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A Grain of Wheat
AuthorNgũgĩ wa Thiong'o
GenreHistorical novel
Publication date
Media typePrint (Hardback & Paperback)
Pages247 pp

A Grain of Wheat is a novel by Kenyan novelist Ngũgĩ wa Thiong'o. The novel weaves several stories together during the state of emergency in Kenya's struggle for independence (1952–1959), focusing on the quiet Mugo, whose life is ruled by a dark secret. The plot revolves around his home village's preparations for Kenya's independence day celebration (Uhuru day). Former resistance fighters General R and Koinandu plan on publicly executing the traitor who betrayed Kihika (a heroic resistance fighter hailing from the village) on that day.


  • The loner Mugo, a hero of the British concentration camps where he led a hunger strike and he also tried to stop a village guard from beating a pregnant woman to death. Although he is thought to be a hero through the whole book, he is the traitor of Kihika betraying him to the British in a selfish act to save himself.
  • Gikonyo, an ambitious carpenter and business man who's married to Mumbi. He confessed to taking the oath of the resistance while in a concentration camp, securing an early release only to find that his wife had borne a child with his hated rival Karanja while he was away.
  • Mumbi, the wife of Gikonyo and sister of Kihika. While Gikonyo was imprisoned she slept with Karanja who had been appointed village chief by the colonial power.
  • Karanja, a collaborator with the British and widely suspected to be the traitor who betrayed Kihika.
  • Kihika, a resistance fighter who conquered a police station and killed the hated District Officer Robson before being caught and hanged after being betrayed by Mugo.
  • John Thompson, an early British settler and administrator of Thabai, who believes in the ideals of colonial imperialism and persecutes black Afrikans.