Deogratias, A Tale of Rwanda by J.P. Stassen

Title: Deogratias, a Tale of Rwanda
Author:  J.P. Stassen
Release Date:  May 2, 2006
Publisher:  First Second
Page Count:  96
Genres:  Young Adult, Graphic Novel, Historical Fiction
Source:  library

I was inspired to read Deogratias by Nymeth.  She wrote such a beautiful review of this book that I couldn’t pass up the chance to read it.  Deogratias is about a teenage boy in Rwanda in 1994.  He is a Hutu, and is friends with two Tutsi sisters who go to his school (he sort of dates one of them).  The story is about the genocide, but it’s told in the “before” and the “after”, in sort of alternating sections.  I’m not very “good at” graphic novels, so it took me a couple of pages to see the differences in the “before” and “after” but once I got that I flew through this short and powerful novel.

I don’t really know what to say about this book.  It’s extremely sad.  Extremely depressing.  Powerful in a very difficult way.  But I agree with Nymeth that these types of stories help me to personalize tragedies like the genocide in Rwanda.  Of course I know the basic story of what happened there, and of course I am empathetic towards the families who suffered insurmountable losses, and who continue to feel the effects of those losses today.  But reading a book about Rwanda, even a book as bleak and depressing as Deogratias, helps me to feel MORE.  It helps me to internalize the tragedy, to identify with what happened, to think about how I might survive emotionally if something like this happened where I live.  The book is not hopeful, not at all.  The genocide happened, it shattered an entire country, and it continues to seriously impact those who survived today.  But how can we understand history, how can we fully grasp the impact of these tragedies if we don’t continue to read and learn about them?

I don’t know.  I know this book isn’t for everyone.  I know it was really difficult for me to get through.  But I do know that I’m glad I read Deogratias, as hard as the experience was.  I can’t really “recommend” it, but for those of you who appreciate books like this, I say go for it.

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