The Dark Child

Shelf Love

img023 (444x640)One of the most striking things about this 1953 autobiographical novel written by Guinean author Camara Laye is how familiar it feels. I know nothing about French Guinea, where Laye grew up, but this book is not so much about Guinea as about childhood—a specific childhood that happens to be a Guinean childhood. It’s not a book that teaches outsiders about Guinean culture or politics, although readers can pick up some information by being immersed in Laye’s own experiences. We are with him as he goes to school, visits his grandmother, and gets circumcised.

Many of Laye’s experiences would be familiar to children from all over. For instance, there’s his quite funny account of getting bullied by older boys at school and then being appalled and embarrassed at his father’s attempts to intervene. There’s innocent childhood romance, worries about fitting in, and intense studying for exams. It’s a childhood, not…

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