Don't Let's Go to the Dogs Tonight: An African Childhood
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NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY’S #1 NONFICTION BOOK OF THE YEAR • A NEW YORK TIMES NOTABLE BOOK • FINALIST, GUARDIAN FIRST BOOK PRIZE
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“This is not a book you read just once, but a tale of terrible beauty to get lost in over and over.”—Newsweek
“By turns mischievous and openhearted, earthy and soaring . . . hair-raising, horrific, and thrilling.”—The New Yorker
In Don’t Let’s Go to the Dogs Tonight, Alexandra Fuller remembers her African childhood with visceral authenticity. 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.
From 1972 to 1990, Alexandra Fuller—known to friends and family as Bobo—grew up on several farms in southern and central Africa. Her father joined up on the side of the white government in the Rhodesian civil war, and was often away fighting against the powerful black guerilla factions. Her mother, in turn, flung herself at their African life and its rugged farm work with the same passion and maniacal energy she brought to everything else. Though she loved her children, she was no hand-holder and had little tolerance for neediness. She nurtured her daughters in other ways: She taught them, by example, to be resilient and self-sufficient, to have strong wills and strong opinions, and to embrace life wholeheartedly, despite and because of difficult circumstances. And she instilled in Bobo, particularly, a love of reading and of storytelling that proved to be her salvation.
A worthy heir to Isak Dinesen and Beryl Markham, Alexandra Fuller writes poignantly about a girl becoming a woman and a writer against a backdrop of unrest, not just in her country but in her home. But Don’t Let’s Go to the Dogs Tonight is more than a survivor’s story. It is the story of one woman’s unbreakable bond with a continent and the people who inhabit it, a portrait lovingly realized and deeply felt.
Praise for Don’t Let’s Go to the Dogs Tonight
“The Africa of this beautiful book is not easy to forget. Despite, or maybe even because of, the snakes, the leopards, the malaria and the sheer craziness of its human inhabitants, often violent but pulsing with life, it seems like a fine place to grow up, at least if you are as strong, passionate, sharp and gifted as Alexandra Fuller.”—Chicago Tribune
“Owning a great story doesn’t guarantee being able to tell it well. That’s the individual mystery of talent, a gift with which Alexandra Fuller is richly blessed, and with which she illuminates her extraordinary memoir. . . . There’s flavor, aroma, humor, patience . . . and pinpoint observational acuity.”—Entertainment Weekly
“This is a joyously telling memoir that evokes Mary Karr’s The Liars’ Club as much as it does Isak Dinesen’s Out of Africa.”—New York Daily News
“Riveting . . . [full of] humor and compassion.”—O: The Oprah Magazine
“The incredible story of an incredible childhood.”—The Providence Journal
his rucksack onto his lap and turned to take a light from a friend for his cigarette. The Land Rover pulls away. As Dad disappears from sight, as the Land Rover jolts over the bump where the snake lives in the culvert at the bottom of the driveway, he raises his hand and I think he’s waving. But he’s just taking a pull off his cigarette. There’s a lump in my throat that hurts when I swallow and I can’t talk or I’ll start to cry. Mum puts down her hand. She hardly ever lets me hold her hand. I
boardinghouse. We are among two hundred African children who speak to one another in Shona—a language we don’t understand—who play games that exclude us, who don’t have to listen to a word we say. Then our white matron leaves and a young black woman comes to take her place. She is pretty and firm and kind. She does not smoke cigarettes and drink cheap African sherry in her room after lights-out. She redecorates the matron’s sitting room with a white cloth over the back of the worn old sofa and
keep vomiting. By late the next afternoon, I am too tired to keep my eyes open. Vanessa goes into the old ammunition box and finds a wrinkled orange, the last saved piece of fresh food in our store. She slices it open and comes back into the tent. “Here”—she presses a quarter of orange between my teeth—“suck on this.” Dad says, “I don’t think she should eat fruit.” Vanessa looks at him. Dad hunches miserably. He lights a cigarette. “You’re right,” he says. “Might as well, hey. Try it.” The
expense from the aging lady (who seems prewar to me, by which I mean pre-Chimurenga) with flaking pink-powdered cheeks and a bright blond beehive at the shoe department on the third floor of Meikles in Harare. After we have bought the shoes, Mum will take me out for tea and scones as a treat but I will hardly be able to swallow with the sickening anticipation of school ahead of me. And Mum’s mouth has dried up, too, at the thought of all the money we do not have that she has just spent. In our
she was gone when the neighborhood watch appeared in their pickup and with two-way radios crackling to tell Dad that Mum had been last seen with a nice Zambian couple and what did he want to do about it. The nice Zambian couple had picked Mum up and driven her to their house, where they tried to get her to tell them who she was and what she was doing. But Mum wouldn’t talk. They made her a cup of tea and radioed the neighborhood watch and while they were distracted by the radio communication,