Facing the Lion: Growing Up Maasai on the African Savanna


Joseph Lemasolai Lekuton gives American kids a firsthand look at growing up in Kenya as a member of a tribe of nomads whose livelihood centers around the raising of cattle. Here's a fascinating introduction to a vibrant culture few outsiders ever see!

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Facing the Lion: Growing Up Maasai on the African Savanna

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Joseph Lemasolai Lekuton gives American kids a firsthand look at growing up in Kenya as a member of a tribe of nomads whose livelihood centers around the raising of cattle. Here's a fascinating introduction to a vibrant culture few outsiders ever see!

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Editorial Reviews

The Washington Post
Once a warrior, always a warrior. Facing the Lion describes Lekuton's extraordinary passage between worlds and his continuing effort to hold the two in balance. — Elizabeth Ward
Publishers Weekly
This involving, anecdotal autobiography sketches the childhood of Lekuton, who grew up in northern Kenya, a member of a subgroup within the Maa culture known as the Ariaal. He explains that the beloved cows dictate where their nomadic "village" wanders: "If the grass runs out or the water dries up, we move. If there's better grazing land somewhere else, we move." Articulate and likable, the author easily ushers readers into his primitive yet colorful culture as he vividly describes aspects of his people's way of life. His topics range from the quotidian (the practice of drinking milk mixed with cow's blood; the youngsters' responsibility for the herd's calves; the role of the "pinching man," who metes out punishment to village children) to the momentous (the elaborate circumcision ritual that young men undergo on the path to becoming a "warrior"). Following the government's dictate that one boy in every nomadic family go to school, Lekuton attended a school run by American missionaries (and, depending on where his family was living at the time, walked up to 40 miles home at vacation time), went on to enroll in an elite boarding school in Nakuru, received a scholarship at St. Lawrence University in New York and currently teaches at a private school near Washington, D.C.-and, during school vacations, guides American visitors through his Maasai home. An intriguing portrait of a remarkable life and a culture little known to most American readers. Photos not seen by PW. Ages 12-up. (Sept.) Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Children's Literature
The author of this true story is a member of the Maasai tribe. The book follows his life as a member of this nomadic tribe. The descriptions of day-to-day life and cultural practices are quite vivid. It is a good introduction for those who know very little about the Maasai. Lekuton is sent to the missionary school because each family is required to send at least one of their children. He adapts to the education quite quickly and begins to learn Western ways, as well as gaining a new perspective on his own culture. It is interesting to read about his living style within two different cultural worlds. He describes how he acts and dresses in a certain way for his teachers, but returns to his traditional ways when he is at home. It is difficult to imagine how he handles such extreme transitions. The story follows Lekuton into adulthood and his journey to university in America. While Lekuton's story is original, the lessons and values he described are important to all children who are struggling to obtain their goals. An excellent read for those interested in different cultures. 2003, National Geographic Society,
— Caroline Haugen
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780792251255
  • Publisher: National Geographic Society
  • Publication date: 8/5/2003
  • Pages: 144
  • Sales rank: 779,112
  • Age range: 12 - 17 Years
  • Lexile: 720L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 5.59 (w) x 8.59 (h) x 0.64 (d)

Meet the Author

Joseph Lamsolai Lekuton grew up in a nomadic Maasai village in northern Kenya and came to the United States in his late teens to pursue his education. He taught at The Langley School in northern Virginia and is actively involved in community development projects in rural Kenya. Through his work with several nonprofit organizations, Lekuton has provided more than a hundred nomadic children with education scholarships, established the Karare Boarding School, and constructed a water system delivering clean water to a dozen villages in northern Kenya. He holds a B.A. and an M.A. from St. Lawrence University and a master’s in international education policy from Harvard. He is the youngest recipient of Kenya’s Order of the Grand warrior, a presidential award given for exemplary service to the country. Lekuton divides his time between Kenya and the Washington D.C. area.

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Everything you do in our culture, you are preparing for the next stage. Everything you do in life is preparing for the next challenge.

From a green and beautiful village on the side of a small hill in Kenya comes this firsthand account of a boy'' journey to manhood. Joseph Lemasolai Lekuton is a Maasai tribesman brought up in the nomadic way of life. The only child in his family to go to school, Lemasolai is torn between the traditional ways of his family and the western ways taught by his teachers. In his struggle to balance two cultures, he learns to apply lessons learned in each of his worlds to the problems of the other.

Personal, moving, and often funny, this modern memoir is a close look at a traditional culture and a satisfying tale of a young man's journey of discovery.

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Sort by: Showing all of 2 Customer Reviews
  • Posted January 10, 2010

    Facing the Lion : Growing up Maasai on the African Savanna By Joseph Lamasolai Lekuton

    Hello, I'm writing a book review about the book I read 'Facing the Lion : Growing up Maasai on the African Savanna' for my English class. This book was one of the most interesting book I read, and I don't say that to a lot of books. When I read books I usually hate them, but this book has touched me in a way and has related to me. The book began with a dramatic opening of the main character Lekuton's first encounter with a lion. The book covered his life from birth through out his life experiences. Where he lived his life dealing with two cultures, his own Maa culture and the American culture. He had experienced thousands of miles of traveling, but never had left his own culture.

    I enjoyed reading the book a lot because I felt like I was growing up with him. The book was a simple memoir, but it had a strong story telling behind it. So I recommend this book for everyone because it is just that amazing to read.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted May 11, 2004

    I read this book at Shackleton

    This book described the struggles of a masai child, and the success that he has received in return. The book starts out with Joseph running away from a lion, which is considered cowardly. He strives to prove that he is not a coward so he pays extra attention to every task he is assigned. The law requires one child to go to school so he lies about his age and makes connections. This Book made me think about how easy it is to make connections. It made me realize that I have much potential and should use this school as a resource to expand my network.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
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