Representation of Heroines in Contemporary Kenyan Children’s and Young Adult Literature

Dr. Muriungi, C. K


My article is a reading of three female biographical narratives written for young readers in Kenya. The three biographies are sourced from a series of biographies that was introduced in Kenya at the dawn of the twenty first century, whose aim is to narrate Kenya’s history to young readers through the literary media. The main argument of the paper is that biographies are important avenues through which female heroism can be scrutinized. Biographies are also useful in revising the representation of the female character in children’s literature, since they draw from real life situations, as opposed to the stereotypical presentation visible in some African oral narratives and other fictional stories. The paper further argues that contemporary Kenyan children’s and young adult literature demonstrate that heroines are known by their deeds; deeds of whatever nature that are useful in inspiring young readers to transcend societal stereotypes. Biographical narratives therefore allow children the opportunity to re-examine their gender beliefs and assumptions, and they provide alternative role models, which inspire both boys and girls to adopt more egalitarian attitudes. The discussion is founded on Susan Lehr’s (2001) argument that in order to know who women are and what they have done; we must listen to their voices and watch their deeds. 

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