Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Don't Let's Go to the Dogs Tonight

Don't Let's Go to the Dogs Tonight: An African Childhood by Alexandra Fuller
was originally published in 2001. My paperback copy has 315 pages, including the reader's guide. This is an incredible book in which Fuller records with the unadorned honesty of a child the memories of her African childhood with her dysfunctional family. It is not a maudlin, sentimental record of her childhood. Fuller, nicknamed Bobo, lived there during the Rhodesian civil war (1971-1979). Her family lived in and moved from Rhodesia (Zimbabwe), Malawi and Zambia, always living in a brutal, unforgiving environment. While Fuller acknowledges her parents racism by honestly recording their words and actions, the love and affection she feels for them is always present. Much like the love she feels for the Africa she knows, a brutal place under white and black rule. Don't Let's Go to the Dogs Tonight is a very highly recommended nonfiction selection. Rating: 5

From the Publisher
In Don’t Let’s Go to the Dogs Tonight, Alexandra Fuller remembers her African childhood with candor and sensitivity. Though it is a diary of an unruly life in an often inhospitable place, it is suffused with Fuller’s endearing ability to find laughter, even when there is little to celebrate. Fuller’s debut is unsentimental and unflinching but always captivating. In wry and sometimes hilarious prose, she stares down disaster and looks back with rage and love at the life of an extraordinary family in an extraordinary time.

"Mum says, 'Don't come creeping into our room at night.'
They sleep with loaded guns beside them on the bedside rugs. She says, 'Don't startle us when we're sleeping.'
'Why not?'
'We might shoot you.' " opening

"Her eyes are half-mast. That's what my sister and I call it when Mum is drunk and her eyelids droop. Half-mast eyes." pg. 11

"The two of us are silent, listening to Mum and her stuck record, Tragedies of Our Lives....
Chapter One: The war
Chapter Two: Dead Children
Chapter Three: Insanity
Chapter Four: Being Nicola Fuller of Central Africa." pg. 22

"Before that, the land had been moveable, shifting under the feet of whatever victorious tribe now danced on it's soil, taking on new names and freshly stolen cattle, absorbing the blood and bodies of whoever was living, breathing, birthing, dying upon it. The land itself, of course, was careless of its name. It still is. You can call it whatever you like, fight all the wars you want in its name." pg. 26

"I understand, through the power of her emotions, her tears, the way she is dissolving like soap left too long in the bath, that this has been the greatest tragedy of our lives." pg. 32

"That valley, in the far east of the country, is the Burma Valley. Here, horses hang thin in the thick, wet heat. their skin stretched over hips like slings. Children are elbow-knee wormy and hollow-orange with too much heat, skin-pinching dehydration, and smoking-drinking parents." pg. 47

"We have moved, mother and father with two children, a couple of cats, three dogs, and one horse, right into the middle, the very birthplace and epicenter, of the civil war in Rhodesia and a freshly stoked war in Mozambique." pg. 54

"After Olivia dies, Mum and Dad's joyful careless embrace of life is sucked away, like water swirling down a drain. The joy is gone. The love has trickled out." pg. 95

"Vanessa patiently builds a barrier around me because she can't watch me eat. she puts a milk jug in front of my face and sits back down and says, 'Not enough.' She fetches a coffee can and some boxes and bottles from the pantry." pg. 126

"What I know about Africa as a child (because I have no memory of any other place) is her smell: hot, sweet, smoky, salty, sharp-soft. It is like black tea, cut tobacco, fresh fire, old sweat, young grass.....The other thing I can't know about Africa until after I have left (and heard the sound of other, colder, quieter, more insulated places) is her noise." pg. 130


The Suburban Bushwacker said...

Couldn't agree with you more, an incredible book. The quotes you chose brought it back.

Lori L said...

Thanks, SBW! Don't Let's Go to the Dogs Tonight really is a very highly recommended memoir.