The White Masai

The White Masai (Photo: HarperCollins)With The White Masai, Corrine Hofmann has created one of the most captivating, spellbinding memoirs I’ve ever had the pleasure of encountering.

Corrine herself is the White Masai. Having travelled to Kenya with a sort-of boyfriend/ex-boyfriend, she pretty much immediately fell in love with Lketinga, a Masai warrior. A quick trip to Switzerland to sell all her worldly possessions and the next thing you know, Corrine is back in Africa and finding her feet with the Masai culture.

“This lady is crazy,” I said to my mom, who has spent some time building schools in Kenya as part of the RDL Building Hope Society.

“Yes, she is,” my mom replied. “But isn’t it a great story?”

It is a pretty great story. Corrine tells, with great honesty and a strong voice, a tale of love, heartbreak and bravery unlike anything I’ve ever read before. It is only after she gives birth to a daughter that Corrine begins to consider the implications of what she has gotten herself into. It’s a pretty sticky situation that she handles with good grace and quick thinking. I’ve made a couple of big international moves myself (albeit from one Western, English-speaking country to another Western, English-speaking country) and I know how challenging it is at the best of times. Throw in other languages, considerable cultural differences and plenty of gender issues and she has a whole new host of problems to wade through.

Personally, I also found that Lketinga’s addiction to khat was really fascinating. I did some production work during my internship at CBC London in the summer of 2007 about khat and had to travel to a LOT of seedy neighbourhoods in south London under the protection of a burly South African cameraman to find out more about this is-it-legal-or-not drug you can chew that is favoured by a lot of African migrants to Britain. Khat, in the UK at least, is classed as a herbal stimulant of sorts, although there’s a lot of waffling about whether or not it should be made a Class C drug. Drugs in Britain are ranked by letter according to how dangerous and serious their effects are. I found this really interesting when I lived in the UK and you can read more about this here if you like.

I genuinely could not put The White Masai down. There’s a sequel, Reunion in Barsaloi, about Corrine’s journey back to Kenya and her reunion with Lketinga several years later. I can’t wait to read it.

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