Keito_U, October 20, 2013 (view all comments by Keito_U)
“I try, and I made it!” These are the words of William Kamkwamba, the misala (crazy) boy from the scrapyard. William Kamkwamba was born in Malawi, a country where magic ruled and modern science was a mystery. When famine hit his village, he was forced to drop out of school and eat only one meal a day. Although I go to a private school, I had always taken education for granted. This memoir gave me the realization of the importance having the privilege of having an education everyday.
The only thing the people in Malawi could think was “I have to eat”. Although I feel like that all of the time, it was nothing compared to the suffering in Malawi at the time. William was restricted to one meal a day, about five handfuls each time. When I go home, my happy family awaits and there would be enough food to feed the entire family. I was appalled as I read the description of the people William encountered; bellies, feet, and faces swelled with fluid like ticks filling with blood. Living on the opposite side of the world as Malawi, the news of these famines had only been news until I read this.
In the midst of the famine, William Kamkwamba was still yearning for an education; he started to go to the small local library, where he first read about windmills. He had the brilliant idea that using the magic of the windmill, he would be able to bring to his small village something only 2 percent of the population could enjoy: running water and electricity. William Kamkwamba only had a limited amount of resources, so he repeatedly searched the scrapyard for his materials. Not only did neighbors think he’s crazy, but even his own family start to doubt the “madman”. He continued to persevere and he ended up creating a windmill, bringing pride and joy to his village.
In this memoir, William Kamkwamba proved to us the strong will to never give up and to continue chasing dreams.
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Lynne Perednia, July 27, 2010 (view all comments by Lynne Perednia)
Growing up in Malawai, William Kamkwamba listened to his grandfather's tales of men with magic who cursed people and leopards who ate them. He listened well, because he knows how to weave a tale himself in relating his own journey from farming to creating his own technology.
The early part of young Kamkwamba's story portrays a carefree existence with friends. School wasn't taken seriously, even if he wanted to do well, and family are good people who clearly love and like each other. Famine slowly but inevitably strangles their dreams and claims its victims. There is a particularly difficult passage regarding an animal who adopts Kamkwamba that is very hard to read. But he does not spare himself in relating it.
The famine goes for years; survival is hardly guaranteed. It affects reader interest -- writing about the famine appears to be the author's main point for pages and pages instead of the contraption he created -- and also affects diffident student Kamkwamba's chances of being able to stay at school. But a sympathetic librarian lets him read about electricity and engineering. And that makes all the difference.
It is in the telling of how he creates an electricity-producing generator, using such items as pipeline, a seriously broken down bicycle and paper clips, that Kamkwamba shines in telling his story. His success, and how his village reacts to what he's done, are delightful, even though they also are the parts most consciously written for a Western audience. His subsequent international acclaim isn't half as exciting.
The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind is a story for anyone who needs to see that anything is still possible these days, regardless of how little a person has or how unconnected to a network of people who make things happen. Kamkwamba explicitly states he hopes others who struggle will hear of what he has done and know they are not alone. Kamkwamba's philosophy is simple: "If you want to make it, all you have to do is try."
Although such an idea may seem naive, its ability to help a determined young man is amply demonstrated.
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prof de francais, May 16, 2010 (view all comments by prof de francais)
This book should be required reading in every school in America, starting in middle school. If you are a teacher with a unit on Africa, please add this to your curriculum. William's story starts when he is a teenager and is simply told but it speaks volumes. (He's my new hero.)
The book deals with so many subjects - family, poverty, governmental corruption, creativity, hope, AIDS, overcoming incredible hardship, ingenuity, perseverance, but it is not preachy. I highly recommend it for everyone 12 and older.
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gaby317, August 30, 2009 (view all comments by gaby317)
Even if you don't usually read nonfiction or memoirs, I still think that you'll love this book for the writing, the story, and because of William Kamkwamba.
William tells the story of his childhood in the small agricultural village in Malawi. From the the general bias towards magic and superstition over science, the crippling impact of the drought, and the isolation and difficulties that William, his village, and Malawi, the obstacles that they face are huge and clear. Reading the book, I first thought that my experiences in the "Third World" helped me understand the William's life from the superstition to the the impact of the drought and the opportunistic price gouging during the famine. But that interpretation fails to give enough credit to William and his book. The power of his story and the clarity of the writing surely guarantee that The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind will speak to people regardless of their experience and their home country. I cannot recommend this book more! I look forward to more news from William Kamkwamba and to meeting him during his book tour stop in NYC.
Publisher: William Morrow (September 29, 2009), 288 pages.
Courtesy of the Harper Collins and the author.
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William Morrow & Company -
"Publishers Weekly Review"
by Publishers Weekly,
"American readers will have their imaginations challenged by 14-year-old Kamkwamba's description of life in Malawi, a famine-stricken, land-locked nation in southern Africa: math is taught in school with the aid of bottle tops ('three Coca-Cola plus ten Carlsberg equal thirteen'), people are slaughtered by enemy warriors 'disguised... as green grass' and a ferocious black rhino; and everyday trading is 'replaced by the business of survival' after famine hits the country. After starving for five months on his family's small farm, the corn harvest slowly brings Kamkwamba back to life. Witnessing his family's struggle, Kamkwamba's supercharged curiosity leads him to pursue the improbable dream of using 'electric wind'(they have no word for windmills) to harness energy for the farm. Kamkwamba's efforts were of course derided; salvaging a motley collection of materials, from his father's broken bike to his mother's clothes line, he was often greeted to the tune of 'Ah, look, the madman has come with his garbage.' This exquisite tale strips life down to its barest essentials, and once there finds reason for hopes and dreams, and is especially resonant for Americans given the economy and increasingly heated debates over health care and energy policy." Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
This immensely engaging tale relates how an enterprising teenager in Malawi builds a windmill from scraps he finds around his village and brings electricity — and a future — to his family.
by Harper Collins,
The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind is the immensely engaging and inspiring true account of an enterprising African teenager who constructed a windmill from scraps to create electricity for his entire community. William Kamkwamba shares the remarkable story of his youth in Malawi, Africa—anation crippled by intense poverty, famine, and the AIDS plague—and how, with tenacity and imagination, he built a better life for himself, his family, and his village. The poignant and uplifting story of Kamkwambas inspiration and personal triumph, co-written with Bryan Mealer, The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind has already won ringing praise from former Vice President and Nobel Laureate Al Gore as well as Paolo Coelho, internationally bestselling author of The Alchemist.
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