Of Kenya's largest ethnic group, the Kikuyu, Ngugi wa Thiongo was born in 1938 in the backlands of his country (Kiambu district) to a father whose four wives bore him two dozen or so children. Ngugi was the fifth child of the third wife. His father was a peasant farmer forced to become a squatter after the British Imperial Act of 1915. Before going off to school, he had what was then considered a bizarre and inexplicable thirst for learning. He spent his early years, as World War II affected the lives of Africans under British colonialism in surprising and unexpected ways, living in a family compound, very much the apple of his mother's eye. Dreams in a Time of War he richly evokes a bygone era, capturing with a novelist's eye the landscape, the people (his grandparents, parents and siblings) and their culture, the social and political vicissitudes of life under colonialism and war, and the troubled relationship between non-Christians and Christians. Too, he deftly etches how the native, anti-colonial insurgency, the Mau Mau rebellion (1952-1963) - which failed militarily but may have hastened Kenyan independence - informed not only his but the lives of those closest to him. His mother would be tortured, a stepbrother killed.
Dreams in a Time of War abounds with at once delicate and powerful subtleties and complexities that are movingly told.
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