Themes in John Kiriamiti’s My Life in Crime

My Life in Crime grapples with the concept of morality, particularly in the form of characters like Jack Zollo.

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My Life in Crime
My Life in Crime front cover.
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Morality

My Life in Crime grapples with the concept of morality, particularly in the form of characters like Jack Zollo who commit crimes in order to survive. Although Zollo blatantly commits crimes that go against what a legal system would deem “moral,” he tends to be regarded as heroic by the reader and those around him in the narrative context.

Kiriamiti renders his quasi-autobiographical character in My Life in Crime likeable and sincere by writing the book as a first-person confessional in which he admits to his transgressions that led to his reformation.

Kiriamiti, through his fictionalised character, also directly addresses the reader, often as “you,” “friend,” and “brother.” This highly personal writing style effectively manoeuvres the reader into complicity with and understanding of Zollo’s crimes, rather than harsh judgement.

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My Life in Crime Themes
Themes in John Kiriamiti’s My Life in Crime

Life in Postcolonial Nairobi

Kiriamiti situates a majority of the events in his narrative in postcolonial Nairobi, which, following Kenya’s independence in 1963 from British rule, experienced an influx of native African inhabitants. Prior to independence, the British cast Kenyans during colonial times as the lowest social strata, relegating them to living as labourers and minimum-wage workers in the poorest parts of Nairobi.

It is in postcolonial Nairobi that Zollo gains notoriety as a criminal and joins a network of other criminals who consistently involve him in robberies. Thus, the city is, for Zollo, a place of opportunity where he and his fellow criminals make regular citizens fearful of being victims of crime.

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