On Tuesday night, in the Town and Gown Ballroom, author Alexandra Fuller discussed her best-selling 2003 book, Don’t Let’s Go to the Dogs Tonight: An African Childhood, in a Visions and Voices event.
The work documents Fuller’s childhood in Rhodesia, current-day Zimbabwe, during the country’s struggle for independence. Don’t Let’s Go to the Dogs Tonight explores the themes of war, love and death. Aside from Don’t Let’s Go to the Dogs Tonight, Fuller’s other nonfiction books include Scribbling the Cat: Travels with an African Soldier, which won the Lettre Ulysses Award for the Art of Reportage; The Legend of Colton H. Bryant and Cocktail Hour Under the Tree of Forgetfulness.
Fuller has also written numerous articles in publications including Harper’s, National Geographic Magazine, The New Yorker Magazine and Vogue.
Fuller’s Don’t Let’s Go to the Dogs Tonight won the Royal Society of Literature’s Winifred Holtby Memorial Prize for best regional novel of the year and became a finalist for Guardian’s First Book Award and a New York Times notable book.
At the event, Fuller described her childhood and compared it to her adulthood living and writing in the United States. She discussed the process of publishing Don’t Let’s Go to the Dogs Tonight as well as her other three nonfiction books, which are also memoirs.
Fuller argued that the meaning of freedom of speech in the United States by saying that though the Constitution grants the right to speak freely, the right can sometimes not be used. For this reason, Fuller said that people from Zimbabwe seem very outspoken.
“What I love is that my right not to lose my voice is protected,” Fuller said. “The U.S. gave me freedom of speech.”
Fuller said that people in the United States can be labeled — she gave the example of how knowing she is vegetarian or African-American can change the way people view her.
“Just because we are given freedom of speech doesn’t mean that we have an equal right to use it,” Fuller said.
On the subject of apartheid, Fuller said that people longs for a sense of power. Power in her childhood came from English speakers and though the movement seemed to be about gaining power, apartheid leaders did not achieve the goal in the end.
Fuller also spoke about the difficulty of being a female writer.
“Thank you for having me to speak,” Fuller said. “The statistics have shown how many women are being published and how many women are being reviewed … and the statistics are appalling.”
Students in attendance found the event moving.
“I thought it was great that she could talk about something so serious and intertwine bits of humor throughout. I’m really excited to read her book,” said Taylor Andes, a junior majoring in biology.
Nikita Johri, a freshman majoring in cognitive science, thought that the author had interesting views on war.
“It was incredibly interesting to hear her opinions and her viewpoints on war, on humanity and on just her life experience after reading the book,” Johri said.
The night opened up to a question and answer session, which ranged from questions about Fuller’s opinions on war and the death penalty to appreciation for Fuller’s book from someone who grew up in Rhodesia in the audience.
A reception and book signing followed Fuller’s talk and the event, which was free to students. The planners gave the first 100 students a free copy of Don’t Let’s Go to the Dogs Tonight.