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Mukiwa: A White Boy in Africa

4.2 of 5 stars 4.20  ·  rating details  ·  2,230 ratings  ·  170 reviews
The Barnes & Noble Review
January 1998

Mukiwa: A White Boy in Africa is the story of Peter Godwin's experiences growing up in Rhodesia. He recounts the story of that country's violent transformation into Zimbabwe, as well as his own personal metamorphoses from privileged boy to reluctant soldier to investigative journalist.

Godwin's story begins, "I think I first realize

Paperback, 432 pages
Published November 30th 2004 by Grove Press (first published 1996)
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Community Reviews

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My boyfriend's Dad grew up in Zimbabwe about the same time as this author and gave this book to my boyfriend(Pete) as the closest example of how his life was growing up. Pete gave it to me after watching me try to read a series of autobiographies on the same subject which just weren't that great.
Godwin is a journalist and writes in the journalist style I can never decide if I like, but it's an interesting book and offers tons of info on Zim in the 70s.
My Dad recently returned from South Africa a
Peter Godwin certainly has a story to tell. It’s a story of an idyllic, if unusual childhood, a disrupted but eventually immensely successful education, military service and then two careers, one in law, planned but aborted, and then one in journalism, discovered almost by default. Listed like this these elements might sound just a bit mundane, perhaps not the subject of memoir. When one adds, however, the location, Rhodesia becoming Zimbabwe, the result is a deeply moving, in places deeply sad, ...more
The best memoirs not only render a life, but also a unique time and place. I can't think of a memoir that has done this more beautifully than Peter Godwin's Mukiwa, the first installment in his Rhodesia/Zimbabwe trilogy. By now, I've read all three, and this one is not only my favorite within the trilogy, but definitely my new favorite memoir, and quite possibly one of my favorite books. As a work of creative non-fiction, it's deeply personal, yet unsentimental. It's meticulously crafted and lit ...more
Peter Godwin
Jan 23, 2011 Peter Godwin rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  (Review from the author)
Joan Colby
A very well-written and engaging memoir which is part the experience of a white boy in Africa and part a coming of age story. Godwin was born in Rhodesia to a father who was a factory manager and a mother who was a doctor. Both were idiosyncratic characters who embodied the British ideal of the stiff upper lip. As a child, Godwin frequently accompanied his mother on her medical rounds which included some revolting autopsies done in the field. He was sent to boarding school at the age of 6 which ...more
This book was written in three parts:
1. A description of his African childhood.
I don't think it was the author's intention, but I felt very sorry for this lonely little boy. I had to remind myself that this was a different time, and that children were raised with much less fuss.
2. His time fighting in the Rhodesion war.
Imagine figting a war that you don't believe in. Putting your life on the line for a war you know can't be won.
3. His time as a lawyer and investigative reporter in Zimbabwe.
Mikey B.
This book is divided into three sections. The first is about the author’s upbringing in what was then Rhodesia – the relationship to his parents and sister, schooling – the normal kind of stuff – except with a Rhodesian angle. There is a slowly escalating violence, but white Rhodesians continue to believe in the bubble they inhabit – unable to view life outside of this paradigm.

The writing throughout is matter-of-fact and reads well, almost like a novel. The second section concerns his recruitme
I read this book mostly one night sitting by a fire in Plettenburg Bay, South Africa - waiting for a cab at 1:30 am.

I read Godwin's second book first, and I really liked it. This book was about his childhood and I thought it was really great too.

It was a bit strange, because it seemed like a real life Power of One, without the fantastical ledgend aspect. Many of the same situations happened to Godwin.

