By the time I started reading Don’t Let’s Go to the Dogs Tonight, I had forgotten what it was about, and I’m glad I had because otherwise, I would have had my defensives up. I added it to my library queue after reading badkittyuno’s review last month. Cannonball Read: the system works.
There’s not much I can add here. badkittyuno did a killer job summarizing the experience of the read, and the broad strokes of the story that Alexander Fuller tells. It’s a memoir of growing up in the midst of civil war in Rhodesia (before it was Zimbabwe), then Zambia, and then Malawi, the daughter of a manic-depressive, alcoholic mother and a codependent, alcoholic father both of whom are deeply, institutionally racist and are fighting to maintain British (white) rule in Africa.
Because by saying “fighting,” I am seriously downplaying the level of violence. And it’s impossible to forget as you’re reading that Fuller, narrating her own memoir (her friends, family, and household staff call her “Bobo”), is a very young child throughout most of the story. She is surrounded by war-related violence, domestic violence, sexual violence, and deaths of humans and beloved pets. No one she encounters isn’t carrying a firearm, and she learns to fire automatic and semi-automatics before she hits puberty. Crossing the border, or even driving into town can be like playing a fatal lottery. She describes landmines, slashings, poisonings (intentional and situational), and also a lot of drunk driving. While very young, she is taught how to avoid animal attacks, protect herself in the case of home invasion, and also how to put an IV in someone’s arm. She starts habitually smoking and drinking before she turns eleven.
It’s fascinating and sad and scary and empowering. Fuller has a deep love for Africa, and it’s clear that her upbringing was incredibly unique and that her perspective is healthy and realistic. There is a striking level of honesty. It’s an easy read, and a hard one all at once. She makes her very challenging and real history accessible and relatable. I’m glad she shared her story.