Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Alexandra Fuller reads from new book Aug. 18 at Teton County Public Library in Jackson

Join Jackson Hole author Alexandra Fuller on Thursday, Aug. 18, 7-8 p.m., as she reads from her new prequel and sequel to her critically acclaimed debut memoir at the Teton County Library. Co-presented by the library and Jackson Hole Writers Conference, Fuller will sign books following the reading.

In her first book, Don’t Lets Go to the Dogs Tonight: An African Childhood, Fuller recalls in vivid, often excruciating detail coming of age in Rhodesia as a long civil war rages in neighboring Mozambique. With candor and in wry, sometimes hilarious prose, she describes from a girl’s point of view a wild landscape of far-reaching beauty and a continent in the throes of a vicious political antagonism she cannot yet comprehend.

In Cocktail Hour Under the Tree of Forgetfulness (The Penguin Press; August 18, 2011), Fuller returns to the place of her childhood in both a prequel and sequel to Dogs that tells more of her family’s story, namely that of her mother, Nicola Fuller. With unflinching honesty and humor, Fuller reveals Nicola in all of her complexity and captures her inimitable voice with remarkable precision. The New York Times Book Review describes Nicola as “surely one of the most memorable characters of African memoir.”

Born on the Scottish Isle of Skye and raised in Kenya, Nicola’s unconventional early years spring to life. Here we meet her closest childhood friend Stephen Foster (a chimpanzee) and witness her plucky spirit as she rides a donkey named Suk to convent school. We see her come of age during the Mau Mau uprising and meet her future husband, the rugged wanderer Tim Fuller, who was in Kenya for just two weeks before seeing Nicola at the Nairobi airport and proposing to her less than a month later. And we marvel at the sense of adventure and stark fearlessness of this couple during their honeymoon years, drawn together by their love of and allegiance to this untamed land.

Alternating between past and present, Alexandra Fuller recalls her own childhood – priceless anecdotes such as her mother nicknaming her Bobo because she thought she looked like a little baboon, as well as the perilous years after the family moved from a brief stay in her father’s native England to the Burma Valley near war-torn Rhodesia. She reveals the hardships they endured to protect their farm against frequent ambushes and Nicola’s raw anguish and unraveling after the death of three of her five children in this unforgiving terrain. Fuller captures the absurdities amidst the chaos and her mother’s endearing whims despite her sorrows – from carting an Uzi in her Land Rover and clinging to her cherished Le Creuset pots, to piloting a plane while singing “Fly Me to the Moon” and declaring, “Drought!” whenever her cocktails ran dry.

Fuller brings her story full circle as she describes a recent reunion, sitting with her parents and sister under the Tree of Forgetfulness referenced in her book’s title. Located on her parents’ fish and banana farm on the Lower Zambezi River where they now live, the tree has long been known as the place for villagers to speak to the spirits of the dead and resolve disputes. Similarly, Fuller’s narrative summons the ghosts of her family’s past while embracing a place and lives unlike any others.

Fuller has written four books of non-fiction. Her 2004 book, Scribbling the Cat: Travels with an African Soldier was on the New York TimesExtended Bestseller List and won the Ulysses Prize for Art of Reportage. In 2008, she published The Legend of Colton H. Bryant, the biography of a young Wyoming oil rig worker who fell to his death. She has also written for magazines and newspapers, including The New YorkerNational GeographicVogue and Granta Magazine.

Born in England in 1969, Fuller moved in 1972 with her family to a farm in Rhodesia. After that country’s civil war in 1981, her family moved first to Malawi, then to Zambia. In 1993, she married an American river guide in Zambia. They left Africa in 1994 and now live in Wyoming with three children.

To learn more about library programs, visit online at www.TCLib.org. Click on the calendar tab to see a Google calendar of the library’s monthly events. For more information about the evening reading, contact Education and Program Manager, Dimmie Zeigler, 733-2164 ext. 229, dzeigler@tclib.org.

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