Plus, learning about the Rhodesian war and then the subsequent civil war from the point of vie
Margo Tanenbaum
Peter Godwin, born and raised in what was then Rhodesia, tells the story of his boyhood and journey into manhood, which coincided with the civil war that resulted in black Africans taking power from the white Rhodesians who had been there for generations. Required to do military service when finishing high school, Godwin joins an elite unit of the police, and finds himself fighting in a civil war he hates for a dying white government that he doesn't believe in. Eventually he is able to leave the ...more
Evocative, well written, passionate, detailed I felt part and parcel of Peter's life as he takes the reader through his childhood and into his early adult years in War torn Zimbabwe. The strength if this book I think is that the writer has written it from the heart, almost in a process of catharsis. As I turn the last page my mind is still full of its images, colours, sounds, smells and real life characters. It is written with humanity and with pride. A definite must read for anyone who wants to ...more
Val Johnston
Great story by a great author relating a funny but sad story of a crumbling little Country.
It's only the beginning.
Godwin wrote Mukiwa as three "books" within a book. The first tells of his childhood and youth in colonial Rhodesia as it was crumbling and guerrillas were becoming progressively more active. The second book relates the period of his required national service, which he entered with considerable misgiving. He chose to serve in the police force rather than the military, although the distinction between the two was increasingly blurred. The final book begins with his return home, after several year ...more
Peter Godwin grew up in Rhodesia. His father was a land manager and his mother was a doctor. The book is an account of his experiences growing up white in the years before the war which resulted in blacks taking power and the country changing to Zimbabwe. As a young adult, he had to serve his time in military service and was part of the police force as the unrest grew. Later he worked as a reporter for the London Times and exposed some of the war atrocities. He was banned from the country for s ...more
Juliet Wilson
This is a memoir of the author's childhood, adolescence and parts of his adulthood spent in Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe). I visited Zimbabwe twice between 1990 and 1992 when I lived in Malawi (including a number of the places featuring here) and although I knew some of what happened there in the 1960s - 1980s, I was interested to find out more. This is a stunning book, heartbreakingly sad in its cataloguing of wartime atrocities and life in a country torn apart, but sometimes also very funny (especia ...more
Brittany Kubes
A “mukiwa” is a fig that is the same color as white people. Peter Godwin wrote a memoir about being a mukiwa in the changing African country of Rhodesia/Zimbabwe. In a quick read, Godwin writes about (1) his pleasant childhood growing up in the African wilderness, (2) being a disillusioned police officer during the Rhodesian Bush War, and (3) investigating, as a lawyer and journalist, Zimbabwe war crimes. I don’t mean to be jaded, but at times African war destruction tales can get rather uniform ...more
The first parts of Mukiwa show us Africa through a child's eyes: a world of danger, magic and death. The child's eye sees death as if through a pane of glass, an interesting (and sometimes) amusing spectacle, full of pungent smells and revolting sights, while staying ignorant of the consequences, cocooned in his little world of private schools and powerful parents. As Godwin grows older, death encroaches more and more on his world until he finds himself in the thick of it, a soldier fighting in ...more
Brilliant memoir of life in Rhodesia as it entered the civil war that ended in the deposing of Iain Smith and white rule .

There are three parts . The first about the author's youth and is largely an evocation of the sounds , smells and magical world of Africa with its dangers and exhilarating landscapes .

The second part deals with the war and the transition to black rule

The third with his return as a rebellion in Matabeleland is ruthlessly and bloodily put down by the Mugabe led majority govern
I finished reading this book in the same week the sad news about the death of journalist Marie Colvin hit the news. Peter Godwin is a white man who grew up in Rhodesia, seemed to have a lovelly middle class childhood with his father a company boss and his mother a community Doctor, then the trouble starts when it is decided to end white rule and establish a new Government. I was a teenager at the time and dont remember much about it, we looked at it in black and white, oh yes the country is Afr ...more
I didn't want to enjoy this book but became engrossed in spite of myself. After reading his book, When a Crocodile Eats the Sun, (which is about his return to Zimbabwe as an adult to care for his aging parents), I found the author to be pretentious - a free lance writer living in NYC and visiting Africa to see his parents and special writing assigments. However, after reading about his childhood and years serving in the army during Rhodesia's civil war, I was impressed that Peter Godwin survived ...more
A very interesting read. I don't know how atypical Peter Godwin is; the son of liberal/progressive parents in rural Rhodesia, he grew up accompanying his doctor mother to road accidents and post-mortems, and his black nanny to Apostolic church meetings where he was the only white. The first part of the book, covering his childhood until he leaves school, is both touching and funny.

Part 2 is an abrupt change of scene, covering the 18 months or so he spent after school as a young conscript in the
Megan Costello
Firstly, I would like to say how many funny moments are in this book; I laughed a lot. Godwin really understands how to draw a picture up in the readers mind, and make you feel every emotion he felt. A reader who enjoys reading about: adventure, the act of a person seeking justice, or just trying to educate the public on revealing the truth should really read this book.

