Traumatic memory, autobiography and history in Ngugi wa Thiong’o’s memoirs and A Grain of Wheat

By Syned Mthatiwa

The publication of Ngugi wa Thiong’o’s childhood memoirs, Dreams in a Time of War and In the House of the Interpreter, gave his readers a glimpse of his troubled past as a young boy growing up in colonial Kenya. While getting to grips with Ngugi’s difficult childhood, one notices that the memoirs and A Grain of Wheat are simultaneously personal, social and political actions that highlight the evils of a colonial past. In this paper I undertake a dialogic reading of the memoirs and A Grain of Wheat to examine how Ngugi uses writing to inscribe postcolonial trauma and scriptotherapy. I argue that in exposing colonial violence and the painful experiences of the colonized in Kenya through fiction and memoir Ngugi inscribes his postcolonial trauma and that of his fellow Kenyans as a process of recovery. In the discussion I draw from canonical trauma theory and postcolonial trauma studies.

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