Kenyan writer and professor wa Thiong’o (English and Comparative Literature/Univ. of California, Irvine) offers a second harrowing volume of memoir, a sequel to his Dreams in a Time of War (2010).
The author begins in 1955, when he had just completed his first term of boarding school and returned home to find…no home. His village was destroyed, and his family was relocated. Right from the outset, then, the themes of dislocation, fear and random violence and terror emerge. His older brother sided with the anti-colonials and was eventually captured, then released; the author was imprisoned, not long after his graduation—a random detention that culminated in the 1959 trial that concludes this book. Wa Thiong’o highlights his family and friends, but also the dominant presence of the school principal, Edward Carey Francis, who appears as a strong, principled but enormously complex character whom the author both feared and revered. School became a revelation, as the author plunged into the library, reading indiscriminately at first (he loved Sherlock Holmes, was troubled by the literature of empire). Excelling in the classroom, he submitted a story for publication in the school journal (it was accepted), and he participated in the school’s annual Shakespeare production. The author also writes about his dawning spiritual and religious life (he became an extraordinarily devout Christian, then began to question) and about his ineptness at sports. He preferred table tennis and chess to soccer and field hockey. Throughout, he fittingly refers to school as his “sanctuary,” for the place shielded him from the Mau Mau Uprising and other regional and continental crises.
An inspiring story of a young man determined to excel and escape.