05 May What is Kimwei Reading?
Today, in our series What Are You Reading, we ask poet in residence for BBC Radio Devon’s Arts show Kimwei what he’s reading now, his favourite books of all time, and the one that never gets away!
What are you reading at the moment? Why would our readers enjoy reading it?
I’m re-reading The Colour Purple, by Alice Walker. I studied it at school and loved it at the time but Celie always felt like someone who’s experiences were miles apart from my own or from anyone I knew, belonging to another culture and another time. Re-reading it years later, in the wake of the MeToo movement and Black Lives Matter being especially topical in the past few years, I’ve been able to re-read Alice Walker’s masterpiece in a completely new light and feel more connected to Celie than ever before. I seriously think it’s a must-read for everyone.
The most memorable book you read in 2020; and why?
World Whizzing Facts, by Dr Emily Grossman. I was fortunate enough to read the final manuscript for this upcoming children’s science book last year, even though it isn’t due to come out until this summer. The book is so much fun to read for children and their parents alike but what really had an impact on me was the way that Dr Emily tells children and young teenagers the truth about the Climate Crisis, answering all their questions whilst also putting a real positive emphasis on what we can do about it.
A book you return to and reread; and why?
Around The World In 72 Days, by Nellie Bly. I adore this book and read it over and again dreaming of travelling around the world by train and ship like she did in the 1890s, writing this account of the journey. Her aim was to rival Philleas Fogg, as Jules Verne’s “Around The World in 80 Days” had recently been published. I love her defiance, constantly entertaining turn of phrase and of course her un-fasable radical nature which allowed her to get started on her adventure in the first place. The book starts with her challenging what’s possible for a woman of that time by asking the When they tell her they would never send a woman, she threatens “Start [a] man, and I’ll start the same day for some other newspaper and beat him.” Needless to say she gets the job. As well as getting a priceless slice of international cultures through the astute eye of Nellie Bly, I also delighted in her descriptions of packing luggage, evidently showing that travellers over the centuries all face the same issues – “That jar of cold cream was the bane of my existence… always getting into just the place that would keep me from closing the satchel.”
Your favourite book of all time; and why?
It’s either The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy or I Am David by Anne Holme. When I was seven years old I was given I Am David, the story of a boy who escapes a concentration camp and undertakes a journey to make his way across Europe, on foot, to find his way home to his mother. Looking back, this was the start of my interest in adventures that are full of resourcefulness, faith and spirituality, not only in books but in life. I had a little red suitcase at home that apparently my mother emigrated to the UK from Malaysia with, and I used to pack it in case an adventure arose.
The God of Small Things I read as a teenager during my Foundation Art Course at Oxford Brookes. It’s the most visual book I’ve ever read, weaving subconscious and conscious imagery on top of each other, weaving memory and present moment and imagination all together. I remember reading it and thinking “wow, this is how I think and someone has finally written it down.”
Kimwei is poet in residence for BBC Radio Devon’s Arts show. He also teaches songwriting at Masters Level through AMSonline/UWL. He the Grand Bard of Exeter – currently in his third year of the seven year Laureateship. He has performed poems for BBC Radio 4, Exeter Poetry Festival and judged the Exeter Poetry Slam. Kimwei is a firm believer that everyone should be given the opportunity to explore creative writing as a form of expression. Website: www.kimwei.com. Later this month, Kimwei is about to start a series of writing workshops “Band of Bards” to encourage other writers to become part of his BBC Radio Devon creative writing. You can find details or book your place here: https://www.bardofexeter.com/join-kimweis-band-of-bards-creative-writing-workshops/