Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Strength In What Remains

I came across Tracey Kidder’s Strength In What Remains: A Journey of Remembrance and Forgiveness while killing time in a bookstore waiting for a flight at JFK. I was surprised to find a book on this topic (genocide and its aftermath) in the airport bookstand, so when I got home I picked up a copy from the local library and gave it a read through. The book was publishes in 2009 (by Random House) and goes back and forth between both Burundi and New York City and the past and the present.

The theme of memory flows through much of the book. And in this case, the memories are often hard to swallow. Strength in What Remains follows the true story of Deogratias—from his narrow escape in the brutal conflict in his home country of Burundi to his hunger and homelessness in his new “home” of New York City.

The genocide in Rwanda is much better known to Americans than the genocide in the neighboring country of Burundi. I worked for several years with Burundian refugees in Abilene, so the book was especially interesting to me. My close relationship with so many Burundians, and refugees in general, made the book especially hard to read.

Despite some of the heart wrenching details (many of which came about while Deo was in America)  and the fact that I didn’t find the book to be extraordinarily well written (even though Kidder has won a Pulitzer and other literary awards), I still recommend the book. It will make you thankful for the life you lead and, hopefully, give you a heart of compassion for refugees everywhere.