Bill Bryson’s African Diary

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Bill Bryson's African DiaryBill Bryson’s African Diary by Bill Bryson
Published: 2002

I felt a bit guilty picking this up at a used book sale, as the full cost of the book is donated to CARE International when you buy it new, but I’ve donated to a few charities this year. My karma is intact. Stop judging me.

To help spread awareness for the organization, Bryson was asked to visit their facilities in Kenya and tour Kibera, the second largest urban slum in Africa, and this is his diary of the trip. The organization works with local communities to try and provide relief for these areas. What he sees is the kind of poverty that just doesn’t exist in western culture – hundreds of thousands of impoverished people living together in filth, many without electricity and running water. Sickness is common, as they live among open sewers, and AIDS is rampant. They estimate that about 50,000 children there are infected. What does keep his hopes up is the attitude of the Kenyans and those fighting for change.

I’ve only read one other Bill Bryson book, Notes from a Small Island, and I’m not sure why I haven’t read more. I like his meandering humour. This has some of that, particularly surrounding his fear of small planes and parasites, but it’s so short and focused that it doesn’t really come through as it does in Small Island. Unfortunately, it also only covers the hardships on a very superficial level, as his trip was only a week long, so it falls in a strange middle ground.

This was meant as a very short promotional piece by a well-know author to promote a good cause, in a way that was both entertaining and enlightening, and I think it mainly succeeds at that. Worth picking up if you see it.

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