Kenneth Binyavanga Wainaina was a Kenyan author, journalist and 2002 winner of the Caine Prize for African Writing. In April 2014, Time magazine included Wainaina in its annual TIME 100 as one of the "Most Influential People in the World.
“Binya” as he was popularly known, is the founding editor of Kwani?, the first literary magazine in East Africa since Transition Magazine. Established in 2003, Kwani? has since become an important source of new writing from Africa; several writers for the magazine have been nominated for the Caine Prize and have subsequently won it.
His debut book, a memoir entitled One Day I Will Write About This Place, was published in 2011. In January 2014, in response to a wave of anti-gay laws passed in Africa, Wainaina publicly announced that he was gay, first writing a short story that he described as a "lost chapter" of his 2011 memoir entitled "I am a Homosexual, Mum", and then tweeting: "I am, for anybody confused or in doubt, a homosexual. Gay, and quite happy."
In January 2007, Wainaina was nominated by the World Economic Forum as a "Young Global Leader" – an award given to people for "their potential to contribute to shaping the future of the world." He subsequently declined the award and wrote:
“The problem here is that I am a writer. And although, like many, I go to sleep at night fantasizing about fame, fortune and credibility, the thing that is most valuable in my trade is to try, all the time, to keep myself loose, independent and creative... it would be an act of great fraudulence for me to accept the trite idea that I am 'going to significantly impact world affairs'.
Binyavanga was born in Nakuru in Rift Valley Province, Kenya. He attended Moi Primary School in Nakuru, Mangu High School in Thika, and Lenana School in Nairobi. He later studied commerce at the University of Transkei in South Africa, where he went to live in 1991. He completed an MPhil in Creative Writing at the University of East Anglia in 2010.
Wainaina collected over 13,000 recipes from around Africa and was an expert on traditional and modern African cuisine.
Wainaina died of stroke around 10pm on May 21, 2019, according to news and family sources.