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Dreams in a Time of War

(Memoirs #1)

3.91  ·  Rating details ·  1,095 ratings  ·  138 reviews
By the world-renowned novelist, playwright, critic, and author of Wizard of the Crow, an evocative and affecting memoir of childhood.
Ngugi wa Thiong’o was born in 1938 in rural Kenya to a father whose four wives bore him more than a score of children. The man who would become one of Africa’s leading writers was the fifth child of the third wife. Even as World War II affec
Hardcover, 272 pages
Published March 9th 2010 by Pantheon (first published January 1st 2005)
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Orinoco Womble (tidy bag and all) One dimension of education is, you read the book yourself and do your own homework.

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Mar 06, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: g-african-reads
Because I have just recently read Weep Not Child I was able to compare truth and fiction; evidently Ngugi drew on his own childhood experiences to write that early book, making Njoroge an avatar for himself. Certain scenes are common to both books, and it seems to me that Njoroge is a reflection of what young Ngugi might have become with less intelligence and good guidance. In this account, the protagonist comes off rather better, modesty unable to repress the fact of his admission to the countr ...more
Dec 11, 2013 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Readers of colonial and post colonial memoirs, history fanatics
Even when not reading it, I can hear the music. The choice and arrangements of the words, the cadence, I can’t pick any one thing that makes it so beautiful and long-lived in my memory. I realize that even written words can carry the music I loved in stories, particularly the choric melody. And yet this is not a story; it is a descriptive statement. It does not carry an illustration. It is a picture in itself and yet more than a picture and a description. It is music. Written words can also s
Jenny (Reading Envy)
I wish I had read this after reading Thiong'o's fiction. I will do that someday. This is an account of his childhood in Kenya from 1938 until he enters highschool/secondary school. This is during the time of the Mau Mau Uprising, which had a direct impact on his daily life.

I know people who were missionaries in Kenya directly after this period, so it filled in some gaps for me. Call me naive but I didn't really understand post-WWII colonialism very well. Goodness.

I loved seeing him in the role
Enjoyable and informative, definitely worth reading if you are curious to know more about the Mau Mau Rebellion 1952-1960 which lead to Kenyan Independence from Britain in 1963. Laid before you are the author's childhood memories up to his acceptance and arrival at high school. He is today a famed, contemporary African writer. This book focuses upon his quest for education, something all too many of us take for granted. It is about native Kenyan life. He was born in 1938, the fifth child of his ...more
Oct 05, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Put simply, Dreams In A Time Of War by Ngugi wa Thiong’o is a beautiful book. But it is also challenging, engaging, shocking, endearing and enraging at the same time. It also offers truly enlightening insight into the psychology, motivation and eventual expression of a great writer. Anyone who ha admired Ngugi’s A Grain of Wheat will adore Dreams In A Time Of War, because the fiction that rendered the novel such a complex and rewarding read is here as reality, in all its greater rawness of immed ...more
Feb 17, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I didn't think this book would have such an impact on me. The ending had me in tears. Every time I read a Kenyan novel, I'm more eager to learn about the country's past- its such a great country. This is a very, very touching novel. Ngugi wrote this with such love and care - well, obviously, its his childhood memoir! But honestly, I admire and respect him a lot - especially the family he came from and his mother. Family units play a HUGE role in the future of children and this novel demonstrates ...more
Orinoco Womble (tidy bag and all)
Belief in yourself is more important than endless worries of what others think of you. Value yourself and others will value you.Validation is best that comes from within.

Imagine a world where the lack of shoes and stockings can stand in the way of a highschool diploma.

Imagine a world where your exam results don't qualify you for highschool, but you are admitted to a "teacher training school."

