Monday, August 13, 2012

Don't Let's Go to the Dogs Tonight and other Memoirs of Africa

Author Alexandra Fuller was born in England, but her parents returned in 1972 to their rugged farming life in Africa when she was three. The family lived a peripatetic life which took them from Rhodesia to Malawi to Zambia as farm managers. Her earliest memories are of Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) under the minority white rule of Prime Minister Ian Smith. Fuller's memoir, Don't Let's Go to the Dogs Tonight, an African Childhood (2001), covers her childhood until about 1979 when Alexandra left home. She left an Africa changed by years of violent civil war. The turbulent political background figures into this memoir mostly in the form of the ever-present possibility of terrorism against white settlers to the general acceptance of the racist attitudes of her parents and other ex-patriots they knew. Fuller doesn't judge or explain away the racism or the terrorism as she recounts the story from her point of view as a child.

Alexandra's first time invited into the home of a black African does not happen until she is 14 (p 235), but at the beginning of the Chapter 'Losing Robandi' Fuller explains what black and white Africans have in common. '... all of us (black, white, coloured, Indian, old-timers, newcomers) are fighting for the same thing: tillable, rain-turned-over-fresh, fertile, worm-smelling, soil...  in Rhodesia, we are born and then the umbilical cord of each child is sewn straight from the mother onto the ground, where it takes root and grows. Pulling away from the ground causes death by suffocation, starvation." (p 148)

Ms. Fuller's passion, attachment, memories of Africa are very strong. Despite the harsh climate, the droughts, heat, bugs, diseases and danger, her family loves living in Africa and that passion comes through in this memoir.

More memoirs of Africa:

Out of Africa by Isak Dinesen (1937)
When the Crocodile Eats the Sun by Peter Godwin (2006)
Pretty Girl in Crimson Rose by Sandy Balfour (2003)
The Last Hunger Season by Roger Thurow (2012)
The Flame Trees of Thika, memories of an African childhood (2000)

Alexandra Fuller's website

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