Kirkus Reviews QR Code
DEOGRATIAS by Stassen Kirkus Star


A Tale of Rwanda

by Stassen & illustrated by Stassen & translated by Alexis Siegel

Age Range: 14 & up

Pub Date: May 1st, 2006
ISBN: 1-59643-103-2
Publisher: First Second/Roaring Brook

An award-winning graphic novel grapples with the unthinkable. Deogratias, a Hutu youth barely out of his teens, now appears as a shambling wreck in ragged clothes, drinking steadily and barking like a dog. But a series of seamless flashbacks reveals a younger, happier Deogratias, remarkable only for his mundanity. Despite poverty, prostitution and racial condescension, his friends enjoy a lively multiethnic culture; Deogratias romances a Tutsi girl while secretly yearning for her mulatto half-sister. Meanwhile, a steady background drumbeat of ethnic hatred builds to a horrific crescendo in the genocide of 1994, when 800,000 Rwandans are butchered by their neighbors. Neither hero nor villain, Deogratias tries to spare himself and his loved ones, trapped in a shocking spiral of violence, betrayal and madness. While Stassen’s simple layout and spare images may appear static at first, the uncluttered art, reminiscent of jewel-toned woodcuts, serves to underscore the erupting brutality. Only a few of the panels depict the actual massacre; still, the ghastly subject matter, sexual themes and coarse language, along with the elliptical narrative structure, restrict this title to a mature audience. Nonetheless, the importance of the story and the heartbreaking beauty of its presentation make it an essential purchase. (Graphic novel. YA)