Birth Of A Dream Weaver: A Writer’s Awakening

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by Ngugi wa Thiong’o

 

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.

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About Birth Of A Dream Weaver: A Writer’s Awakening

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.

James Ngugi, as he was known then, is haunted by the emergency period of the previous decade in Kenya, when his friends and relatives were killed during the Mau Mau Rebellion. He is also haunted by the experience of his childhood in a polygamous family and the brave break his mother made from his father’s home. Accompanied by these ghosts, Ngugi begins to weave stories from the fibers of memory, history, and a shockingly vibrant and turbulent present.

What unfolds in this moving and thought-provoking memoir is both the birth of one of the most important living writers—lauded for his “epic imagination” (Los Angeles Times)—and the death of one of the most violent episodes in global history.

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978-1620972403

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Ngugi lived through the wrenching cultural change he writes about in Petals of Blood. His parents separated when he was a boy, and his education veered from one centered on Kenya’s native Gikuyu language to instruction in English. It was under English schooling that Ngugi fell in love with writing—he emphasizes Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treausure Island as a book that “set my imagination flying.” A gifted child, Ngugi gained admission to an elite high school, and there he became politically radicalized. His whole life was filtered through his Christian faith, his campaigning for more Afrocentric education, and his obsession with writing. In 1955, he returned home from school to a less cerebral agitation: his home village had been ripped apart by an antiguerrilla campaign.

Ngugi’s mother would be tortured for three months because of her suspected collaboration with the guerrillas. It is a testament to Ngugi’s faith in the power of education that, faced with trauma like this, he threw himself into his studies and continued to distinguish himself academically. At Uganda’s Makerere University Ngugi edited magazines, wrote fiction and plays, and became a columnist for Kenya’s flagship newspaper the Daily Nation. After graduating from Makerere, he attended Leeds University in England, where he was introduced to Marxist and anticolonial writers.

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