Birth of a Dream Weaver: A Writer's Awakening by Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
This is a heavy, weighty book - and yet utterly fascinating.
The blurb says:
"Birth of a Dream Weaver charts the very beginnings of a writer’s creative output. In this wonderful memoir, Kenyan writer Ngugi wa Thiong’o recounts the four years he spent in Makerere University in Kampala, Uganda—threshold years where he found his voice as a playwright, journalist, and novelist, just as Uganda, Kenya, Congo, and other countries were in the final throes of their independence struggles."Which seems simple enough, but is not.
Ngugi wa Thiong'o (mostly referenced as James Ngugi in the book) writes in depth about the politics of the time - from 1959, when he first entered Makerere University College as a subject of a British Crown Colony until 1964, when he left as a citizen of an independent African state - his birth and growth as a writer being deeply affected by and entwined with the struggle of the African countries for independence. The things he describes are at the same time foreign - so much blood! So much oppression - and yet familiar; Malaysia's struggle for independence and the continued impact of British colonialism gives me, as a reader, a certain shared basis of understanding - or so I would like to think. [It would also seem that the Malay Sultanate may have had a larger mitigating impact - influence, maybe - on the amount of power the British were able to exert in Malaya than I had previously realised. Or the white/black relations are more convoluted and strained than I can comprehend.]
As a writer, it's fascinating to discover how the events of the nation affects Ngugi's growth as a writer - both directly, in terms of what he feels led to write about, and indirectly, in the rules, restrictions and opportunities given him to write and present his work.
Even if you're not a writer, Birth of a Dream Weaver would be a valuable read for those interested in politics, race relations and history.
Note: I received an e-arc of this book via Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review.
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Birth of a Dream Weaver just launched on Oct 4!