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Deogratias, A Tale of Rwanda Paperback – May 2, 2006


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 79 pages
  • Publisher: First Second; 1st edition (May 2, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1596431032
  • ISBN-13: 978-1596431034
  • Product Dimensions: 8.5 x 6.1 x 0.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 3.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #188,137 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. Deogratias means "thanks be to God," and it's the name of a boy coming of age in Rwanda in 1994. He is just figuring out what it means to be a man, and wrestling with the feelings he harbors toward two sisters, Apollinaria and Benina. The sisters are themselves struggling to establish their own place in society and understand the difficult decisions their mother, Venetia, has made—Apollinaria's real father is a white Catholic priest, and Venetia has been forced to leave the country in the past to save her daughters. But Deogratias is Hutu, and they are Tutsi, a simple fact that renders all of their internal battles irrelevant. This award-winning comic was originally published in Belgium in 2000 and has an introduction explaining the history leading to the Rwandan genocide. The heartbreaking power of Deogratias is how it keeps the reader distant from the atrocities by showing the trivial cruelties of everyday life before and after the genocide. Stassen is a journalist who lives in Rwanda, and his art is bold and clear, using different color palettes to seamlessly shift between before and after. There is no catharsis, only the realization that even justice turns its champion into a monster. (Apr.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From School Library Journal

Grade 10 Up–In this harrowing fictionalized account of the Rwandan genocide, readers meet Deogratias, a teenaged Hutu. His friends Benina and Apollinaria are Tutsi–a race that is being ethnically cleansed by Hutu extremists. As the conflict escalates, Deogratias witnesses murders and is forced to become involved in brutal acts of violence. He suffers a mental breakdown. The story is told through a series of flashbacks while he skates the line between rational and insane. Stassen spares his readers none of the brutality and visceral cruelties of this atrocity. Scenes of rape, harsh language, and some sexual content solidly designate this book for a mature audience. An introduction sets the backdrop and explains the historical significance of the period. This is one of the most intense, gripping graphic novels to date; libraries with other factually themed titles, such as those by Joe Sacco, Marjane Satrapi, and Art Spiegelman, should purchase it. A masterful work with vibrant, confident art, this book will stay with and haunt its readers.–Jennifer Feigelman, Goshen Public Library and Historical Society, NY
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

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3.8 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By A. Ross HALL OF FAMETOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on December 25, 2006
Format: Paperback
Originally published in Stassen's native Belgium in 2000, this graphic novel takes on the 1994 Rwandan genocide and does a credible job of bringing the horror of that dark stain on recent history to the page. Alternating between the time of the genocide and a time about five years after it, the story follows a young Hutu teenager named Deogratias. Prior to the massacre, we see he is a normal boy trying to get into the pants of two pretty Tutsi sisters. However, in the aftermath of the genocide, he has been reduced to a homeless, ragtag lunatic with only moments of lucidity, who tries to keep horrible memories at bay with the aid of the local banana beer (urwagwa). Those familiar with the kinds of atrocities perpetrated in genocides or civil wars won't be particularly surprised at the final revelation as to what rendered him insane -- nonetheless, it's grim and powerful stuff. There's also a subplot involving a French tourist who served in the French army in Rwanda during the genocide. This exists mainly to highlight the French complicity in allowing the genocide to unfold -- albeit guilt that is only marginally greater than that of other Western powers. What happened in Rwanda serves to point out the emptiness of slogans such as "Never Forget", and while it has been covered by many excellent non-fiction books and films, Stassen is to be commended for bringing the horrific story to another medium. This is rough material, definitely not for kids, although the translator's introduction does a nice job of providing enough background for one to use it in a high school history or ethics class.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Guy L. Gonzalez on May 15, 2006
Format: Paperback
Deogratias is an emotionally harrowing tale of the Rwandan genocide in the mid-90s, told from the perspective of the titular Hutu, and is about as far from a children's book as you can get.*

Leading off with a brief but informative essay about the horrific genocide of nearly one million Tutsi, Rwanda's minority ethnic group, by the Hutus, the majority, while the superpowers of the world stood by and effectively did nothing, translator Alexis Siegel puts the events into historical context and provides a sturdy foundation for J.P. Stassen's gut-wrenching tale. Deogratias is a teenage boy with a teenaged boy's interests, amongst them a fondness for Tutsi girls and Urwagwa (a local banana beer), but when we first meet him, he's a disheveled drifter who's been pushed to the edge of madness by what he's seen and experienced. Stassen takes a risk with the unusual structure of his story, eschewing a linear narrative in favor of switching back-and-forth in time, before and after the massacres, with the only visual cue being the condition of Deogratias' white clothing. As a result, it's not immediately clear where the story is going or what's actually happened that changed him from a happy-go-lucky teen to a delusional drifter who thirsts for Urwagwa and sometimes imagines he's a dog. While the non-linear structure is confusing at times (a second reading is almost mandatory to fully appreciate it), when it all starts to come together towards the end, it offers the kind of slow reveal gut-punch that sticks with you for days.

Stassen's visual storytelling is especially strong throughout, and while he avoids focusing on the actual massacres themselves, the couple of key graphic moments he does show will be seared into your brain and effectively punctuate Deogratias' madness.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Tim Janson HALL OF FAMETOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on July 9, 2006
Format: Paperback
Over the years when I've had to defend the medium of comics to my less illuminated friends and co-workers I've been able to point to many examples of works that rise above the mire of the usual. Things like "The Watchmen", "Bone", "Love and Rockets" and others. I will now add "Deogratias" to this distinguished group. The book is the product of Belgium writer/artist J.P. Stassen. The book is told against the backdrop of the brutal ethnic cleansing that took place in Rwanda in the early 90's as the majority Hutu savagely butchered some 800,000 of the minority Tutsi ethnic group as the world looked on and did nothing.

Stassen first provides a brief, but very necessary history lesson about the events that led up the genocide and what has happened after. Stassen now resides in Rwanda with his family. The book if required reading if only for Stassen's opening monologue and history lesson. The story itself moves back and forth in time with the lead title character Deogratias. These shifts in time come with no warning or captions and at first are a little dizzying but you'll soon have it figured out. Deogratias in present time is a pathetic creature, wearing ratty clothing, and addicted to Urwagwa or banana beer. He also seems to be quite mad as other villagers ask him if he is "still a dog?" This will become significant later in the story. We first seem him interacting with a French tourist who was in the military back during the genocide. This character is meant as a representative of the French government who if they didn't actually back the horrors that took place, they turned their back as they went on.

As we move back in time we learn about the past of Deogratias, a Hutu, and others of his village.
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