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Mukiwa: A White Boy in Africa

4.24  ·  Rating details ·  3,937 ratings  ·  266 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 realized s

Paperback, 432 pages
Published November 30th 2004 by Grove Press (first published 1996)
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Jul 23, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: pub-1996
“In those days we called African men ‘boys’. We had cook boys and garden boys, however old they might be. African nannies we called girls.”

I think I quite purposely avoided memoirs written by white Africans. I was afraid of their 'good old days' nostalgia and I had no interest in hearing about their blissful colonial childhoods.

This, however, was nothing like this. Even though some reviewers claim the first part of this memoir describes an innocent childhood in Rhodesia, I really fail to see ju
Sonja Arlow
About 3 years ago I tried this author’s other book, The Fear: Robert Mugabe and the Martyrdom of Zimbabwe but really struggled to get into the highly political story.

This one however was much easier to connect with as it was written in the form of a memoir following the author’s childhood in Zimbabwe, his subsequent stint in the army and finally his time as a lawyer and journalist during the change of government in the 1980’s.

I have to say my favourite sections were that of his childhood. Parti
OK, close enough to the end of 2017 for me to determine my favourite reads. Mukiwa is my 2017 BEST BIOGRAPHY.

This is a fantastically well written autobiography. It really puts a human face to the white Zimbabwean's who are stereotyped as racist bigots, seen as on the wrong side of the black majority/white minority history of Rhodesia/Zimbabwe.

Godwin's recollection of his childhood, and the writing style he employs for this section of the book is perfect. He writes the way he felt, interpreted ev
Sep 19, 2008 rated it really liked it
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
Jun 20, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: recommend
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
Vicky Hunt
Apr 20, 2020 rated it really liked it
Something for Nothing; Nothing for Something

If you were to get yourself run-over by a train, then you would probably blame more than the caboose. If I were to continue my analogy, you could feel justified in going beyond the cars and engine to the track itself, and even the railroad men who laid the track. In this captivating memoir, Peter Godwin writes (and narrates the audio) about his life growing up in the former Rhodesia, Southern Africa. But, he does so in an honest way that looks as much
Mikey B.
Dec 22, 2012 rated it really liked it
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
This is book 1 of 4 that were loaned to me by a good couple near where I reside. As a continuous student of history I came into this book with no knowledge of the former nation of Rhodesia – and came away with an understanding and appreciation of the nation of Zimbabwe. The road one travels within this memoir is reflective, educational, spiritual, and factual to the point of existence for this author, his childhood, family, teen years and young adult life. This book deserves a written review tha ...more
Melissa Lindsey
I had no idea what I was reading when I picked up this book. I think I expected a coming of age story, filled with lots of memories of the author's early years in Zimbabwe. And I certainly got that. His memories of early life with his nanny and the other servants, as well as his times in school reveal a sensitive child, who struggles at times to understand the brutality of the world around him. At the same time, he has a comfort and detachment with death that comes from having a mother whose wor ...more
Oct 04, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction, mooched
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
Jul 20, 2012 rated it really liked it
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.
AJ Payne
Feb 25, 2009 rated it really liked it
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
Sep 09, 2013 rated it really liked it
A really great personal story. The book tells Godwin's - the white boy - story, from the start of war in Rhodesia to his experience fighting in the civil war and tells of his adventures as a journalist as Rhodesia becomes Zimbabwe. Besides the personal story of a boy growing up and returning to his homeland as an adult the book is about the struggle between blacks and whites in the aftermath of British Colonial rule. ...more
Rachel MacNaught
Dec 20, 2015 rated it did not like it
Barely readable, this was a meandering story by a voice who should have stayed quiet and allowed more interesting and insightful people to speak instead.
Mar 23, 2018 rated it it was amazing
What a fantastic memoir! Peter Godwin grew up in Rhodesia as the country was beginning to shake off colonial rule.  His father a factory manager, and his mother a doctor, young Peter often rode along with his mother when she was called to attend to deaths - many the result of violence.  This, among other dangers of Africa, left a huge impression on Godwin, causing fears no child should suffer.  Like most white African children, he was sent to boarding school at a young age, and then as a young m ...more
Sep 09, 2017 rated it it was amazing
About growing up in Zimbabwe by Peter Godwin who grew up there the same time as Kit (my husband) but stayed there and fought in the war. Brilliantly written, prize winning. Would recommend to anyone. How do people remember so much detail about their childhood?
Brittany Kubes
Dec 21, 2011 rated it liked it
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
Feb 22, 2012 rated it really liked it
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
Marcy prager
Feb 15, 2015 rated it really liked it
A little boy with his family had emigrated from Great Britain to live in the "white rule" of colonial Rhodesia. Black guerrillas who wanted Rhodesia to have black rule, and expel the white settlers out of their land, started to brutally attack white individuals and whole families. Peter Godwin's mother was a doctor who investigated the death of both blacks and whites. Peter would often accompany his mother on her investigations and watch her cut open bodies to determine the cause of death. Peter ...more
Erika Ruch
Jun 01, 2020 rated it really liked it
I really like Peter Godwin's writing and his background of growing up white in Zimbabwe is really interesting. ...more
Joan Colby
Mar 26, 2010 rated it it was amazing
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
Sep 01, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: biography
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
Jul 14, 2012 rated it really liked it
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.

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,
Sep 09, 2012 rated it it was amazing
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
Apr 04, 2012 rated it really liked it
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 Yeshi
Feb 19, 2012 rated it really liked it
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
Nov 10, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: zimbabwe
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
Dec 30, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Peter Godwin's Mukiwa is a remarkable book. It tells the story of his youth and experiences growing up in Rhodesia in the 1960s and 1970s. It is especially meaningful to me because I lived there for 13 years (1967 - 1980)and know so many of the people and places that he so eloquently describes. His words are so truthful and descriptive that I found myself yearning to go back, and remembering so much of my own life there that had slipped into the far recesses of my memory. From everyday life thro ...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

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