Book Review: Facing the Lion

Facing the Lion by Joseph Lemasolai Lekuton, is written in simple style for fifth, sixth, and seventh graders, but it’s the very adult story of how Joseph and his brothers, members of the Ariaal group of the Maasai nomads of Kenya, learn to deal with the modern world. Joseph today spends half his year teaching social studies in a school outside Washington, DC. His family still remain as nomadic herders in a district 300 miles north of Nairobi, Kenya.

The African savanna is a landscape not quite like any other in the world. Joseph writes easily of walking 18-25 miles in a day to visit friends in other villages, even as a 10-year-old boy. He writes of going out to hunt a lion, and of riding home to visit his family on vacations from school, traveling two weeks or more on the roofs of trucks from the capital to his home. He plays soccer for the highly competitive team of a school sponsored by the president of Kenya, David arap Moi, and he survives his circumcision to become a warrior.

There are not many nomads left in the world. Not in the true sense, the Joseph sense, of being cattle herders who pack up and move their villages and their herds in search of good grass and fresh water. Joseph explains his childhood, from being a boy until his circumcision at the age of fourteen, and finally his journey to the United States. He stands on a line between two cultures, belonging to both and yet apart in a real sense from both. When we call our firecircle friends “tribe” we have no idea what we’re playing at. Now I see dimly who our descendants may become. It will be an interesting ride; I wish I could see all of it.

Stars: 3.5 of five

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