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Don't Let's Go to the Dogs Tonight: An African Childhood [Kindle Edition]

Alexandra Fuller
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (388 customer reviews)

Print List Price: $16.00
Kindle Price: $9.99
You Save: $6.01 (38%)
Sold by: Random House LLC

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Book Description

When the ship veered into the Cape of Good Hope, Mum caught the spicy, heady scent of Africa on the changing wind. She smelled the people: raw onions and salt, the smell of people who are not afraid to eat meat, and who smoke fish over open fires on the beach and who pound maize into meal and who work out-of-doors. She held me up to face the earthy air, so that the fingers of warmth pushed back my black curls of hair, and her pale green eyes went clear-glassy.

“Smell that,” she whispered, “that’s home.”

Vanessa was running up and down the deck, unaccountably wild for a child usually so placid. Intoxicated already.

I took in a faceful of African air and fell instantly into a fever.

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.


Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

A classic is born in this tender, intensely moving and even delightful journey through a white African girl's childhood. Born in England and now living in Wyoming, Fuller was conceived and bred on African soil during the Rhodesian civil war (1971-1979), a world where children over five "learn[ed] how to load an FN rifle magazine, strip and clean all the guns in the house, and ultimately, shoot-to-kill." With a unique and subtle sensitivity to racial issues, Fuller describes her parents' racism and the wartime relationships between blacks and whites through a child's watchful eyes. Curfews and war, mosquitoes, land mines, ambushes and "an abundance of leopards" are the stuff of this childhood. "Dad has to go out into the bush... and find terrorists and fight them"; Mum saves the family from an Egyptian spitting cobra; they both fight "to keep one country in Africa white-run." The "A" schools ("with the best teachers and facilities") are for white children; "B" schools serve "children who are neither black nor white"; and "C" schools are for black children. Fuller's world is marked by sudden, drastic changes: the farm is taken away for "land redistribution"; one term at school, five white students are "left in the boarding house... among two hundred African students"; three of her four siblings die in infancy; the family constantly sets up house in hostile, desolate environments as they move from Rhodesia to Zambia to Malawi and back to Zambia. But Fuller's remarkable affection for her parents (who are racists) and her homeland (brutal under white and black rule) shines through. This affection, in spite of its subjects' prominent flaws, reveals their humanity and allows the reader direct entry into her world. Fuller's book has the promise of being widely read and remaining of interest for years to come. Photos not seen by PW. (On-sale Dec. 18)Forecast: Like Anne Frank's diary, this work captures the tone of a very young person caught up in her own small world as she witnesses a far larger historical event. It will appeal to those looking for a good story as well as anyone seeking firsthand reportage of white southern Africa. The quirky title and jacket will propel curious shoppers to pick it up.

Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

From School Library Journal

Adult/High School-Pining for Africa, Fuller's parents departed England in the early '70s while she was still a toddler. They knew well that their life as white farmers living in Zimbabwe (Rhodesia at the time) would be anything but glamorous. Living a crude, rural life, the author and her older sister contended with "itchy bums and worms and bites up their arms from fleas" and losing three siblings. Mum and Dad were freewheeling, free-drinking, and often careless. Yet they were made of tough stuff and there is little doubt of the affection among family members. On top of attempting to make a living, they faced natives who were trying to free themselves of British rule, and who were understandably not thrilled to see more white bwanas settling in. Fuller portrays bigotry (her own included), segregation, and deprivation. But judging by her vivid and effortless imagery, it is clear that the rich, pungent flora and fauna of Africa have settled deeply in her bones. Snapshots scattered throughout the book enhance the feeling of intimacy and adventure. A photo of the author's first day of boarding school seems ordinary enough- she's standing in front of the family's Land Rover, smiling with her mother and sister. Then the realization strikes that young Alexandra is holding an Uzi (which she had been trained to use) and the family car had been mine-proofed. This was no ordinary childhood, and it makes a riveting story thanks to an extraordinary telling.
Sheila Shoup, Fairfax County Public Library, VA
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc.

Product Details

  • File Size: 1018 KB
  • Print Length: 336 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 0375507507
  • Publisher: Random House; 1st edition (March 5, 2002)
  • Sold by: Random House LLC
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B000FC1HQY
  • Text-to-Speech: Not enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #235,542 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
157 of 162 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A unique and fascinating biography March 13, 2002
Format:Hardcover
After reading Entertainment Weekly's review of this book, my curiousity led me to purchase it for my wife, since she enjoys reading true tales of other women. However, I started reading it before she did and I quickly was drawn into Alexandra Fuller's world.
Her style is a little disconcerting at first (simply because she is speaking in her own voice and the language and slang she grew up with), and it takes a while to fall into the flow of her jumping around in her life in the early chapters, but I almost immediately was drawn into her world.
I really enjoy writers who have a style all their own and Fuller definitely has her own unique voice. Her language is sometimes choppy, but it stills conveys meaning and understanding.
What I partuclarly liked was the subtle way she conveyed the changing of the guard in Africa, as black rule began to become the rule, rather than the exception. Without directly commenting on the changes either positively or negatively, she conveys the confusion that the change brought about and suggests that whether blacks or whites are in control, the common people of most African nations remain oppressed by their leaders.I think Ms. Fuller makes it clear that regardless of their race, whites and blacks are Africans and that something must eventually be done about the oppresive political environment present in so many African nations. This book is particulary relevant given the recent turmoil over the apparent re-election of Robert Mugabe.
I was fascinated by her mother, but wished she had provided more information about her sister. At one point she hints that her sister may have been molested by a neighbor and that a neighbor may have attempted to do the same to her, but she is vague on details, perhaps deliberately so.
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97 of 100 people found the following review helpful
By A Customer
Format:Hardcover
Dissatisfied reviewers of Alexandra Fuller's "Don't Let's Go to the Dogs Tonight" tend to dwell on the degree to which the book fails to conform to their own agendas and expectations. These reviewers lament Fuller's perceived lack of attention to women's issues, the plight of black Zimbabweans, and the horrors of the Rhodesian War, to name a few. In other words, rather than praise Fuller for the story she tells, they criticize her for stories they believe she fails to tell. To bad for them; they are missing out on a great book.
In addition to being smart, funny, entertainnig, and well-written, Fuller's memoir provides invaluable insight into the end of white rule in southern Africa. The Fullers are hardly members of a wealthly, landed, colonial ruling class. They are poor, rootless, prone to drinking and fighting. Where is the privilege, however minimal, for which they and other white Rhodesians fought? Why on earth would they stay on in places like Zambia and Malawi after the end of white rule? Fuller offers no definite answers to these questions -- though possible answers lurk in the loving and intricate passages in which Fuller describes the sights, sounds, and smells of southern African life. As the story of ordinary white Africans living through a defining moment in southern African history, this book works particularly well.
Those who enjoy Fuller's book might also want to read "Mukiwa," Peter Godwin's equally excellent memoir of growing up in white Rhodesia. Godwin (who, like Fuller, spent much of his youth in the eastern part of Rhodesia, near the border with Mozambique) is about ten years older than Fuller. As such, he offers more about the origins of the war.
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41 of 41 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Luminous August 31, 2005
Format:Paperback
One reviewer here gave this book one star because he thought the protagonist and her family racist. He is mostly right. None of that need detract from the fact that this is a superb book with a transparency and sense of place rarely seen.

