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BHSU professor encourages community to read Alexandra Fuller books


If you have made a resolution to read more during the upcoming year, consider reading one or more of Alexander Fuller’s books in preparation for Fuller’s presentation at BHSU as the Madeline Young Distinguished Speaker.

Alexandra Fuller, an author who grew up in Africa and now lives in Wyoming, will visit BHSU March 23. Dr. Amy Fuqua, director of the BHSU Honors Program, is encouraging area libraries, book clubs, and schools to consider adding Fuller’s books to their reading lists prior to the March 23 presentation.

Fuqua encourages campus and community people to read the books, participate in group discussions, and hear the author when she visits on campus this spring.

Fuqua, who has integrated Fuller’s works into her curriculum in her BHSU classes, notes that the books are truly interdisciplinary and have been very well received by her students. Fuqua is volunteering to give presentations at libraries and schools about the books and is also considering hosting a book club focusing on Fuller’s books. To visit with Fuqua about group presentations or for more details about the books, email or call 642-6397.

Alexandra Fuller was born in Glossop, England, in 1969. The family returned to Africa in 1972, to Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe), where the Fullers became absorbed by that country’s intensifying bloody struggle for independence. In 1994, Fuller moved to the United States. She now lives in Wyoming with her husband, two daughters and son.

Fuller’s experience of that war (the Fullers farmed close enough to Mozambique that they could hear the border landmines going off when people or animals stood on them) has influenced all three of her books. Fuller’s early experience of being always close to death and the reality of death has made Fuller’s work ring with a kind of urgent honesty. That realization of life’s swiftness has also given Fuller’s words a startling, sometimes mordant, humor that is the key behind the success of her work.

Fuller’s latest book, The Legend of Colton H. Bryant, is set in Wyoming. When Fuller set out to write about the oil rigs on Wyoming’s high plains, she was expecting the fierce weather and the roughnecks, the big skies and the industry men, but she wasn’t expecting to encounter someone like Colton H. Bryant, someone she describes as a soulful boy with a mustang-taming heart and blue eyes that’ll look right through you.

Don’t Let’s Go to the Dogs Tonight: An African Childhood, Fuller’s debut book, is about her family life as a white African during civil war. While the elements of 20th century colonial politics and African history may be new to readers, many feel an immediate connection to Fuller because of the descriptions of her family. The book deals with serious issues (racism, political oppression, mental illness, etc.), but the tone is upbeat, and many parts are outright funny.

Her 2004 book, Scribbling the Cat: Travels with an African Soldier, is about Fuller’s attempt as an adult to make sense of the psychology of war. She returns to Africa to visit her parents (now in Zambia) and meets a handsome, charismatic veteran of the civil war in Mozambique. They take a road trip through Mozambique so he can find some closure to his haunting experiences and so she can write about him. Fuqua notes that this book may be less appropriate for younger students but has been the subject of energetic discussions at the college level.
Fuller’s visit to BHSU, which includes classroom discussions and a presentation open to the public, is sponsored by the Madeline Young Speaker Series.

The Madeline A. Young Distinguished Speaker Series at Black Hills State University was established in 1986 by a gift endowment from Madeline Young, a 1924 alumna.

The distinguished speaker series was initiated at the University in 1987, with an address by former United Nations Ambassador Jeane Kirkpatrick. Other Madeline Young Speakers have included: Terry Waite, former hostage, hostage negotiator and envoy for England’s Archbishop of Canterbury; Felix Justice and Danny Glover, actors; Sam Donaldson, television broadcaster; Doris Kearns Goodwin, Pulitzer Prize winner; and Lech Walesa, former Polish president.

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