Weep Not, Child

ISBN: 0435908308
ISBN 13: 9780435908300
By: Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o

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About this book

Tells the moving story about the effects of the Mau Mau war on the lives of ordinary men and women in Kenya. In the forests, the Mau Mau are waging war against the white government, and two brothers, Kamau and Njoroge, and the rest of the family must decide where their loyalties lie.

Reader's Thoughts


Romeo and Juliet, meet the Joads of Steinbeck's Grapes of Wrath.Set in Kenya, this is the story of Njoroge, a young Kikuyu boy who befriends Mwihaki, a girl whose father hates Njoroge's father. The two fathers end up in opposing groups in the Mau Mau rebellion of 1951-1960, a period during which native Africans rose up against white colonists, but in factions rather than as a united front. A few years later when Njoroge, who has been allowed the privilege of an education, is in high school, he also meets and becomes friends with the son of the white District Officer given the responsibility to repress the Mau Mau rebellion. Ultimately, Njoroge's father and brothers and the fathers of his two friends destroy each other's families, also destroying Njoroge's hope for a better future.Published in 1964, Weep Not, Child was the first novel written in English to be published by an East African writer. While this was Thiong'o's first novel, he went on to write many more about his native country. He is now a professor of Comparative Literature and English at the University of California, Irvine. I plan to read more of his beautiful writing.

Andrew Ssempala

The most successful novel from East Africa by the mosr prolific writer in that region of the continent. This is the story of the little boy Njoroge whose eventual ambitions were arrested by the outbreak of the Mau Mau rebellion in colonial Kenya. Ngugi wrote the story during his days as a student at Makerere University in Uganda. A book no literate African must do without in his library.

Danielle W

Thiong'o nimbly weaves fiction with historical fact to create an honest summation of life in Kenya mid-20th century. I found myself wondering while reading, how does one encourage a potential audience to come to grips with this history? Thiong'o carefully crafts the narrator's voice so as to ensure the story was and continues to be heard. This novel is disturbing but important - it will make your bones ache for fairness and your heart wrench for justice.


The writing style is simple, and Thiong'o is a good storyteller. That said, it seemed disconnected at times and huge gaps occur that you have to fill in yourself. I was hoping to get a bit more information about Kenyan culture from this, but it didn't seem to be what I was hoping for.


Weep Not, Child follows Njoroge, a daydreaming child who dreams of a better tomorrow. His family is obsessed with his education, and he is occasionally stricken by delusions of importance. He reminded me of myself as a child. But his flowering into adulthood is fraught not by burgeoning sexuality, or by normal adolescent social pressures, or by the cynicism of modern life. He comes of age during the Mau Mau Uprising in Kenya (1952 to 1960). Njoroge's idealism is dashed as the violence of the rebellion and the horrors of colonialism come crashing down on him and his family. Njoroge, like Ngugi the author, loses his brother, his father, his education, and eventually his hopes and dreams.Through the course of the novel, Njoroge falls in love with the daughter of the local chief. This Romeo and Juliette story is not the focus of the book, but it does show the rife between the rich and poor blacks in the village. The local chief is rich because of the whites, and he is in league with them, and hated by the rest of the village. Eventually, a blood fued starts between Njoroge's father, the local cheif, and the local white settler. It ends poorly for all of them.

Joel Simon

"Weep Not, Child," tells the story of a family torn apart by the start of the nationalist revolt against colonial rule in Kenya. It was the first English novel published by an East African and, consequently, is worth reading. It is the first novel by the author (written in 1964), who has recieved a number of honors and is currently a professor of literature at the University of California (Irvine). The story follows the lives of several brothers, and one in particular (Njoroge) who is the youngest and is given the opportunity to attend school (being the first in his family to do so). His father, a strong, traditional African man, is brought into the center of conflict when the people of his village are faced with deciding whether to challenge the white-dominated government by agreeing to a general strike, or to back down and live with the status quo. The book moves at a decent pace and has a few very exciting episodes. Several of the characters are well-developed, but others that I wished to know more about, were not. I picked this book up on a trip to South Africa, where I always find myself in a bookshop looking for books to give me different perspectives on Africa. I recommend this book to those who are interested in learning about Kenya's break with its colonial past through accessible literature.


Read as an undergrad... I remember that it was moving but I don't remember much of the plot.


