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A loving, urgent memorial to people now “deep in the jumble of some ossuary” who might otherwise be forgotten in time.

A profoundly affecting memoir of a mother lost to ethnic violence.

Mukasonga (Cockroaches, 2016, etc.) left her birth country of Rwanda to work in France before the genocide began, but she was well familiar with the events preceding it. As a child, she recounts, her mother informed her that her duty was to cover her body with a colorful pagne when she died: “No one must see a mother’s corpse,” she said portentously. “Otherwise it will follow you, it will chase you…it will haunt you until it’s your turn to die, when you too will need someone to cover your body.” When she was still young, Mukasonga and her family were herded off to an inhospitable region where, she imagines, the Hutu rulers hoped that “the Tutsis of Nyamata would gradually be wiped out by sleeping sickness and famine.” Instead, long before the genocide began, they were steadily victimized: beaten, raped, looted, murdered. The author’s mother, a reader of signs and omens, held drills so that her children could escape: “And so we knew exactly how to scurry into the brambles, how to dive under the dried grasses.” Mukasonga’s account of village life can be charming, as when she writes of the importance of growing sorghum for, among other reasons, making a mild beer that served as a social bond. But then it can become harrowing on the same page, as when she considers whether a man can truly be a man if robbed of his cattle, a visible sign of wealth and status. Finally, in the spasm of civil war and genocide that swept across Rwanda in the early 1990s, her mother and dozens of other family members were killed. The author closes with a haunting vision in which the ghost of a friend asks her whether she has brought "a pagne big enough to cover them all, every one of them.”

A loving, urgent memorial to people now “deep in the jumble of some ossuary” who might otherwise be forgotten in time.

Pub Date: Dec. 11, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-939810-04-5

Page Count: 160

Publisher: Archipelago

Review Posted Online: Oct. 1, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2018

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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

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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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