As happened when I read The Diary of Ma Yan: The Struggles and Hopes of a Chinese Schoolgirl, what str
Moses Kilolo
Apr 02, 2012 rated it really liked it
All known truths lead to the fact that Ngugi is an iconic figure not only in Kenyan but African as well as the world literature. But where did he come from, and what was it like during his baby steps and subsequent ascend? Well, in this brilliantly captured childhood memoir, Ngugi tells of his time growing up in colonial Kenya and its coincidence with the fight for freedom. Its inevitable that he'd write about politics, his books contain so much of it, and Kenyan history indeed. I just read Cama ...more
Dec 02, 2010 rated it liked it
I first read about this book on Christianity Today's website under their book reviews and was so intrigued! This book really was quite the history lesson on Kenya and an immense culture shock. The reason it took me so long (it was just two sessions of reading separated by a few weeks) is because the subject matter is so hard. It's silly because Thiong'o really doesn't dwell on the suffering (nor does he gloss over it). However, the history of Kenya is a hard thing. It hurts my heart to read abou ...more
John Benson
Feb 20, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Though I grew up in East Africa, I am ashamed to say I didn't read many African authors until much later in life. I did read about people like me, who were wazungus (Europeans) there, but not by many African citizens. In 2005, when I was in Tanzania, I began reading them and I especially enjoyed some of Ngugi wa Thiong'o's novels. He wrote so well, explained his ideas clearly, and brought out Kenyan life in the colonial era so well. Always meant to get back to him and now I found this memoir of ...more
Ahmed Masoud
Mar 06, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Fantastic account of coming of age in colonial Kenya, heartbreaking and funny in an endearing way. Definitely recommend this book, it would take you to Kenya to feel it for yourself
Dec 26, 2020 rated it really liked it
Kenya <3
A lovely memoir for anyone who has spent time in Kenya, surprising and made me smile a lot.
His writing is smooth, and I liked this non-fiction story much more than Weep Not, Child.
Mish Middelmann
Apr 14, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I bought this book at the wonderful Bridge Books. It was great to re-encounter one of my favourite authors from the 1970s.

What struck me most about this childhood memoir is its direct and deep insight into daily life of ordinary Kenyans in the 1950s during the anti-colonial struggle. Families and communities are split as some find it best to collaborate in some way with the colonial power, others ally themselves with local power figures, and yet others join the national resistance movement (the
Chris Harrison
Mar 25, 2019 rated it liked it
"Dreams in a Time of War" is an important book. As the subtitle states, these stories are Ngũgĩ wa Thiong'o’s memories of growing up in Kenya during very turbulent times. Ngũgĩ was born just prior to World War Two. These memories are predominantly from the 1950’s, which were a very turbulent time in Kenya. They are centred around Ngũgĩ’s desire for education and the sacrifices he and his mother make, so that he can attend elementary school and have an opportunity to be one of the few people in h ...more
Aug 30, 2012 rated it really liked it
Dreams in a Time of War: A Childhood Memoir by Ngugi wa'Thiong'o describes his childhood and coming of age in Kenya in the 1940’s and 1950’s. It is a really touching story of a young boy’s thirst for knowledge and clearly provides the perspective of a native of Kenya.

Ngugi describes what life was like for him growing up in Kenya in a polygamous family. His father had four wives and many children. Ngugi’s mother was the third wife and Ngugi lived in her hut with his full siblings. The wives forme
Dec 30, 2011 rated it it was amazing
I really want to read the rest of his memoirs now after reading this childhood one-I almost didn't believe it when the book ended right as he got to high school.
The story of Ngũgĩ's childhood life not only gives insight into life and the pursuit of knowledge at a time in Kenya's history when for political and economic reasons neither was easy; but also was a window into the country's history and the culture of the Agikũyũ.
For example, I enjoyed finding out about tradition as practised by his un
Ibrahim Aliyu
Oct 27, 2017 rated it liked it
Theres nothing like a dream to create the future - victor hugo

i have learnt
From books dear friend
Of men dreaming and living
And hungering in a room without a light
Who could not die since death was far too poor
Who did not sleep to dream, but dreamed to change change the world.- Martin Carter, " looking at your hands"

In the dark times
Will there be singing ?
Yes, there will be singing
About dark times. - Bertolt Brecht, "Motto"

The Gikuyu have a saying that out of the same womb comes both a
Thuita Wachira
Mar 12, 2013 rated it really liked it
I thoroughly enjoyed reading the gave me a rare insight into life as a young boy in colonial Kenya. I identified completely with the environment, cultures and life depicted in the book especially since it was set in Central Kenya. Its historical lessons aside, i found the stories in the book powerful and masterfully told: a common characteristic for all of Ngugi's books. I found it a bit short though, and i felt some of the more interesting characters and relationships Ngugi brought ou ...more
Dec 26, 2012 rated it really liked it
I had the great privilege to hear the author speak at Howard University. All the English 101 classes were reading his recent book of essays. I was very impressed with him. No wonder he is one of the most important African writers today. I look forward to reading this book. (I've just begun.) And I look forward to reading his second memoir, which recently came out. ...more
Apr 23, 2010 rated it really liked it
i love anything this man writes. but i wish this had been a bit more about ngugi and less about politics.
HL English
It was okay, I liked it better than I thought I would but it wasn't really my type of book
Nov 07, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: read-in-2017
***Click here to see all of my reviews on my blog***

I was glad that this book was chosen along with Born a Crime by Trevor No6716861ah for my monthly bookclub. I haven’t read many books about Africa or by African authors, and I haven’t traveled to that part of the world at all, and I think reading books like these is one of the best ways to learn about the history of different parts of the world.