you may not always agree with what you read in it but that does not make it any less worth reading. Speaking as a mixed race man who has lived in many places in Africa, I found this to be honest and well-observed. The fact that the author does not attempt to re-write her family history to appear politically correct speaks for her honesty.

Go read this magnificent book.
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96 of 103 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Do Let's Read This Book Tonight January 6, 2002
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
What a pleasure it is to start off the new year with a wonderful new book. I probably never would have picked this book up, except for the glowing reviews it's been getting. And, are they ever deserved. This is the story of Bobo Fuller, daughter of gone-to-the-dogs parents in 1970's Rhodesia, on the losing (depending on your point of view) side of a civil war. Covering her growing-up years of moving from one place to another in Africa always searching for a way to exist in a place where white Africans no longer had power and privilege, Ms. Fuller writes unsparingly, unsentimentally, and honestly about her family and their remarkable experiences. Don't miss this terrific book.
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46 of 48 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Riveting and unpretentious May 20, 2002
Format:Hardcover
If there's one thing Alexandra Fuller can do, it's write. This unsentimental memoir of a white African childhood on various hardscrabble farms from 1972 to 1990, amidst periods of "unrest," including Rhodesia's long struggle against white rule, captivates as it horrifies. With humor and unflinching honesty, Fuller immerses the reader in the welter of smells, searing heat, torrential rains and myriad dangers from man, animal and plantlife.
Her opening:
"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.' "
With these few lines, Fuller captures her tone - fluctuations of fear, bewilderment and humor. Her story is told primarily in present tense from her childhood point of view, though she skips around in chronology in order to follow theme threads: school, war, poverty, her mother's alcoholism and unpredictability. Her mother, Nicola, is ferocious, larger than life; a woman who can drag her daughter off without breakfast to spend the day on horseback rounding up wild cows or laze away a rainy day sprawled with both daughters on her bed reading. A woman whose manic-depressive tendencies were exacerbated by the heartbreaking deaths of three of her five children and exaggerated by alcohol. She's brave, unpredictable, loving and scary.
Racism in Fuller's world is a given, unquestioned by the child who sasses her nanny by threatening to fire her. Her parents are so poor they sell Nicola's rings each planting season and redeem them at harvest. Yet they have a houseful of servants and field hands.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Delightful!
Published 5 days ago by Wendy W
5.0 out of 5 stars A wonderful adventure and read
I found Ms Fullers both enlightening and funny potrait of a young girl growing up in very turbulent era of Africa. Read more
Published 14 days ago by Paul G. Downey
5.0 out of 5 stars A favorite
I found myself laughing and crying at the same time. For all the struggles of life this family faced in Africa, the overall feel was matter-of-fact. Read more
Published 20 days ago by Mindy
1.0 out of 5 stars One Star
I never got the book.
Published 23 days ago by mickipugh
4.0 out of 5 stars I learned a lot from reading the book and enjoyed watching the stories...
This is an honest story of the author's young life. So much is from her child's eye view of what happened while living in Africa. Read more
Published 26 days ago by Linda R. Madden-brenholts
5.0 out of 5 stars I really enjoyed this memoir
I really enjoyed this memoir. Full of life and character and sadness. I also really enjoyed her writing: concise, very descriptive, almost poetic without being self admiring. Read more
Published 28 days ago by malcolm lowe
4.0 out of 5 stars "Because we're all Rhodesians and we'll fight through thickanthin...",
Wonderful memoir of the author's childhood in Africa, where her parents had settled as farmers. The larger part of the book concerns their time in Rhodesia - war-torn and on the... Read more
Published 29 days ago by sally tarbox
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Super book in very good condition. No underlining or inside writing. Minor wear.
Published 1 month ago by Sandra Henry-Stocker
4.0 out of 5 stars Four Stars
Interesting memoir of Rhodesia
Published 1 month ago by M. H.
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
good
Published 1 month ago by Gerlinde Pflaumer-Yeater
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More About the Author

Alexandra Fuller is the author of Don't Let's Go to the Dogs Tonight and Scribbling the Cat. She was born in England and grew up in Rhodesia/Zimbabwe, Malawi, and Zambia.

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