Although Chris Lyimo’s My Side of the Street: One Man’s Journey from Alcoholism to Sobriety may not be adopted as a literary text for study in the classroom, it is one that literary critics should pay close attention to. It is a narrative on masculinity, a misgiving about definitions of sex and gender, a scathing attack on the institution of parenting and above all a clarion call to the society to rethink the essentials of education. Lyimo’s narrative bares it all and strips the reader off any prejudice about matters alcoholism, suicidal tendencies and sexuality.
My Side of the Street is the cry of a lone man abandoned by the very society he thought would not only hold him accountable to his deeds but embrace him and cajole him in the true sense of the words. Lyimo indicts the society for failing him at the moment that he needed a pillar to lean on the most. The absence of a father in his life compounds his socialisation and makes us realise that we are to blame for the failings of our mentees. The genesis of his problems is traceable to his elder sister’s ignorant comment when he is seven years old: the persona is crudely identified by his phallus when the sister intones “Your kanyamu does not look like theirs”.
It is the discourse of exclusion that sets off his life’s path into a trajectory reminiscent of hopelessness and the ever present feeling that whatever the persona attempts to do will ultimately lead to rejection because his kanyamu is different. At this tender age, the persona discovers that his penis, genitalia so to speak, the only body part differentiating him amongst his siblings is the cause of his desolation. He craves to belong, to feel wanted but, unfortunately no one seems to get through to him. The fact that he is the only patriarch in his family makes it worse because of the dented masculine images that hover like a phantom in their homestead. Meet the author: https://www.facebook.com/chris.lyimo
The process of mentoring that would have bailed him whilst growing up is severely challenged. Possible male figures who would have waded in the soles of his father’s feet are losers in their own ways. The cumulative verdict is that he is a loser because men in the family are losers. Sadly, the persona is cocooned in his fragile male ego and things get worse when he indulges in alcohol in the hope that he can get a firm grip of the elusive masculinity – andurume – “the men”.
Confessions are rife in this narrative. The urgency with which the story unfolds makes it vivid and scary. The persona’s struggles to overcome addiction, suicidal thoughts and other negative images on masculinity, marriage and sex serve to demonstrate that it is only an individual’s realisation of their spiritual being that can help to turn their life around. It is a journey of acceptance, a belief in brokenness, worthlessness etc. it is a moment of reckoning that life is worth reconstructing.
My Side of the Street demonstrates redemption and the existence of God. It is a religious narrative coloured by a life of iniquities and other despicable human acts. But it is also a simple story of growing up, falling in love and discovering the first kiss. The narrative has enough lessons for all of us and most importantly it lets us know that there is a haven for every drunkard just as there is a heaven for every sinner as long as one has a strong will to get there. This article was fist published in People Daily: http://mediamaxnetwork.co.ke/peopledaily/?p=91091