My cousin lent me Don’t Let’s Go to the Dogs Tonight: An African Childhood by Alexandra Fuller. What an adventure! Fuller tells the story of her adventures as a European girl growing up around different acreages and cities around Africa. Loss of family members, fear of rebels, a mother with mental illnesses, and every thing in between made Fuller’s story hard to put down, and hard to believe at times!
I found it interesting how the colonial connections to Canada were there in the book. At one point, Fuller writes about how King Lobengula of the Matabeles in 1888 was tricked into surrendering mineral rights to the British South African Company (Pg 150). Suddenly white settlers were moving in and Africans were given places to live, reserves (Tribal Trust Lands). So it seems the work they did in Canada to move European settlers onto Aboriginal lands helped them in doing something completely similar in other areas of the world, especially Rhodesia.
While I was reading Fuller’s book, by Dad lent me the memoir of another African, this time a man who survived being a child soldier: A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier by Ishmael Beah.
Beah’s story is heartbreaking. He lost his family through extreme violence and didn’t have the option of moving around and finding a new place to set up, like Fuller’s family. Beah ended up roaming around Sierra Leone looking for ways to stay alive, yet was recruited into the government army. He was given drugs, training, and weapons. At 16 he was rescued by UNICEF, yet he didn’t see it as a rescue until much later when he had healed from the physical and psychological damage.
One of the things I found interesting was the use of Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar. While teaching Julius Caesar last year, I found that many countries in Africa have claimed Julius Caesar and perform it often. The message of freedom, of fighting for democratic government, and of putting other before the self in politics speaks to several African countries struggling to get free from European control. Here is a video of Brutus’ speech and then Antony’s speech. Amazing and challenging!
I have to say that reading these two memoirs back-to-back was very interesting. What Fuller didn’t notice and only saw as a threat to her life, Beah lived and suffered through. From a European view and ability to leave, to an African view of destiny and hopelessness for change.
Thank goodness for UNICEF and all those working to end the recruitment of child soldiers. Yet we still have a long ways to go if the reaction to Omar Khadr is an indication of National public opinion. Yet there is hope: Mr. Khadr is now able to play soccer, get treatment for his eye sight, see his family, and begin to live a life that has nothing to do with war.
“Don’t you see that children are God’s best gift?” (Psalm 127:3)
“When I was a child, my grandmother told me that the sky speaks to those who look and listen to it. She said, ‘In the sky there are always answers and explanations for everything: every pain, every suffering, joy, and confusion.’ That night I wanted the sky to talk to me.” (Beah, Pg 166)