967: Facing the Lion by Joseph Lemosolai Lekuton

by Gerard

967.62004965: Lekuton, Joseph Lemosolai. Facing the Lion: Growing Up Maasai on the African Savanna. Washington, DC: National Geographic, 203. 123 pp. ISBN 0-7922-5125-3.

Memoirs don’t really have a place anymore in the modern Dewey. They used to go into the 920s, but since the exodus in the latest editions, they have to go somewhere else. Many times, memoirs are simple biographies and autobiographies, and those are classed in the subject area that the person was primarily involved with. Chemists go in 540, airline pilots go in 387, Spanish authors go in 860, and so forth. When the memoir focuses on place and culture and tradition, then it gets a little fuzzy. The current practice is to place country-specific memoirs in the same section that holds works on the history of that region. Today’s book, since it is a memoir of life in Kenya, goes into the section for the history of Central Africa—967.

Lemosolai Lekuton was born into a group of nomadic Maasai tribes in central Kenya near the village of Karare. The Maasai culture centers about cattle herding, tribal traditions, and family. Lekuton’s tale begins as a young child watching over young cattle. He recounts his experiences on the grazing plains, encountering wild beasts (lions, hyena, etc.), going to school for the first time, and growing into an accepted warrior among his people through a circumcision rite.

A lot of his tale centers on the different cultures he experienced while attending school. At home, he wore traditional garb and treasured beads while attending to his family’s farming needs, but at school, he had to adopt Western dress and Western philosophies. But while there, he excelled at his studies and was eventually noticed by St. Lawrence University. From there, he became a teacher at the Langley School in Virginia.

When I first purchased the book, I didn’t notice that it was intended for a young adult audience. But, even with the lower reading level, it was refreshing to read about a culture and lifestyle so completely different from my own. Joseph’s tale is genuine and re-affirms the fact that a general attitude of optimism and courage will get you far in life. If you’ve got a free afternoon, check this one out.

[P.S. I’m pretty sure I’ll make it 4-for-4 and post a new review tomorrow.]