The Boy Who Harnessed The Wind, By William Kamkwamba And Notes Of A Native Son, By James Baldwin

1270 words - 5 pages

Those of us that have celebrated those magical birthdays between the ages of sixteen and twenty-one can all share our “coming-of-age” stories; the tales of how we defined ourselves to be grown-ups and independent of our parents or guardians’ care. The transition from adolescence into adulthood varies all around the world. If you were like me and born in the United States, adulthood is recognized by the government once you turn eighteen years old. Although, in this culture, once you turn eighteen perhaps your parents recognized it for you and sent you to college or go into the world and find your own way. Elsewhere in the world, different cultures and religions around the world set their own mark to when they believe this metamorphosis takes place. This can be heavily influenced by one’s parents, religion or through traditional ceremonies or rituals.
I recently explored two coming-of-age stories of William Kamkwamba and James Baldwin. The first memoir I read, “The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind…” written by William Kamkwamba tells the story of being raised during the 1990s and early 2000s in the country of Malawi, a small country in southeast Africa. Malawi is a place where luxuries or opportunities are scarce and where people still rely on magic or witchcraft. Kamkwamba’s father, a maize and tobacco farmer, taught him from an early age the importance of providing for one’s self and one’s family. Kamkwamba was close to his father who was also a devout Christian and he always served as a source of guidance and inspiration for his entire family which also consisted of Kamkwamba’s mother and six sisters. In Malawi, farming is the primary means of survival, and as a male it is customary for fathers to pass down the practices of farming to the children for their future families. But William was not interested in farming, his passion lay in his education and electronics. In 2002, when Kamkwamba was just 14 years old, Malawi was struck with drought which in turn brought poverty, disease and a great famine throughout the country. The destruction of his family’s farm meant a lack of funds which eventually forced Kamkwamba to drop out of school. To William, this was as devastating as the hunger and he refused to let his passion die with the thousands of starving people in his country.
Soon after, Kamkwamba become aware of his dependency on his father and was not happy with where his or his family’s life was headed. Regarding the hardships he was enduring he states “I couldn’t blame my father for the famine or our troubles. But…I couldn’t look him in the eyes. Whenever I did, I saw the rest of my life”. By saying this Kamkwamba is simply stating that he wanted more out of life and wanted to be the controlling force in his own well-being. With nowhere to go and nothing more than a curiosity about electricity and wanting to know what made things work, he started visiting a small library in his village funded by the United States government that offered a small...

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