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
turned away and is going inside. A couple of the dogs follow her. Mum, Dad, and Bobo MISSIONARIES, 1975 My second sister—my mother’s fourth child—was born on 28 August 1976. Early in October 1975, when the first rains had already come but were still deciding what sort of season to create (overfull, with floods and swollen, dead cows in our river, or a sparse and teasing drought), a small plague of two missionaries descended upon us. They had driven from Salisbury, through Umtali, and
lumpy, sorghum-brewed beer on which the African men get drunk on payday. Duncan, Rena’s younger son, and I are in the store to watch the Africans buy what they have not received as part of their rations: thread, sweets, batteries, buttons. I am still swinging from the gap in the counter where the wood is worn soft-smooth and soft-greasy by so many hands. The African women keep their money in a folded wad in their dresses, against their breasts, so that it is soft and creased and warm when they
year, these warm, barely ample wells feed everything that is alive within a fifty-mile radius. Which will, very shortly, include us. Between the Turgwe and the Devure lies Devuli Ranch. Seven hundred and fifty thousand mostly flat acres of scrubby, bitter grass, mopane woodland, acacia thorn trees, thorny scrubs, and the occasional rocky outcrop. The cattle have not been touched for ten years—almost the entire war. There are second-, third-, and fourth-generation Brahman cows running wild on
see these are graves,” said Thompson. “Don’t touch! You mustn’t touch.” I laughed. “It’s a bit late for that, Thompson.” “Please picanin madam.” Thompson looked as if he were about to fling himself backward off the bald head of the kopje. “Well, if the people are dead, they won’t mind.” “No, they will mind. They will think of you most terrible things.” “Thompson, don’t be so superstitious.” In an effort to rid myself of the tainted pottery and to still maintain my superiority, I tossed the
the tame, drizzling English town of Glossop, Derbyshire. The plunging roar of the Zambezi in my ears at conception. Incongruous, contradictory in Derbyshire at birth. Bobo—Boarfold COMING-BACK BABIES Some Africans believe that if your baby dies, you must bury it far away from your house, with proper magic and incantations and gifts for the gods, so that the baby does not come back, time after time, and plant itself inside your womb only to die a short time after birth. This is a story