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Dreams in a Time of War: A Childhood Memoir [Kindle Edition]

Ngugi Wa Thiong'O
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)

Print List Price: $15.00
Kindle Price: $9.99
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Sold by: Random House LLC

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Book Description

Born in 1938 in rural Kenya, Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o came of age in the shadow of World War II, amidst the terrible bloodshed in the war between the Mau Mau and the British. The son of a man whose four wives bore him more than a score of children, young Ngũgĩ displayed what was then considered a bizarre thirst for learning, yet it was unimaginable that he would grow up to become a world-renowned novelist, playwright, and critic.
In Dreams in a Time of War, Ngũgĩ deftly etches a bygone era, bearing witness to the social and political vicissitudes of life under colonialism and war. Speaking to the human right to dream even in the worst of times, this rich memoir of an African childhood abounds in delicate and powerful subtleties and complexities that are movingly told.

From the Trade Paperback edition.

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Celebrated African author and activist Thiong'o tells no ordinary coming-of-age tale. The fifth child of his father's third wife—one of an extended family whose collective experiences range from rural farming and carpentry to WWII rifleman—Ngugi skillfully recounts the challenges and calamities of growing up in British-occupied Kenya. Born in 1938, he recalls a boyhood framed by his pursuit of education (he had a unspoken pact with his mother to always do his best) and by his developing awareness of nationalist politics. Through teachers and local storytellers he hears of such world figures as Winston Churchill, Jomo Kenyatta, and Jesse Owens; at home he eventually discovers that within his own family there are both Mau Mau rebels and colonial sympathizers. Tensions between tradition and modernity, a theme Ngugi explored in his first novel, 1964's Weep Not Child), become apparent in his fascination with the Old Testament and Christianity, and his fear when he is interrogated by military authorities. For readers, sequential time surrenders to a sense of narrative and an engaging humanity. (May)
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From Booklist

When Ngugi is accepted into an elite high school in Kenya, worried about where to get a pair of shoes, his brother is a Mau Mau guerrilla in the mountains. The world-renowned Kenyan writer looks back at his growing up in the 1950s in this crisp, clearly told memoir, which evokes the rising African nationalism of the era in all its conflict and complexity. The many fans of Ngugi’s fiction will feel the truth of the young man’s viewpoint and applaud his blasting of stereotypes about the country the whites had “discovered.” Marcus Garvey is Ngugi’s inspiration, both for his sense of self-reliance and for his ideas about nationalism versus the missionary and colonial projects, “which always assumed the fragility of the African mind.” He remembers “settler newspapers” that portray terrorist massacre “without rhyme or reason” while the freedom fighters have no media to voice their side. A fascinating look at twentieth-century African history, but also a moving intellectual odyssey in which Ngugi learns to revere both modernity and tradition but to reserve a healthy skepticism of both. --Hazel Rochman

Product Details

  • File Size: 361 KB
  • Print Length: 274 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 0307476219
  • Publisher: Anchor (March 2, 2010)
  • Sold by: Random House LLC
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B0036S4EMI
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #128,797 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

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16 of 17 people found the following review helpful
Ngugi wa Thiong'o is reputedly one of the greatest living African writers of fiction. ("Reputedly", because I have not read any of Ngugi's fiction nor much of other noted African authors, such as Peter Abrahams and Chinua Achebe.) Ngugi was born in 1938 in Kenya, and grew up in Limuru, a town about one hour from Nairobi. By virtue of being born when he was, Ngugi, as a youth and young adult, lived amidst the turmoil of social and political life in Kenya as it went from oppressive colonialism, through revolution, and on into oppressive post-colonial dictatorship. Ngugi left Kenya in 1977, since when he has lived in the United States, teaching at Yale, NYU, and University of California, Irvine.

DREAMS IN A TIME OF WAR is Ngugi's memoir of his childhood, until, at the age of 16, he left home to begin secondary education at a highly selective high school. His father had four wives and 24 children. During Ngugi's youth, his father and mother became estranged, and she left the homestead to live with her father, taking Ngugi and a younger brother with her. His mother clearly was an unusual woman of considerable fortitude and character. She helped fan within Ngugi a burning desire for education and then sacrificed herself in various ways to enable him to pursue that education. But their dreams of education had to be pursued during parlous times of unrest and violence, and hence the title of Ngugi's memoir.

For me, the chief value of the book is the picture it gives of native Kenyan life in a rapidly changing world - of such matters as family customs within an extended, polygamous family, traditional rites like circumcision, and communal story-telling.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Childhood Memoir January 26, 2011
In his work "Dreams in a Time of War," Wa Thiong'o evaluates his childhood with the eye of a veteran writer (who is now 72). Yet he keeps the freshness of the child just learning of the world.

Born in 1938, Ngugi was a small child during WWII and an adolescent during the beginning of the Mau Mau uprising. He experienced these events as I experienced the Iran Hostage Crisis - through stories told by my parents and others and snipets of news sources.

Yet, through his memories, and parenthetical explanations written by the 72 year old, we receive the flavor of life in late colonial Kenya. Interestingly, he defines the end of childhood not at his circumcision ceremony or any of the Western ages of "adulthood", instead he ends his "Childhood Memoir" at the point he enters high school.

Through this work we get a child's image of the themes that will permeate Wa Thiong'o's adult writings - Christianity, Colonialism, Traditionalism and the balance between the world Britain stole and the modern world.

