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Author Alexandra Fuller to visit Boswell

Alexandra Fuller, author of "Cocktail Hour Under the Tree of Forgetfulness," will be interviewed by Lake Effect's Mitch Teich at Boswell on Tuesday, July 10.

By - Jul 8th, 2012 04:00 am
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There are several reasons why Alexandra Fuller wrote Cocktail Hour Under the Tree of Forgetfulness, the sequel to her best-selling memoir Don’t Let’s Go to the Dogs Tonight: An African Childhood, which Fuller wrote about her chaotic and perilous childhood growing up in Rhodesia, Malawi and Zambia. Fuller will share these reasons when she discusses her book with Mitch Teich from WUWM’s Lake Effect at Boswell Book Company on Tuesday, July 10.

Local readers have been clamoring for Ms. Fuller’s stories for years, said Daniel Goldin, proprietor of Boswell, and he is much honored Fuller’s publisher, Penguin Books, is including Boswell for the promotional tour of her latest memoir.

In Don’t Let’s Go to the Dogs Tonight: An African Childhood, Fuller revisits her childhood, focusing on her rather unorthodox parents, Tim and Nicola Fuller. The elder Fullers weren’t exactly overjoyed with the first book. In fact, they felt betrayed about their daughter’s raw exposure of her difficult childhood. But in Cocktail Hour Under the Tree of Forgetfulness, Alexandra is more empathetic towards her parents and the challenges they faced, which include extreme poverty, war and the loss of children. At turns, Fuller’s parents seem like polar opposites. Her father is reserved and stalwart. Her mother who proudly calls herself “Nicola Fuller of Central Africa,” is salacious and opinionated.

To write Cocktail Hour Under the Tree of Forgetfulness, Fuller spent hours taping her parents, asking them about their lives. Fuller’s mother once said to her, “You don’t know who I really am. You never asked me.” Fuller listened to these tapes closely and was struck by her parents’ courageousness and sense of pride in the face of adversity. She truly began to see them as fully-dimensional human beings, not just her parents. “They really knew how to take care of themselves,” Fuller said.

Have Fuller’s parents read Cocktail Hour Under the Tree of Forgetfulness? “Officially” they have not, Fuller said, but “unofficially” they are alright with it. As for the readers of her latest book, Fuller said, “People are astonished by this raw truth.”

Mitch Teich, who will open up a discussion to the audience after the interview, is very enthusiastic about Fuller’s visit.

“I’m hoping she’ll be able to give us her thoughts about why a story that seems so different to our own experience (in a place like the United States) resonates so strongly with readers here,” he said. “I’m also interested in how memoirists are able to keep their past fresh at hand and interpret it in a way that is both personal and universally interesting, that is, present in a way that readers will appreciate without doing a disservice to the subjects of her writing.”

When asked what she wants Milwaukee readers to get from Cocktail Hour Under the Tree of Forgetfulness, Fuller said she wants readers to realize that we can’t separate the rest of the globe; that borders aren’t really borders and experience is universal.

“Be unafraid of being alive,” she said. “If you live your passion, you’ll make mistakes, but forgive yourself.”

The free event takes place at Boswell Book Company, 2559 N. Downer Avenue, at 7 p.m. For more information, visit boswell.indiebound.com.

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