Don't Let's Go to the Dogs Tonight
by Alexandra Fuller
In her memoir of growing up in Africa, Fuller paints a vivid and unflinching portrait of her unconventional childhood. Alexandra, who goes by Bobo, lived with her parents and sister in Rhodesia in the midst of Civil War in the 1970s. The daily dangers they face become the norm as they grow up.
The style of the book reminded me quite a bit of The Liar’s Club and The Glass Castle. All three are similar tales of a somewhat neglected upbringing. This one is more extreme because it’s in Africa. The threat of terrorists and war increases the danger, but the struggle of a child growing up with alcoholic and selfish parents is a universal one.
Loss is a major theme throughout the book. Bobo and her family lose multiple children and at times their grief overwhelms them. Some of the surreal experiences Fuller describes almost seem normal when she writes about them. Certain aspects remind you that they are not anywhere near the western world, like the sanitary conditions, which were appalling. The kids constantly had worms or fleas and were often left to fend for themselves.
The circumstances of their life felt so foreign. There was no structure. Their existence depended on the whims of their irresponsible parents. Bobo’s older sister Vanessa was a somewhat stable force in her life. She seemed to understand more about what was happening, but she protected her sister as much as she could.
BOTTOM LINE: I love reading memoirs that give me a glimpse into a completely foreign life and this one did just that. I don’t envy Fuller’s childhood, but it was fascinating to read about.
“The land itself, of course, was careless of its name. It still is. You can call it what you like, fight all the wars you want in its name. Change its name altogether if you like. The land is still unblinking under the African sky. It will absorb white man's blood and the blood of African men, it will absorb blood from slaughtered cattle and the blood from a woman's birthing with equal thirst. It doesn't care.”