Wa Thiong'o is still the master storyteller we met a half a century ago in A Grain of Wheat or The River Between. This story of a child who weaves his way into the modern world kept me excited to read the next section and disappointed when my subway stop would come and make me suspend reading. 4 ½ stars!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars TOWARD AN AFRICAN RENAISSANCE November 23, 2010
By Vakunta
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Ngugi's latest publication Dreams in a Time of War: A Childhood Memoir is a treasure-house of childhood memories. It is an informative and didactic memoir written with the intent of taking the reader down memory lane. The story of Ngugi's travails through life lends credence to the wise saying that epic characters are often associated with humble beginnings. The narrator begins his narrative precisely where stories of epic heroes always begin: with the place, time, and circumstances of his birth: "I was born in 1938, under the shadow of war, the Second World War, to Thiong'o wa Nducu, my father , and Wanjiku wa Ngugi, my mother. I don't know where I ranked, in terms of years, among the twenty-four children of my father and his four wives, but I was the fifth child of my mother's house"(9). Having been born in a polygamous family with too many mouths to feed, young Ngugi often suffered pangs of hunger : "I had not had lunch that day, and my tummy had forgotten the porridge I had gobbled that morning before the six-mile run to Kinyogori Intermediate School"(3). Not only did the youngster have to dispense with food on occasion; he had to walk an incredibly long distance each day in quest of the knowledge he so badly needed to improve his lot in life. Knowing who Ngugi is today, it is shocking to learn that he never owned a pair of shoes until he was admitted into high school: "I had walked barefoot all my life" (245).
Ngugi's adolescent years were formative characterized by rites of passage: "My grandmother turned to me: `And my husband here? She called me husband because I was named after my grandfather... The idea of circumcision was very far from my mind.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Through a Child's Eyes February 21, 2012
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Dreams in a Time of War: A Childhood Memoir by Ngugi wa'Thiong'o describes his childhood and coming of age in Kenya in the 1940's and 1950's. It is a really touching story of a young boy's thirst for knowledge and clearly provides the perspective of a native of Kenya.

Ngugi describes what life was like for him growing up in Kenya in a polygamous family. His father had four wives and many children. Ngugi's mother was the third wife and Ngugi lived in her hut with his full siblings. The wives formed close relationships with each other as did the children. Early in life, Ngugi made a solemn promise to his mother to attend school and to his best possible if she would make the sacrifices necessary for him to go to school.

This book really presents what life was like for Ngugi through the innocence of a child's eyes. We learn about who his friends were and what he did for fun. We also discover his heartbreak and travails when his father divorced his mother and she returned to live with her father. We begin to see the unfairness of the colonial rule when Ngugi's brother returns to Kenya after fighting in Burma in World War II and these former soldiers are not given equal treatment or justly credited or rewarded for their assistance.

Dreams in a Time of War describes the beginnings of what is commonly termed the Mau Mau Rebellion through a child's eyes and the confusion of having members of his family on different sides during the rebellion.

This was an enlightening read for me and I appreciated being able to see this through the innocence of a child.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Very good
Published 4 months ago by Carmen Vega
5.0 out of 5 stars It is Ngugi at his best and very penetrating memoir that tells the...
This is one of the most illuminating autobiographies I've read in recent times. It is Ngugi at his best and very penetrating memoir that tells the story of the growth and what... Read more
Published 9 months ago by Olayinka Oyegbile Mr
4.0 out of 5 stars Memoir of a dream's genesis
Dreams in a Time of War: A Childhood Memoir (2010) commences in 1954 in Limuru, Kenya, with the “disappearance” of the narrator’s older brother, Wallace Mwangi, better known as... Read more
Published 11 months ago by Martina A. Nicolls
5.0 out of 5 stars poetic, deceptively simple prose
Another amazing piece by wa Thiong'o that kicks off a remarkable trilogy - read especially if you are interested in schooling and childhood in the context of colonialism. Read more
Published 19 months ago by edlib
5.0 out of 5 stars DREAMS IN A TIME OF WAR
Ngugi Wa Thiong'o writes beautifully. It reminds me of a friend telling me the story of their life. You do not feel apart but very much a part of his story. Read more
Published on March 21, 2013 by m
5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful book
Great Read,as I have come to expect fro this author.This is a must read for anyone looking to understand Kenyan history better.
Published on March 6, 2013 by Keziah Kibata
5.0 out of 5 stars a very good book
Throughout this book, Ngugi expresses the reality and suffering of people from Africa during the process of colonization. very good
Published on January 3, 2013 by andressa massoni
5.0 out of 5 stars Stunningly beautiful
Put simply, Dreams In A Time Of War by Ngugi wa Thiong'o is a beautiful book. But it is also challenging, engaging, shocking, endearing and enraging at the same time. Read more
Published on October 5, 2012 by Philip Spires
5.0 out of 5 stars Worth reading!!
Great real life story. Totally worth reading. The book witnesses to the fact that where you begin, is not necessarily where you will end. Read more
Published on April 26, 2012 by Ocean
1.0 out of 5 stars Kindle price makes no sense!
How can an electronic version of a book - which costs a fraction to produce and cannot be shared - costs more than the paperback version? Read more
Published on December 30, 2010 by Amazon Customer
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