Dreams in A Time Of War (by Ngugi wa Thiong’o) starts in a hopeful place. Hopeful for a reason not too obvious at the start. After a day fighting hunger pangs at Kinyogori Intermediate School, Ngugi and Kenneth Mbugua, a classmate, take the longer six mile route home past the Limuru Bata Shoe factory. At a crossroads they are drawn into a crowd discussing the daring escape of a nameless man arrested close by. The crowd disputes the events and breaks up into groups. The nameless man turns out to be Wallace Mwangi also known as Good Wallace. Good Wallace is Ngugi’s brother and a Kenya Land and Freedom Army supplier. So begins a riveting memoir about growing up in colonial Kenya in a time of social, economic, world and anti-colonial war.
Biographies and Memoirs
Sindiwe Magona’s To My Children’s Children is a memoir that covers the first 23 years of Magona’s life. It is a tale of growth and survival within the restrictions of Apartheid and the African traditional system. Magona’s style is easy and compelling and never descends into monologue or documentary. The story begins in 1940 in a Xhosa village called Gungululu, near the Cape Province of the Union of South Africa. It is here that Magona was born and where, up to age 4, she and some of her siblings, and a plethora of cousins, grow up in a matriarchal household headed by a maternal great grandmother.
As a biographer, Colin Bundy had a long [and fruitful?] relationship with the late Govan Mbeki, a political leader who was one of the leading lights of South Africa’s African National Congress and a father to the country’s ex-President Thabo Mbeki . Correspondence between them stretched back to the days when it was still unfashionable to write letters to the ‘terrorists’ incarcerated on Robben Island.
Zakes Mda is a respected academic and one of South Africa’s most recognized authors. And yet for a man with potentially lots to lose, he appears bent on ripping apart his own legacy. His biography, Sometimes There is a Void (published in the USA in 2012 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux) is at once riveting and [...]
Working as a Peace Corps volunteer in a remote African village is not an easy undertaking in any situation. For an inexperienced, idealistic and, in addition, deaf person, such an adventure makes for an extraordinary story. Josh Swiller spent close to two years in northern Zambia in the village of Mununga, one of the most deprived villages in a poor region. His experiences and encounters, his learning by trial and error, and, most of all, his falling in love with the village and Africa, is the content of this unusual and highly readable memoir.
In Youth: Scenes from Provincial Life II, Coetzee distances himself from the younger John by writing what he terms an “autre-biography. Written in the present tense and in the third person, the story has a lively and immediate reality while at the same time suggesting a clear distance between the author and his subject.
The first of J.M. Coetzee’s three fictionalised memoirs, Boyhood narrates his childhood living with his family on a housing estate outside Worcester, a small town some ninety miles from Cape Town. The book written in Coetzee’s usual style – terse, succinct, sparse – is narrated solely through the young boy’s eyes.
Published in 2006 by University of Kwazulu-Natal Press, Pamphilia Hlapa’s A Daughter’s Legacy is a tearjerker that brings to life the ugly scourge of child sexual abuse that virtually continued unabated in the village of the author’s upbringing where silence was golden and speaking out against such was taboo.
Es’kia Mphahlele’s Down Second Avenue is an autobiographical book that recounts his experiences of Apartheid in South Africa. The book recounts Es’kia’s life story from A – Z – from when he was a young boy living in Marabastad ( in Pretoria) through to when he became an adult and fled the country to go into exile. Es’kia’s account of life under apartheid is vivid: painting the hardships he experienced even as a young boy living with his grandmother.