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

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.

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.


My review is based on this specific edition. This version of the book by MacMillan readers is meant for English language learners, so it is abridged and includes a note on the historical background, a character guide, illustrations, reading questions and a glossary separated by each book's thematic section (ex: first one is "light and darkness"). The thematic approach for the glossary serves two purposes: it helps identify Thiong'o's literary device for a higher-level read, and it helps encourage understanding of specific vocabulary at the highest/"upper" level of the readers series. A reader working in a class or independently can sense growth in literacy based on her/his understanding of these terms. Except for the illustrations, the set of extras are all useful additions; however, I felt that the abridged text did detract from the story. The reader sees moments of pain and conflict, courage and doubt--but often the action moves too quickly. I felt I did not know the characters well enough. Perhaps the extras could be paired with the original, unabridged text for use in schools.

Les Wolf

A story of Kenya and its people told in an unforgettable way.


This is probably the most poignant story I've read since Mila 18.The simplistic style in which the story is written (which I'm sure the modern reader will find boring) is largely due, I believe, to two factors; first, it is styled on the 19th century form of the novel and second, it was written when the author was 24yrs old- his first real foray into the world of writing prose. However these only add some level of authenticity to the tale as it is told from the perspective of a child.A tale worth reading.


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.


This is a very reactionary postimperial piece of African literature. It really made me reconsider the effects that Western "humanitarian" efforts have on African culture. While it's a little disturbing, I think that it raises issues that are good to be aware of.


I read this book as a child growing up in Liberia, West Africa. I remember loving the language and the rich culture that very similar to my own. I look forward to reading it again as an adult and growing a deeper appreciation for it.


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.

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.


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


In this short, sweet novel, African writer Ngugi Wa Thiong'o uses short, direct sentences throughout most of the text. It is clear and concise. I sometimes think I could use a bit more condensing in my own writing. This story makes heavy use of symbolism, as well. Two of the main symbols are the tree and the hill. The motif of light and darkness is also used frequently to make connections with good and evil.


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.

Nelson Lowhim

Great book about Kenya right before its Independence. It dives into a family and how luck plays a part in ones success. Even if you do the right thing as per what you've been told. Short, but sweet. Check it out if you can!


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.

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