The Dark Child

READ THE WORLD – Guinea: The Dark Child by Camara Laye

Translated by Ernest Jones and James Kirkup.

A coming-of-age memoir about Camara Laye’s youth in the village of Koroussa, Guinea. Laye recounts his mother’s supernatural powers, his father’s prestige as a goldsmith, and his own passage into manhood which is marked with rituals. As he gets older, he must choose between his home and his academic talents which could lead him far from his family.

The Dark Child is a very quick and easy read. As it’s a memoir it’s written in the first person and it’s written quite simply, in part presumably because the narrator in question is a young child for most of it – the book ends when he is about eighteen. Camara Laye grew up in the 1930s in a village and he was one of the first in his family to go to school. He grew up experiencing the culture and traditions of his family and people but also started to embrace the slowly encroaching modern world.

There’s one chapter that’s all about when he was circumcised when he was about twelve or thirteen and how that was the moment he, and the other boys, became men. It was interesting but surprising as I just presumed that if a child was going to be circumcised it happened when they were a baby, not when they were prepubescent. The rituals he and the other boys experienced were a huge part of life in their village and while they didn’t really know exactly what was going to happen to them, they knew other boys (or young men) who had gone through it, including their own fathers.

It was interesting to see these rituals from both an outsider and insiders’ perspective. As while most of The Dark Child felt like a present narrative from the eyes of a child, there were moments when Laye would reflect on events as an adult and explain things that he had found out since he experienced them as a child. Things that seemed like magic and real as a child were then explained and were not so scary once he found out how certain things happened. But, as he did go away from home for school as he got older, there were something’s about the traditions that he never learnt the truth about.

This, and other moments like that, shows how embracing modernity can be a double-edged sword. While family may encourage a child to take the opportunities that they didn’t have, it can mean they lose out on learning things that are traditional and part of their community’s history. The Dark Child was an interesting coming-of-age story and how it blends superstition with education shows there’s value in both for people. 3/5.

TOP TEN TUESDAY: Books on my Winter 2021 TBR

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly feature hosted by The Artsy Reader Girl. This week’s theme is what books we’d like to read over the next few months. I love setting a vague TBR and then seeing whether or not I actually get to them any time soon. I really haven’t been reading much these last few months and I’ve come to terms with the fact I won’t be hitting my Goodreads goal but I’d still like to get some of these books read soon-ish.

The Purple Violet of Oshaantu by Neshani Andreas
This is a pretty short book and I’ve already read the first few pages to get a feel of it and I like the writing style a lot so think it should be a quick read.

She Who Became the Sun by Shelley Parker-Chan
This is a book a got in a subscription box this summer I think and ever since I’ve heard nothing but good things. I think my “fear” with a lot of fantasy books is that they are the first in the series and sometimes I don’t have the commitment for that kind of thing. So, does anyone know if this is a standalone or not? I like to know going in whether or not a book will end on a cliffhanger or not.

Pretty Things by Janelle Brown
My friends got me a three-month subscription to How Novel for my birthday and this is one of the books that I got. It seems to be a thriller set in a mansion in the mountains during winter so seems like the perfect time of year to read it.

Milena & Other Social Reforms by Olja Knežević
A young woman becomes the interpreter for the President of Montenegro but soon gets tangled up in the politics, greed, and corruption.

The Fortunes of Wangrin by Amadou Hampâté Bâ
Wangrin is hustling both the colonial French and his own people. It seems like it’ll be a funny and maybe even outrageous story as while it is a novel, it’s also supposed to be an oral history of a figure who may have been real.

Making Peace & Nurturing Life: A Memoir of an African Woman about a Journey of Struggle and Hope by Julia Aker Duany
A memoir about life growing up in South Sudan during Civil War.

Clariel and Goldenhand by Garth Nix
I reread the original Old Kingdom trilogy a few months ago and I want to reread these two before reading the newest book, Terciel and Elinor. I love these books and their world and I know when I do pick them up, I’ll read them very quickly.

The Dark Child by Camara Laye
This is an autobiographical novel and would be my read for Guinea in my Read the World Project.

Little Thieves by Margaret Owen
I hadn’t heard of this book until I got it in a subscription box and the edition is so pretty that that’s what’s made me want to read it more than anything. Though this is another book where I’d like to know if it’s a standalone or not before going into it.

What do you hope to read over the next few months?