Thiong’o’s childhood memoir certainly didn’t disappoint me. He grew up in Kenya in the ’40s and ’50s,
Tony Wainaina
May 30, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I’ve never quite read a memoir like this before. I live in Tigoni, I know the Limuru marketplace well. The Bata shoe factory. Loreto Convent Limuru-just down the road from my home, and more significantly, my mother’s high school in the 1950s. The Manguo swamp. And on and on.... All so close to home. I was well inside this story. Never have I consumed the written word so completely.
Having one who has lived the history narrate their first hand experiences so eloquently - using all their senses, w
Jan 13, 2017 rated it it was amazing
After hearing Ngugi wa' Thiong'o talk about his third memoir, I decided to start with the first, his early life and education. As with the best memoirs, the personal life is related to the time and place where it was lived. Wa' Thiong'o moves easily and smoothly between the child voice of dim memory and the adult voice looking back on the times and filling in the background.

We learn about polygamous life and relationships: Ngugi was the fifth child of the third wife and had 23 siblings. We lear
Jun 12, 2012 rated it liked it
Shelves: culture, africa, memoir
Ngugi highlights a tense time in Kenya as the country struggled against British occupation. While the history was fascinating to see from an insider perspective, and Ngugi gives rich portraits of some of his family, the book disappointed me overall. The reading felt scattered and his telling of the history was often confusing-- sometimes to the point of incoherence. I wished he had told the story with a better eye to his broader audience. I think it is important that we non-Africans understand t ...more
May 14, 2010 rated it really liked it
Ngugi is one of my favorite writers and while this is a memoir and not his usual magical-realism fiction the prose is beautiful and simple - it flows very easily. Ngugi's story is fascinating and in the process of reading this book the reader is given an intimate portrait of Kenyan families at a time of great change and upheaval in Kenyan society that also, very gently, educates the reader on aspects of modern Kenyan history and some of the impacts of colonialism and the legacy (or scars) it lea ...more
Paul Heidebrecht
Feb 14, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Ngugi is probably Kenya's finest living writer even though he has spent much of his adult life in exile. Now in his 70s, he lived through the end of colonial rule in Kenya and the early years of Kenyan independence. This book is a memoir of his growing-up years in a Kenya that seems so distant and yet profoundly attractive. He takes us back to rural life in polygamous family tolerating the blatantly racist rule of British settlers and the British government. Ngugi also describes his encounters w ...more
Jul 04, 2012 rated it really liked it
Ngugi's story is a miraculous one in that he is able to place himself in the context of the political times in Nigeria and still grow and reflect and explore the magnificence of life as a child and budding writer. This is part one in a two part memoir (along with In the House of the Interpreter) focusing on colonization and access to education for young Africans amidst corruption and then all the normal things children go through - like parental love/guidance/or neglect, love interest, friendshi ...more
Amy O
Jun 21, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book tells a beautiful tale of a child's emergence into adulthood in the midst of poverty, family politics and the colonial tensions against the nationalistic Kenyan movement. But I do not see the dirt, unrest and disaster in this book; rather, the soft memories of family intimacy, the hope for a future with education, and the play among school kids echo. This book is about resilience of dreams that must grow up in conditions too hard to tell. Thank you, ngugi, for sharing your story with u ...more
Simona GB
Jan 11, 2017 rated it really liked it
I've been waiting for a long time for such a great book, with a good story, well written, strong message, easily readable. I haven't experienced such a pleasure while reading since Dostoevsky and Turgenev.

The fact that it is a childhood memoir brings it even closer to me in terms of feeling connected to the author on a human level. I believe it, the whole story. It feels authentic. I have a man standing in front of me, telling me about his life, his culture, his village. And I totally get it.
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Kenyan teacher, novelist, essayist, and playwright, whose works function as an important link between the pioneers of African writing and the younger generation of postcolonial writers. After imprisonment in 1978, Ngũgĩ abandoned using English as the primary language of his work in favor of Gikuyu, his native tongue. The transition from colonialism to postcoloniality and the crisis of modernity ha ...more

Other books in the series

Memoirs (4 books)
  • In the House of the Interpreter
  • Birth of a Dream Weaver
  • Wrestling with the Devil: A Prison Memoir

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