Saturday, January 1, 2011

Left to Tell

Left to Tell
By Immaculee Ilibagiza
Hay House, 2006. 215 pgs. Biography

Immaculee Ilibagiza was living a good life in Rwanda; the first woman in her family to attend college, she was working toward a bright future. However, racial tensions, which had been in place in Rwanda for many years, erupted in 1994, and Immaculee was caught in the middle of it. As the majority group, the Hutus, began massacring the minority Tutsis, Immaculee, a Tutsi, found herself fighting for her life. In approximately 100 days, one million Tutsis were killed, and while Immaculee lost the majority of her family, she found a deeply personal relationship with Jesus Christ as she hid from the Hutus and prayed for her survival.

Immaculee's story is simultaneously sad, horrifying, inspiring, and moving. The atrocities committed against the Tutsis will turn readers' stomachs, but Immaculee's developing relationship with God is remarkable. This faith-filled story is an important one for people to become familiar with.

As a side note, it seems like a lot (or...all) of the books I've read that take place anywhere in Africa feature violence and war, and while such topics are certainly important and accurate, I wonder if I'm getting a skewed perception of Africa. Is Africa as bloody and violent as we're led to believe? What are the other sides of it?

Another African author, Chimamanda Adichie, talks about the "danger of a single story," or, basically relying on a single idea to represent a whole people/nation/continent in this really fascinating video: Chimamanda Adichie: The danger of a single story | Video on
There's a really interesting part where she discusses a professor informing her that something she had written wasn't "African". So, I ask--what do we think it means to be "African"? Do we simply think of poverty, violence, and AIDS? What else is there? What other stories are there that need to be told? Tying this back to Left to Tell, Immaculee talks about how Rwanda is a beautiful country, like paradise. How many of us would associate Rwanda with beauty? While it's definitely important to know about the Rwandan holocaust, what more is there about the country that we need to know? What other stories do Rwandans have to share? And, what are some good sources for finding those stories?

Overall, 3.5 stars because the story is great, but the writing isn't necessarily the most compelling.

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