A harrowing memoir by an athlete who survived the Hutu-Tutsi genocide.
Tuhabonye grew up in Burundi, one of four children in the respected, devoutly Catholic Tutsi family. Driven yet sweet, he knew that “education was the key to my future,” and he studied hard. He also loved to run, and by the time he was a teenager dreamed of winning a running scholarship to a college in the U.S. Then, in October 1993, when Tuhabonye was in the middle of what should have been his last year of preparatory school, he was caught in an episode of senseless violence. A group of Hutus came to his school and killed most of the Tutsis with machetes. The rest of the Tutsi students, including Tuhabonye, were stacked in a burning pyre. During hours of agony, Tuhabonye was sustained by a voice that assured him that he would somehow get out alive. Indeed, he was the only Tutsi to survive the massacre. The story of that violent day is told in flashbacks interspersed throughout the otherwise chronological memoir, perhaps because co-author Brozek (Divorced from the Mob, 2004) knew the horrifying account of butchery would be too much for most readers to take all in one piece. After his miraculous escape from the Hutus, Tuhabonye faced a long recovery. That he is able to run again (he is now training for the 2008 Olympics) is impressive enough. Even more remarkable is his spiritual and personal recovery. Drawing on his unwavering faith, Tuhabonye forgives his Hutu tormentors. Later chapters describe his immigration to the U.S., graduation from Abilene Christian University and marriage to a fellow Burundian, with whom he now lives in Austin. The only element his moving book lacks is a sustained analysis of the Hutu-Tutsi struggles and Burundi’s political landscape, which would have given it broader appeal.
Narrowly focused, but inspiring.