52 pages 1 hour read

Ngũgĩ wa Thiong'o

Dreams in a Time of War

Nonfiction | Autobiography / Memoir | Adult | Published in 2005

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Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o

Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o writes about his childhood in mid-twentieth century colonial Kenya. Born outside Limuru in 1938 to a polygamous family, he describes his early childhood years in idyllic terms, noting the relative harmony between his father, mother, her co-wives, and their children. Ngũgĩ develops a deep love and appreciation for stories during this time, which nourishes his desire to attend school. The opportunity arises when he is nine years old. He makes a pact with his mother that he always will try his best, and she sends him to school.

Misfortune falls upon Ngũgĩ’s family when his father’s livestock fall ill and die. His father, no longer a proud patriarch, abuses Ngũgĩ’s mother, and she leaves. Ngũgĩ’s father soon banishes him from the home, causing him to feel like a perpetual outsider. Ngũgĩ joins his mother and strives to find a sense of belonging in his new community. This, in part, compels him to participate in the initiation rite of circumcision, as it offers him the opportunity to receive social acceptance in Gĩkũyũ society.

It also is during his teenage years that Ngũgĩ begins to recognize the intense brutality of British colonial rule in Kenya. His intellect and curiosity compel him to seek out answers from news sources and his brother’s friends.