The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind: Creating Currents of Electricity and Hope– William Kamkwamba


The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind is a pretty well known book in the world currently. In fact, when it was sitting on my kitchen table my roommate had mentioned he read it as a freshman in college and the author visited the college shortly after. A few months ago Netflix released a movie based on the book. (Read below for a short review.)

So for those of you who haven’t read the book, here’s a quick overview. The book is written by William Kamkwamba, who grew up in a village in Malawi that faced drought, hunger, famine, and poverty. William, who wasn’t able to afford schooling, was still a bright and curious boy—especially when it came to science and technology. After taking the initiative to learn and practice, he decides to build a windmill. He succeeds and radically changes his local community. (William reminded me of the young man I read about in my book on Kenya: Kennedy Odede. They both grew up in poverty but also had a dream they wouldn’t give up on—and both succeeded.)

The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind has similar elements to some of the books I’ve already read on Africa but it was refreshing there wasn’t the violence that i’ve read out. Violence, of course, wasn’t absent at this time especially with drought and famine occurring, but it wasn’t part of William’s story. It’s easy to focus on the horrible things a country goes through but bringing a story of positivity and enlightenment is a much different task.

This book is an easy read and perhaps a little slow throughout. I felt like it could have been condensed. Maybe this is because it does a lot of explaining of circuits and electricity, and that’s something I don’t understand. But it’s not my story to tell and I think the storyteller knows the value added by parts that I might not think are important.

William Kamkwamba reinforces this idea that everyone has their own strengths. Like I said, science and technology don’t come easy to me. But fixing radios or building a windmill were well within the strengths of William. This makes me wonder what types of knowledge and insight we are missing out on because so many people don’t have access to the right opportunities.

I didn’t learn enough about Malawi. I don’t know where the country stands now, but I’m open to a visit and would recommend this book to anyone as a must read if interested in the country.

Netflix did produce a movie adaption of the book which was release earlier this year. My first impression was that movie was almost two hours long. WHY?!

Overall, I found the movie to be good. It was a little slow sometimes, but that’s probably due to the length and because I’m not generally a movie person. With that being said, I think it does represent the book well. And with most of Netflix’s productions, it’s well directed and produced. The actors that play the Kamkwamba family are also fantastic! I’m looking forward to seeing them in other movies.

I do have to say that reading the book and watching the movie creates a very inspiring combo about this young man. I’m inclined to learn more about William Kamkwamba and will post anything good I find on the links page.

Also- here’s a little fun fact for y’all that have watched the movie. In the opening of the movie, there is some costumes of the culture. It almost looks a little creepy. I recognized this from a exhibit I visited on African Culture and Heritage in Havana, Cuba.

I think my next book is going to make you hungry… 😉

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