Thirty-five selections spanning the 18th through the 20th centuries on the waning of childhood, the loss of innocence in Africa. Divided into tribal, colonial and nationalist eras, the narratives are all from ""black"" Africa, south of the Sahara, and the recorded experiences are highly diverse. The son of a Guinea metalsmith, now a well-known African novelist, remembers his father ""invoking the genies of fire and gold"" as he worked at his forge. The pre-European tribal world where the rhythms of life and death are regulated by immutable laws had its own terrors: one young African recalls seeing his mother devoured by a lion. A family of sharecroppers on a white-owned plantation in Kenya suffers bitterly divided loyalties during the Mau Mau rising; another endures the poverty and degradation of life with father, an alcoholic in the black ghettos of Pretoria. Exhilaration and terror are mingled in a young boy's introduction to British education -- ""You're on your way now, Tom Brown."" Most of the remembrances are epiphanies, ""moments of awakening"" to the apparent ""purposelessness of the behavior of Europeans"": the first obeisance to the baas; the early encounter with the doubtfully benign countenance of Bwana Yesu. One theme dominates throughout -- the bewilderment of the young trapped between ancestral laws and ceremonies and the technology, religion and schools of the West. ""Where, O Creator, went our promised land?"" Contributors include Nkrumah, Camara Laye, David Diop, James Ngugi and other contemporary African poets and government officials, with some anonymous selections and an eloquent account of the Middle Passage from the autobiography of Olaudah Equiano. A glimpse into the divided consciousness, the tainted joys and the seething resentments of initiation into the mores and the madness of the West whereby ""the cannon compels the body and the school bewitches the soul.