Book Review: Facing the Lion by Joseph Lekuton

Facing the Lion: Growing Up Maasai on the African Savanna (2003) by Joseph Lemasolai Lekuton is a memoir written by a man who grew up in a nomadic herding community living in the traditional ways in Kenya.  By fate he becomes the child who gets to go to the local mission school and finds that he likes education and eventually dedicates his life to reconciling these two different lifestyles.  There are a lot of fascinating episodes including a chapter on a ceremony where he and several other young men are circumcised.  Lekuton is excellent at describing the signifigance of this ceremony to him and his culture in a way that gets a reader like me past an initial revulsion.

The book also offers many details of Maasai life like a pinching man who keeps the children in line, the way cows are cared for and valued, and the roles of men and women in society.  Lekuton’s school life is equally detailed with humorous episodes about him playing soccer before the President of Kenya and going to America for the first time to study at (brrr) St. Lawrence University.  At the time Lekuton published this book he was teaching at school in Virginia and spending the rest of the year with his tribe in Kenya.  As of 2007, Lekuton is serving in the Kenyan Parliament.

I first learned about this book from an Unshelved comic.  It is written with children in mind but definitely entertaining and informative for an adult as well.

The author mentions two charitable organizations he supports at the end of the book: Nomadic Kenyan Children’s Educational Fund and Maasai Environmental Resource Coalition.

Facing the lion : growing up Maasai on the African savanna / by Joseph Lekuton and Herman J. Viola.
Publisher: Washington, D.C. : National Geographic, 2003.
ISBN: 0792251253 (Hard Cover)
Description: 127 p., [4] col. leaves of plates : col. ill., col. map ; 22 cm.