Great story -- amazing that it took me so long to read it. I'm biased, but it's not as well told as Achebe's "Things Fall Apart".Which was written first? Not sure.Love confession scene between Miwihaki + Njorgoe was over the top, unrealistic for the culture.Most coinciding historical events related in this novel weren't clearly communicated/addressed.Big takeaway for me: I did not realize that native-born African writers were of mass like-mindness that Christianity goes hand-in-hand with colonization. That was certainly a theme I'm noticing more and more in these "post-colonial" novels.


Ok I read this when all that political strife was going down in Kenya, and thousands of people had died. I learned that intergenerational conversations must intentionally happen, otherwise we tend to waste a lot time repeating the same old mistakes and fostering a lot of hate, angst, confusion and disappointment towards our elders and amongst ourselves in the process. Also...colonialism sucks...more bad than good came out of it...and you can challenge me on that.


I just finished reading this for the second time. I agree with some people below that the writing can be odd and simple. Its kind of a sketch more than a really fleshed out tale, I mean it is a short book. I think the odd language and simpleness of the book actually make the themes much more clear. Additionally its one of the first English books in African literature and Ngugi wrote it when he was young himself. I love how simply he addressed these complex topics, it feels youthful and fresh. I think that kind of adds voice to the young main character Njoroge. I also like how it mixes normal events/feelings of growing up including first loves and realizing your parents aren't invincible along with the story of growing up in a nation fraught with turmoil and revolution. Just my take. It does vilify white people and colonialism more than some other books in this genre but I actually like it better than Things Fall Apart. This is one of my favorite books in African literature. I also like the more negative views of colonization in this book.

Julia Glassman

It might have been the translation, but the tone of this novel felt flat and rushed. None of the characters had really distinguishable personalities, and the love story never really felt real to me. With that said, I know this is an early work, and I could see some really interesting themes emerging that perhaps he's elaborated on in his other books: the tension between religion/superstition and modern education, and the resistance among colonized peoples to defeatism and complacency. At some point I do want to pick up one of his later novels and see how it compares.


this was my third novel by ngugi, and possibly my least favorite? don't get me wrong, it's a worthwhile read, but i vastly prefer his later a grain of wheat (amazing!). weep not, child seems like a sketch by comparison. that said, ngugi's light story-telling touch works as well as ever-- he renders his characters with a willful naivete that would almost remind me of kurt vonnegut, were it not so free of snark (and full of wonder). the characters-- though likeable-- are a bit one-dimensional, and i was disappointed at the glimpse of white, colonial kenya (which was one of the big strengths of a grain of wheat). the novel begins to come alive towards the end, but the plot points hurry along too quickly. had there been another 50 pages of extrapolation-- and a bit more psychological inquiry-- this could have been a real masterpiece. as is, it's a nicely-paced book that asks a lot of interesting questions and lays the foundation for what continues to be an interesting career.

Michael Lundie

A tragic and engrossing tale, but also valuable as a tool for the student of Kenyan history. Thiong'o trains his lenses on the Mau Mau uprising, both the political and social injustices that brought it about and the calamities as well as uncertainties it left in its wake. I was left with an impression that the protagonist Njoroge's hopeful ascent to a life of significance followed by a blistering decline into desolation and complacence mirrors the author's sentiments about post-colonial Kenya's political and social state - so much hope, ending in arrested development.

Kristina Ramos

It has been years since I read Ngugi's Weep Not, Child. It's one of those rare books in my sister's collection that turned out to be good. I may not remember the novel in its entirety, however, there are certain images Ngugi emphasized which made the story memorable, particularly the contrast of light and darkness. The play on light and dark images exemplify the themes of hope and desolation that is stressed in parts one and two of the novel respectively. The protagonist Njoroge is encouraged by his family and village to attend school in hopes that the education he receives will be beneficial in restoring Kenya to its glory before colonial arrival. Njoroge felt responsible for the welfare of his family and people so he eagerly worked hard in his schoolwork, eventually showing great potential. Here "education is the light of Kenya." Towards the end of the novel, Njoroge's faith in education and his belief that the "sun will rise tomorrow" slowly crumbles because of the socio-political unrest in Kenya. He eventually attempts suicide when he realizes "the sun was sinking down and his last hope had vanished" after the people he loved abandoned him. Despite Njoroge's sense of hopelessness at the close, I found Ngugi's overall message to be inspiring and memorable. Ngugi ambiguously implies hope when Njorge "saw the light [his mother] was carrying and falteringly went towards it. It was a glowing piece of wood which she carried to light the way."

Melissa Tabak

This novel made me cry. It is both a coming age story as well as a story of the Mau Mau rebellion. It explores themes of colonialism, what it means to be African, and many other compelling elements. This is one if my favorite novels.

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