Don't Let's Go to the Dogs Tonight: An African Childhood

Don't Let's Go to the Dogs Tonight - Alexandra Fuller The tone of this memoir of "an African childhood" is set in the very first lines: 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." "Oh." "By mistake." "Okay." As it is, there seems a good enough chance of getting shot on purpose. "Okay, I won't." Dangerous, slightly insane, quite funny. That's her childhood in Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe). My first impression of her family? Well, I thought it proof that parents are put here on Earth to completely embarrass their children. I know this. Yet I thought Alexandra Fuller's parents really took the prize and it was a good thing she had such a great sense of humor. Fuller doesn't pull any punches--not about the violence, corruption and poverty she often saw in Africa, nor her parents' racist views nor her mother's alcoholism. Yet Fuller said in an afterword that this story "unfurled as a love story about Africa and my family." And by the end I absolutely saw that. Despite mercilessly (and often hilariously) exposing her parents flaws, there's evident affection and respect there, and gradually I began to see why. At the same time, this was just a joy to read. Fuller has a sharp wit, and an eye for details that bring South Central Africa to life--the sounds, the smells, the wildlife, the clashes between her little Eurocentric colonial world and that of native Africans and the ability to reacquaint you with the mindset of childhood. Part travelogue of Zimbabwe, Malawi and Zambia, part history of the waning of the colonial era, part affecting coming of age tale, I was hooked from the beginning and never was there one paragraph I wanted to skip over. I was completely charmed.