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Book 36 Completed

June 15, 2010


What a must-read this book turned out to be. We Wish to Inform You That Tomorrow We Will be Killed With Our Families is not an easy book. In two ways — 1) this is a hard story to tell and 2) this book is dense. It doesn’t have the conversational style of a memoir; nor does it dwell too much in the land of macheted bodies and rotting corpses; it balances a deep exploration of history and policy, with deep humanity. This book is terrifying and at the same time utterly fascinating — it was a “Shelbi-sits-on-the-couch-and-keeps-muting-the-television-to-tell-Matt-about-what-she’s-learning” type of read.

This book opened my eyes and made me disheartened about US foreign policy (I mean, I was before too). It will also make anyone dedicated to relief work in Africa despondent over the politics of “helping”.

What is particularly interesting to ME is that this book was published in 1998 to great acclaim and attention — this book incited much dialog about genocide in Africa, the policies that encouraged the killing, the mistakes of the UN and other world powers. And then fast forward to Darfur! Genocide in Sudan. The Clinton administration refused to use the word genocide for what was happening in Rwanda when talking to the press because of the Genocide Convention of 1948 — and then Bush did the same thing with Darfur. The ugly truths of policy and the reasons behind them are made for sad, but intense reading in Gourevitch’s book. The saddest part for me is that we are unwilling and unable to stop genocide from happening again and again and again.

We Wish to Inform You could have easily been a 400 page rant against the government and those responsible for the killings. It’s not. It’s so much more than that. It explains the years of background that attributed to this genocide; talks to survivors on both sides of the war; paints a full picture of the strength of Rwanda, despite its depressed history. It’s a substantial reading experience, that’s for sure. Gourevitch’s book is academic in nature; I wouldn’t categorize it as a pleasure-read or something you pick up just for the heck of it. It’s an investment. But fans of non-fiction should risk the time and brain-power.

One Comment leave one →
  1. June 16, 2010 8:29 am

    Here’s something to cheer you up!

    Rwanda’s currently making impressive strides under President Paul Kagame to build itself into a high-tech African hub.

    The rise of China and India is also contributing to African development – things are shifting from the old Cold War/Americentric system of political power, hopefully for the better.

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