A thoughtful, sobering firsthand account of the refugee experience, a story that speaks to readers far beyond the African...

A child’s view of one of history’s most chilling instances of genocide.

Born in 1956 in southwestern Rwanda, Mukasonga (Our Lady of the Nile, 2014, etc.) has lived in France for most of her life, working as a social worker while writing memoirs, novels, and short stories. “I wasn’t only Tutsi,” she recalls of the ethnic turmoil that made her a refugee, “I was an Inyenzi, one of those cockroaches they’d expelled from the livable part of Rwanda, and perhaps from the human race.” Such people, she writes later, were “fit only to be crushed like cockroaches, with one stomp. But they preferred to watch us die slowly.” The “they” in question are not just the Hutus who attacked their Tutsi neighbors, but also neighboring nations, aid workers, diplomats, and others who stood by and did nothing. It may surprise readers to learn that Mukasonga is not writing of the later, infamous Rwandan genocide of the 1990s but instead of the post-colonial power struggle that precipitated it; the ingredients were the same, with long-lingering resentment over the Tutsis’ relative privileges in a stratified society. Her point of view, however, is more personal and less synoptic; she protests that her father “was not an aristocrat with vast herds of cows,” but because he could read and write and was an accountant, to say nothing of his ethnicity, he presented a target. As her story unfolds, we learn that 37 of her family members died, along with perhaps 1 million of her fellow Tutsis. It is a harrowing tale that is only the beginning of a larger story of murder and division. As she writes toward the end, Rwanda, a place of stunning beauty, “is also the land of tears, and the roads we travel take us on a long journey through horror and grief.”

A thoughtful, sobering firsthand account of the refugee experience, a story that speaks to readers far beyond the African highlands.

Pub Date: Oct. 4, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-914671-53-4

Page Count: 168

Publisher: Archipelago

Review Posted Online: Aug. 20, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2016


The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006



Well-told and admonitory.

Young-rags-to-mature-riches memoir by broker and motivational speaker Gardner.

Born and raised in the Milwaukee ghetto, the author pulled himself up from considerable disadvantage. He was fatherless, and his adored mother wasn’t always around; once, as a child, he spied her at a family funeral accompanied by a prison guard. When beautiful, evanescent Moms was there, Chris also had to deal with Freddie “I ain’t your goddamn daddy!” Triplett, one of the meanest stepfathers in recent literature. Chris did “the dozens” with the homies, boosted a bit and in the course of youthful adventure was raped. His heroes were Miles Davis, James Brown and Muhammad Ali. Meanwhile, at the behest of Moms, he developed a fondness for reading. He joined the Navy and became a medic (preparing badass Marines for proctology), and a proficient lab technician. Moving up in San Francisco, married and then divorced, he sold medical supplies. He was recruited as a trainee at Dean Witter just around the time he became a homeless single father. All his belongings in a shopping cart, Gardner sometimes slept with his young son at the office (apparently undiscovered by the night cleaning crew). The two also frequently bedded down in a public restroom. After Gardner’s talents were finally appreciated by the firm of Bear Stearns, his American Dream became real. He got the cool duds, hot car and fine ladies so coveted from afar back in the day. He even had a meeting with Nelson Mandela. Through it all, he remained a prideful parent. His own no-daddy blues are gone now.

Well-told and admonitory.

Pub Date: June 1, 2006

ISBN: 0-06-074486-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Amistad/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2006

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