Facing the Lion: Growing Up Maasai on the African Savanna

by Joseph Lemasolai-Lekuton

Hardcover, 2003



Local notes

967.62 Lek





National Geographic Children's Books (2003), Edition: English Language, Hardcover, 144 pages


A member of the Masai people describes his life as he grew up in a northern Kenya village, travelled to America to attend college, and became an elementary school teacher in Virginia.


Physical description

144 p.; 8.3 inches

User reviews

LibraryThing member _Zoe_
This is the autobiography of a Maasai man with a Western education. It was written for children, and focuses on Lekuton's childhood experiences. He comes from a family of nomadic cow-herders, but Kenyan law required each family to send one child to elementary school. Lekuton was the one chosen, and
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he ended up enjoying his studies and excelling at school. Throughout the book, he emphasizes the tensions involved in belonging to two completely separate worlds. He wants to preserve his Maasai heritage while at the same time taking advantage of the opportunities afforded by education, and I found that his situation was incredibly thought-provoking. It's generally taken as a foregone conclusion that education is a good thing that should be available to as many people as possible, but in this story it wasn't so clear-cut. The Maasai are shown as a people capable of surviving on their own, with their own culture and way of life, and I found it a bit disturbing that they were forced to send one of their children off to school run by Christian missionaries, where they were taught Christian values, wore Western-style school uniforms, and were baptized and given Christian names. Lekuton himself fully appreciates his education and the doors that it opened to him, but I still find myself wondering about the changes that are being imposed on traditional cultures. This is a good thing, since I love a book that makes me think.

I was also fascinated by the descriptions of Maasai culture itself, something that I had previously known very little about. I only wish that this book had been longer and more detailed--I know, it's for children, but still. This book has left me intrigued, and I'll probably be seeking out more books about the Maasai. I'd strongly recommend this one to just about anyone; the one good thing about its length is that there's no excuse not to read it!
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LibraryThing member sara_k
Facing The Lion is a slim volume of 123 pages and is easily read in an evening. Joseph Lemasolai Lekuton grew up in a Maasai tribe in northern Kenya. He was chosen as his family's token child to attend school. His tenacity, intelligence, and spirit brought him contact with Daniel Arap Moi and
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opportunities for further education. In Facing the Lion, he tells some wonderful stories of his childhood and time as a student in America which give us a glimpse of how life in a Maasai nomadic group works and what is both difficult and wonderful about that life.

This would be an excellent addition to any elementary or middle school library.
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LibraryThing member JohnnyBrooks
Joseph Lemasolai Lekuton is from Northern Kenya. He was born into the Ariaal subgroup of the Maasai, and lived a nomadic lifestyle. This book tells his story from birth, where he immediately began his life as a nomad, till completing university in the U.S.A.

A fascinating story filled with lots of
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insight into the Maasai culture. It was written with a younger reader in mind, and is truly a very easy read. Joseph will not win any literary awards for this book, or at least should not, but he is adept at story telling. I particularly enjoyed his story of meeting President Daniel Arap Moi.

This is the first book about Kenya I have read, despite living here for five years now. Perhaps more will be in my future reading list.

My biggest complaint is that he did not challenge the deficiencies of his culture. I wish he would have talked more about the inequality that exist between the sexes. He did mention that girls often marry men 15 years older than themselves. However he failed to mention that those girls are very often children when they marry those older men.

A good book for the kids, as long as some follow up is added on gender issues, and the rights of children.
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LibraryThing member sjmccreary
This is, simply, the story of a boy who grew up as a poor "nomadic kid" in northern Kenya. The Kenyan government required even the nomadic tribal people to send one child from each family to school, and in his family it ended being Joseph who went. He tells of the culture shock he suffered in his
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own country upon coming into contact with students from other parts of the country, especially the wealthy students from the city. He eventually came to the United States for college and stayed to teach at a private school in Virginia. Each summer, he returns to his home in Kenya, taking groups of American students with him.

Several people have commented on the fact that, even as a child, he was expected to walk many miles - sometimes for days - between school and home. And the fact that he was forbidden to wear his traditional tribal clothing while at school - forced, instead, into a Western school uniform and given a Western name. But his familiarity and comfort in both cultures has enabled him to bridge a gap between low status African tribe and educated America. (Even in Kenya, his tribe was of low status.) His main goal seems to be to encourage people to accept others for who they are, not who we expect them to be based on their clothing or appearance or accent. I loved the anecdote in the epilogue about his contact with the American tourists while in traditional dress at home for the summer. In fact, I loved the entire book. It is short and doesn't take long to read - took me only about an hour - and I found myself wishing there was more. Highly recommended.
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LibraryThing member waldhaus1
Simple, but very powerful tale of what it means to grow up Masai
LibraryThing member alexandrose
Joseph is a boy from Keny and he is a boy who met a Lion and he ran from it with his brothers and some warriors. Later he goes to a school and then he goes to a boarding school in Nakuru and becomes a key player in their football team they win a great match and the president sees that and lets him
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later go to work in a bank. He meets a person from St. Lawrence University and later goes there and he becomes a teacher in McLean. I recommen this book for people who likes the wild and some stories of people on the planes.
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LibraryThing member kosukes
This book is about a boy called Lekuton who is scared to face a lion. He lives in the savanna and everyone doesnt have any money or clean water and foods. The problem in this story is that he didnt have a job yet. but atlast, he gets a job. He was hired because he played soccer and the president
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okayed him to get a job.
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LibraryThing member ywoo
This book is about a 6 year old boy named Joseph Lemasolai Lekuton who is living in a dry village in Kenya. He tells about his life about facing the lion and the circumcision. There was a problem because Lekuton had to go to school but didn't have enough money to send to school. But after Joseph
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met the president of Kenya he goes to school in America and becomes a teacher and earn money. I like the part when Joseph has this circumcision because he tells how he felt, and what is happening and also he doesn't tell but shows that he is becoming a real man. When I read this part I thought that in Kenya it isn't easy to become a real man.
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LibraryThing member darwonk
This book is not only about Joseph Lemasolai Lekuton facing a lion, but is also about him facing his life. He tells you how he lived, where he lived, his traditions, ex,,ex,,, This is a perfect book for people who like personal memoirs.
LibraryThing member adamjohn
Lekuton, a six year old Maasai boy, lives in the African Savanna with his family. Then one day, he has to go to school. He hates it at first, but then he realizes that you have to be smart to have a good life. He wanted to go to a good college. But he has a tough time at school. Can he survive?
LibraryThing member zmalensek
This book is ok but I did not really like it. It is about a boy who has a lot of problems in his life and one day he gets a lot of money and brings his family back up to life.
LibraryThing member mmccauley92
Do a unit on Africa! Traditions, culture, languages, people - could read books like 14 Cows for America and Wangari's Trees of Peace
LibraryThing member Salsabrarian
Rough booktalk: If right now you were growing up in Africa instead of the United States, you could possibly be a member of the Maasai tribe in Kenya. Chances are you wouldn't be going to school but the law says each family has to send one child to school. So you could be the one kid in your famiyl
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going to school. Your father could be married to more than one woman. You and your siblings could be walking your family's herd of cattle to pasture several miles away from your village. In fact, you could walk 40 miles in one day if you had to. This is the true story of Lekuton, a Maasai boy who grew up in Kenya, took care of the family's cows and was the only child in his family to go to school. One day he and his brother go to a cattle camp to take care of the cows but what they don't expect to meet is a lion (read pp 12-13).
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½ (39 ratings; 3.9)
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