About The Boy Is Gone

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The saga of the General’s passage from boy to man is a tale of two civilizations caught in the creative and destructive form of contact we call colonialism…. Anyone wishing to broaden their understanding of what lies beneath the veil of stereotypes and Hollywood distortions of Africa, or who would enjoy meeting a character of uncommon intellect and grace, should read this book.
— Theodore Rosengarten, author of All God’s Dangers: The Life of Nate Shaw
Those of us who teach African history are always looking for accessible and engaging books to assign our students. Africa is a vast unknown to most American college students. Most of us have developed strategies of easing them into the subject gently. Huttenbach’s book will fit the bill.
— John Edwin Mason, professor of African history at the University of Virginia and author of One Love, Ghoema Beat: Inside the Capetown Carnival
Laura Lee did what every one of us in the African history field has always wanted to do. She actually lived with the family of her subject. They ate together, worked together (picking tea), stayed together. There is simply no better way for a White outsider to penetrate the core of Meru history.
— Jeffrey A. Fadiman, author of When We Began, There Were Witchmen: An Oral History from Mount Kenya
Laura Lee Huttenbach’s debut, The Boy Is Gone: Conversations with a Mau Mau General, is a unique first-hand account of cultural lineage, revolutionary awakening and dogged perseverance told in the voice Japhlet Thambu, a man who seems to have fit several lifetimes into the span of one. It is an essential testimony to those seeking to understand modern-day Kenya.
— Michael Deibert, author of The Democratic Republic of Congo: Between Hope and Despair
[Huttenbach and Thambu’s] touching and in the end profound relationship across age, geography, and gender formed the basis of this engaging book, a permanent record of the life and adventures of an African leader set down with grace, intelligence, affection, and style. A valuable contribution to anthropology, life history, and African studies and a recommended read for anyone interested in the modern transformation of African life.
— Melvin Konner, author of Women After All

A story with the power to change how people view the last years of colonialism in East Africa, The Boy Is Gone portrays the struggle for Kenyan independence in the words of a freedom fighter whose life spanned the twentieth century's most dramatic transformations. Born into an impoverished farm family in the Meru Highlands, Japhlet Thambu grew up wearing goatskins and lived to stand before his community dressed for business in a pressed suit, crisp tie, and freshly polished shoes. For most of the last four decades, however, he dressed for work in the primary school classroom and on his lush tea farm.

The General, as he came to be called from his leadership of the Mau Mau uprising sixty years ago, narrates his life story in conversation with Laura Lee Huttenbach, a young American who met him while backpacking in Kenya in 2006. A gifted storyteller with a keen appreciation for language and a sense of responsibility as a repository of his people's history, the General talks of his childhood in the voice of a young boy, his fight against the British in the voice of a soldier, and his long life in the voice of shrewd elder. While his life experiences are his alone, his story adds immeasurably to the long history of decolonization as it played out across Africa, Asia, and the Americas. (Ohio University Press, 2015.)