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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Dreams in a Time of War

The title of Ngũgĩ’s book, Dreams in a Time of War, conveys a consistent theme of hope in the midst of extreme violence. Ngũgĩ’s dream is to receive an education, a yearning that he dares not express to others when he is young. Instead, he greatly admires one of his older half-brothers, Kabae, for his formal education and his work in secretarial and legal services. “For us, the Thiong’o family, he was by far the best educated. This may have sparked my desire for learning which I kept to myself. Why should I voice desires impossible to fulfill?” Ngũgĩ asks(44). An education does not seem like an attainable reality, however. It is something he associates with wealthier families, like Lord Kahahu’s. So, when his mother asks him one day if he would like to attend school, Ngũgĩ is speechless: “It was the offer of the impossible that deprived me of words. My mother had to ask the question again” (59). Ngũgĩ quickly answers yes and makes a pact with her that he always will try his best, despite the hardships.

Initially, Ngũgĩ focuses on the immediate impediments to his education, like paying for his tuition and uniform, which his mother covers with her marketplace earnings.