Binyavanga Wainaina’s Lessons in Laughter

Known for his biting satire that hilariously upended stereotypes of Africa, the Kenyan writer Binyavanga Wainaina died yesterday in Nairobi, The Star reports. He was 48.

Gay sex is illegal in Kenya, but Wainaina made the Nairobi suburbs his home, and documented his life as an openly gay man. In 2016 he announced that he was HIV positive.  

Wainaina’s notable 2005 essay “How to Write About Africa” satirized clichés and served as a lesson to writers covering the continent. “Among your characters, you must always include The Starving African, who wanders the refugee camp nearly naked, and waits for the benevolence of the West,” warns the piece, which was was reprinted by NPR Goats and Soda yesterday.

Wainaina’s legacy lives on in the Kwani Trust, an organization he co-founded with fellow writers to champion African literature.

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