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Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Welcome To A Life

It's so refreshing to read a memoir where the author doesn't mythologize her parents.

Before beginning "Don't Lets Go To The Dogs Tonight: An African Childhood" (2001) by Alexandra Fuller, I read the jacket. My first thought? I hope this doesn't turn out to be one of those tales about noble white people. I'm so tired of celebrities and authors claiming to have been raised by the enlightened. Have no famous people had parents like mine, i.e. good and decent even if they were not ahead of the curve vis-a-vis racial matters? Turns out, Fuller's parents were like that - what a relief. The author doesn't draw a great deal of attention to this - it's likely I noticed because her candor about these non-heroic but loving people stood out in contrast to all the insufferable celebrity garbage about larger-than-life, unfailingly progressive parents.

In addition to the author's complete lack of sentimentality, her matter-of-fact descriptions of life in Zimbabwe (nee Rhodesia), Malawi & Zambia made this book a welcome read. Her life from two years old to twenty was no stroll through the suburbs but the writing never made her difficulties feel exceptional; it was simply her childhood. Because Fuller doesn't distance herself from the reader, either by making her parents mythic or by turning her childhood into a vision quest, anyone can feel authentic drawing parallels to their own life, no matter how different it is from the one described here.

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