Veteran reporter and
two-time novelist Masha Hamilton's latest
novel takes readers into the remotest areas
of the African continent to explore what
happens when modern Western traditions are
introduced into the very fabric of a third
world, traditionally nomadic society. Based
on actual events, The Camel Bookmobile tells
the story of an American librarian, who
permanently alters the bedrock of one
Northeastern Kenyan tribe in both positive
and negative ways.
Fiction and non-fiction allow readers to
explore the world in different ways.
of The Camel Bookmobile, Masha Hamilton, has
experience writing both. And, there is a real
library that operates
out of Garissa. Why do you think
Hamilton chose to write this work as a
novelist instead of as a journalist?
The publisher's website, www.harpercollins.com
informs us that the mosquito quotes, though
carefully attributed, actually were
invented. What do they add to the sections
What is gained (or lost) by the use of
multiple viewpoints to tell this story? How
do the various
viewpoints weave together to reinforce the
theme of books as instruments of change and
In some ways, the novel is peopled by
outsiders. Fi is an interloper in Kenya.
Kanika's grandmother, Neema, originally
from another place, brought with her the
village's first book, the Bible. Scar
Boy is a recluse, and even Matani, by
virtue of having been educated elsewhere,
is an outsider. Does the novel suggest that
outsiders have a role to play in changing
Does it seem realistic that Fi and Matani
would be able to spend the night together?
Other than sexual attraction, why do you
think they did?
The public library is sometimes said to be
an institution unique to the United States.
Isn't it more universal? How are the
patrons and staff of the Camel Bookmobile
similar to those you have encountered in
other library settings? How are they
different? Compare and contrast Fi and Mr.
Abassi as librarians. Think about the
reasons people steal library books.
Consider the children's eagerness to select
the books they will check out and read over
the next two weeks. Also consider the
concerns and actions of elders when the
villagers encounter new ideas.
Does Fi ever fully realizes that she is
caught in the middle of a volatile local
struggle when the bookmobile's presence
sparks a dangerous feud between the
proponents of modernization and those who
fear the loss of traditional ways?
At the novel's end, the traditional values
seem to win out. Do you think the
ideas from the books will continue to
impact the people of Mididima, even beyond
the novel's conclusion?
Can The Camel Bookmobile be seen as an
allegory for what's still taking place
elsewhere in the world today?
How might both traditional ways and
modernity be blended to the benefit of all?
Is that possible?
These questions were adapted from questions
and commentary found in: