead of lifting me up and making my afternoon better, those interrogators put me down by chasing me away from their church. I find that ironical because I believe a church should be a place where sinners are embraced and inspired to be better people. Really and truly, this world is full of people who put others down.

I have also been guilty of putting others down. There was a time, for example, when I sent a text message in the morning to a director of a certain choir saying, "My trust and respect for you has been greatly diminished." But the good thing with me is that I have apologized on most times I have let a demeaning word out from of my mind.

While I admit some of the criticism we receive is well-intended and beneficial to our growth, I have to say that most often, those who put us down do so to escape their own insecurities. They want to feel that they are better than us. I therefore advise you not to let the negativity of others prevent you from being the best you can be.

Also, I beseech you to strive to be an encourager as you go about your daily business. Lift others up with sincere compliments and words of wisdom. If you have to point out other people's weaknesses, do so in a constructive way and in a manner that will not lower their self-worth. That's all I am saying.

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It takes so much time to research, write and edit the stories and videos in this blog. If you do find any joy in going through them, please consider supporting the author with a donation of any amount - anything from buying him a cuppa to treating him to a good dinner. Thanks to everyone who is contributing; you rock!

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