Foreign Books Worth Knowing: THE DARK CHILD, by Camara Laye

Today’s book is a classic, a required reading within and beyond Africa’s borders, in high school and college. Here’s the fact sheet:

Laye, Camara. The Dark Child: The Autobiography of an African Boy. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1954. Print.

Genre: Non-fiction: autobiography

Issue/Topic: Africa, coming of age, colonialism, post-colonialism, education

Summary: The Dark Child , published in 1954 and initially set in 1930s, shatters the image of Africans as “uncivilized” as often portrayed in literary works of the same era by writers. We are given an account of Camara Laye, muslim, of the Malinke tribe, as he grows up in his village still little affected by the French colonization. At 15 Laye (his given name) moves to Conakry, the Capital of French Guinea, and later to France to continue his education.

Application: The Dark Child poignantly illustrates the effects and struggles of navigating between two cultures from a child’s perspective. The story remains contemporary because it gives an insight into the lives of not only Africans, but any individual whose journey started in the countryside with his family, moved away to go to school and ultimately traveled abroad to get a college education. I have friends from Asia and South America who are familiar with the issue of adapting to a foreign culture. Obviously, the Dark Child also offers a platform to discuss the effects of colonialism, and helps understand today’s post-colonial Africa.

I highly recommend the book, especially as a companion to Chinua Achebe’s Arrow of God and Things Fall Apart.

Note: The original text is in French. The Dark Child was translated in English by James Kirkup and Ernest Jones, and as you read above, published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux.

Age: 15 & up

About the Author: Camara Laye was born in January 1st, 1928 in Kouroussa, Guinea, in West Africa. He studied engineering in Conakry and France, and later worked for the Guinean government upon his return to Africa. Camara (family name) is the author the Radiance of the King (1956), as well as The Guardian of the Word (1980). He died in February 4, 1980, in Dakar, the capital of Senegal.

Additional note: I like the cover of the French edition better, so I’m including it in this post. 🙂 Merry Wednesday, Nathalie