Allison's Book Bag

One of the Biggest Slums

Posted on: March 25, 2013

Life is hard for ten-year-old Safiyah in the Kibera slum outside Nairobi. Too poor to go to school, she makes a meager living for herself and her grandmother by selling things she finds at the garbage dump.

The above description comes from the back cover of The Paper House, a novel by Lois Peterson. Ten percent of the author royalties from the sale of The Paper House will be donated to Kiberia’s Red Rose School, Nairobi, through The Children of Kiberia Foundation. Below you can watch a video by the founder about the foundation, which provides scholarships to help young people in Kiberia receive quality education.

AUTHOR

Born in England, Lois Peterson has also lived in Iraq, France, and the United States. She works in a library, teaches creative writing, and has written for twenty years. In her teens, she wrote poems. Then after becoming a mother, she tried her hand at articles, personal narratives, and short stories. In 2007, she first attempted writing for young people. She now lives in British Columbia.

CULTURAL SETTING

English: Slum Kibera in Nairobi, Kenya.

Slum Kibera in Nairobi, Kenya. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Paper House is set in Kiberia. There is a note near the end which provides some basic facts to the story’s real-life setting. Kibera is a slum on Nairobi’s outskirts. Most of its half a million people are without running water, electricity, or bathrooms. Many have been forced to leave the village due to drought. Many families have lost at least one member to AIDS. For many, life in the slum will be the only one they know. Education will give some a chance for a better life.

Online information at a website called Kiberia provided me with more details. For example, Kiberia is the biggest slum in Africa and one of the biggest in the world. The government owns all the land. The average The average size of shack in this area is 12ft x 12ft built with mud walls. These shacks often house up to 8 or more, many sleeping on the floor. Alcohol and drugs are a growing problem. Unemployment is at fifty percent.

The BBC News also posted an article which describes the Kibera slum as “six hundred acres of mud and filth, with a brown stream dribbling through the middle.” The series reinforces the facts I noted, along with referring to the stench which comes from a lack of toilet facilities and garbage collection.

ONLINE RESOURCES

Started in 2011, Bookshy is a blog dedicated to the love of African literature. Along with book reviews, you can find covers of African literature and interviews with individuals involved with African literature. The Africa Book Center has a catalog, which contains listings of children’s fiction and nonfiction, young adult fiction and nonfiction, and school readers.

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