Nov 19, 2014
Don't Lets Go to the Dogs Tonight, by Alexandra Fuller
I rarely read memoirs, but this one as well as Tom Robbins' has got me thinking maybe I should do so more often. Fuller grew up in the 1970s and 80s in Africa, Rhodesia to start, then Malawi and Zambia. It's a life that's utterly foreign to me, not just because it's Africa, but because of her family's (and the other white people's) very real and comfortable racism. Her mother does not mince words when talking about the revolutionary wars in Africa, making it abundantly clear that they were cheated out of their land and the Africans don't deserve to be in power. But coupled with her daily clinic for the surrounding natives and more than one story about her saving a servant's life, I'm a bit confused about her attitude. Her reassurances to her children that they would never drink out of the same cups that Africans have mixed with her obvious love of Africa make for a complex woman. Not to mention her three dead children and the manic depression she is finally diagnosed with. I also find it really hard to understand parents who chose to raise children in such incredibly dangerous, unsafe places. They move to a farm in Rhodesia that is practically on the border of Mozambique and are constantly around rebels (terrorists, in their terminology). Fuller mentions quite often that she and her sister had worms half the time. Her parents seem to be constantly drunk, but that doesn't stop them from driving (on roads littered with landmines, no less). She and her sister start smoking and drinking pretty much as soon as they hit double digits. It's a life that I have no context for, it's completely incomprehensible to me; perhaps this is why I found the book so enthralling. It's told both in vignettes and with a larger overarching sense of structure and a more or less chronological nature. Fuller vacillates between child-like language when describing her own emotions and actions and rich, vivid descriptions of the people and the land. It's a fascinating book, and a fascinating life. I'm just glad I wasn't my own.