"Mukiwa" is memoir of a boy journeying to a man, in the midst of a civil war in Rhodesia, and the struggle after Rhodesia ends,
In Mukiwa, Godwin tells the story of his childhood and young adulthood in Rhodesia/Zimbabwe in the 1960s through 1980s. Rather than reflect back on his life, for the most part Godwin tries to tell the story of his early years in the voice of a child. Later, he tries to capture the voice of a young man in the army seeing violence he cannot stop. He is generally successful in this approach.

Godwin’s parents were progressive but still were part of the white, genteel establishment. His father managed
I read Mr. Godwin's two memoirs backwards -- I started with When a Crocodile Eats the Sun: A Memoir of Africa, which tells of his later life, then moved on to this book. I really enjoyed reading Godwin's perspective on Rhodesia/Zimbabwe. He was born there and grew up in white-run Rhodesia. While his parents were fairly liberal for British settlers, Godwin nonetheless grew up in the segregated and racially divided colonial society and gives a clear presentation of the realities of that setting.

Engrossing book about growing up in white Rhodesia, told through the eyes of a young man who still wrestles with finding his place in the history of it all. Godwin brings the people and history of Zimbabwe alive: from the opening scene of the book, when a white farmer is murdered by guerrillas; to his own coming of age in an uncertain time; to his compulsory service in the Rhodesian special forces during the long and bloody civil war that finally brought Ian Smith's government to its end; to the ...more
Lobsang Tak
Feb 20, 2012 Lobsang Tak rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: read this book especially those who like to read different tribes of people living together.
Before reading this book I have any idea about former Rhodesia and now Zimbabwe.
Mr.Godwin's memoir of those childhood years in Africa are very uncommon to us.
This book is also quite terrible between war time and later years...Remarkable!
"Mukiwa"It was Isaac who told me why we were called Mukiwa.He picked a wild fig and held it up.It was a pale pinkish colour.'It is called Mukiwa,'he said,same colour like you.'
Like above sentence Mr.Godwin had explained many local words in English with examples o
This memoir is a beautiful exploration of the sadness of the end of Rhodesia and the very disappointing new era of majority rule. Do not misunderstand what I mean by sadness; it is not nostalgia for minority rule. Because it is an account of one man's memories of a culture now gone, however, it calls up the sense of loss and decay that runs through the genre most of the time. When an entire civilization has passed within a generation, that sense of loss is amplified for this reader. And anyone w ...more
Pam Mezaraups
I read When the Crocodile book of this trilogy first and absolutely loved it. This book was good and affecting but not the power punch of the second book. This shows Peter Godwin growing up in Rhodesia and some of it... Rhodesia, USA, Finland...coming of age are similar stories. This book was particularly gripping when it became Rhodesia and Peter...clearly a place, a life, a country deeply loved. His time in the army, his sister's death, his undertanding of the people he lives with and eventual ...more
Babak Fakhamzadeh
Peter Godwin grew up in Rhodesia during the end of white rule and Mukiwa is a personal narrative; a testament to Africa and a memoir as seen through the eyes of a child becoming a young man amidst civil war. Spanning 1964-1982, from when Godwin was a boy of six in Rhodesia to when he returned to Zimbabwe as a journalist covering the bloody transition back to black rule, Godwin personalizes a difficult era in southern African history with clarity, intelligence, humor, empathy, and sharp prose.
This novel was a bit slower to start than "When A Crocodile Eats The Sun", but I still loved it. The writing isn't quite as well developed and there are a few grammatical missteps, largely due to the fact that words are British rather than American English I think, but I really enjoyed it. I loved it and was especiallly moved in so many places, but it is a harder, rougher telling but somehow much less emotional than "When A Crocodile Eats The Sun", Godwin's later memoir. You can really tell the ...more
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"Peter Godwin was born and raised in Africa. He studied law at Cambridge University, and international relations at Oxford. He is an award winning foreign correspondent, author, documentary-maker and screenwriter.

After practicing human rights law in Zimbabwe, he became a foreign and war correspondent, and has reported from over 60 countries, including wars in: Angola, Mozambique, Namibia, Zimbabwe
More about Peter Godwin...
When a Crocodile Eats the Sun: A Memoir of Africa The Fear: Robert Mugabe and the Martyrdom of Zimbabwe Rhodesians Never Die Information Literacy Meets Library 2.0 Information Literacy Beyond Library 2.0

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