The albino frog on the cover of Douglas Rogers’s book The Last Resort: A Memoir of Zimbabwe is barely keeping his head above water. The same can be said for Rogers’s parents and their friends, who carry on despite constant threats of violence and loss in a country that no longer wants them.
Rogers grew up in Zimbabwe, on various farms his parents owned, but he’s been gone for some time, working as a journalist and travel writer in London and New York. His parents stayed on, living at Drifters, a popular backpackers’ lodge and game farm that they ran successfully for many years. In the current political situation, with the government encouraging blacks to freely appropriate white farmers’ lands, inflation running at thousands of percents daily, and gangs of thugs terrorizing blacks and whites alike, the country is in shambles. It’s clearly unsafe for Ros and Lyn Rogers to remain where they are. It’s also clear that they’re not going to give in–Zimbabwe is their home. Rogers writes about his frequent trips back to Drifters to visit and each time there’s new and fiendish turn in the already-nightmarish situation. The lodge turns into a brothel, then a hangout for illegal diamond dealers; the cottages that used to hold vacationers are now rented to friends who have been dispossessed. Government ministers and spies move into the area with designs on the Rogerses property. Through it all, his parents plan and hope, hatching schemes to carry on and survive. It is, after all, their beautiful home.
Rogers writes about what it was like to grow up in Zimbabwe; he also writes about the current political situation. But the book is is really Rogers’s poignant and funny tribute to his parents and their incredible resilience and optimism, their love of a beautiful place that was once a flourishing community. The albino frog sits above the coffee pot in his parents’ kitchen, witness to the chaos and a touching symbol of their refusal to be dislodged.
There are many wonderful memoirs written by people who grew up in or spent time in Africa, revealing the incredible diversity of cultures, landscapes, and histories. For an annotated list of titles that I have enjoyed, along with some novels set in Africa, click here. More about Rogers and his indomitable parents is at www.douglasrogers.org
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