- Hardcover: 356 pages
- Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux; 1st edition (September 1998)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0374286973
- ISBN-13: 978-0374286972
- Product Dimensions: 8.6 x 5.9 x 1.3 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars See all reviews (354 customer reviews)
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,623,763 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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We Wish to Inform You that Tomorrow We Will Be Killed with Our Families: Stories From Rwanda 1st Edition
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"Hutus kill Tutsis, then Tutsis kill Hutus--if that's really all there is to it, then no wonder we can't be bothered with it," Philip Gourevitch writes, imagining the response of somebody in a country far from the ethnic strife and mass killings of Rwanda. But the situation is not so simple, and in this complex and wrenching book, he explains why the Rwandan genocide should not be written off as just another tribal dispute.
The "stories" in this book's subtitle are both the author's, as he repeatedly visits this tiny country in an attempt to make sense of what has happened, and those of the people he interviews. These include a Tutsi doctor who has seen much of her family killed over decades of Tutsi oppression, a Schindleresque hotel manager who hid hundreds of refugees from certain death, and a Rwandan bishop who has been accused of supporting the slaughter of Tutsi schoolchildren, and can only answer these charges by saying, "What could I do?" Gourevitch, a staff writer for the New Yorker, describes Rwanda's history with remarkable clarity and documents the experience of tragedy with a sober grace. The reader will ask along with the author: Why does this happen? And why don't we bother to stop it? --Maria Dolan
From Publishers Weekly
What courage must it have required to research and write this book? And who will read such a ghastly chronicle? Gourevitch, who reported from Rwanda for the New Yorker, faces these questions up front: "The best reason I have come up with for looking more closely into Rwanda's stories is that ignoring them makes me even more uncomfortable about existence and my place in it." The stories are unrelentingly horrifying and filled with "the idiocy, the waste, the sheer wrongness" of one group of Rwandans (Hutus) methodically exterminating another (Tutsis). With 800,000 people killed in 100 days, Gourevitch found many numbed Rwandans who had lost whole families to the machete. He discovered a few admirable characters, including hotelier Paul Rusesabagina, who, "armed with nothing but a liquor cabinet, a phone line, an internationally famous address, and his spirit of resistance," managed to save refugees in his Hotel des Milles Collines in Kigali. General Paul Kagame, one of Gourevitch's main sources in the new government, offers another bleak and consistent voice of truth. But failure is everywhere. Gourevitch excoriates the French for supporting the Hutus for essentially racist reasons; the international relief agencies, which he characterizes as largely devoid of moral courage; and the surrounding countries that preyed on the millions of refugees?many fleeing the consequences of their part in the killings. As the Rwandans try to rebuild their lives while awaiting the slow-moving justice system, the careful yet passionate advocacy of reporters like Gourevitch serves to remind both Rwandans and others that genocide occurred in this decade while the world looked on.
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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Top Customer Reviews
During my visit, the knowledge acquired from this extraordinary book allowed me to better appreciate and understand Rwanda today, as well as provided me the ability to have very intelligent and revealing conversations with many Rwandans.
This was not just a book of facts and figures, but a comprehensive collection of all that were involved during the Genocide. While there are plenty of first hand accounts from the victims themselves, Phillip Gourevitch was also able to interview both Tutsi and Hutus’s as well as military leaders, clergy, NGO’s, and many others trapped in this insane period. His access to Paul Kagame, currently Rwanda’s very successful President, allowed for a perspective not typically found in historical accounts of the Genocide.
The authors insight into the colonial history shows how ethnic differences were effectively manufactured first by Germany than by Belgium as their obsession with dividing and classifying the population to preserve power would culminate into this Genocide that would claim more than one million babies, children, grandparents, mothers, and fathers.
Rather than a spontaneous event, the very title of this book makes perfectly clear that this conflict was not only years in the making, but very public with daily radio broadcasts and government communications speaking the necessity of ridding Rwanda of those “cockroaches”.
Perhaps though what was most revealing was the deliberate indifference the rest of the world would have. Even after the atrocities, the political fear of the West to actually declare it Genocide as this would require a protocol of help and support. However, nothing quite hits you harder than the very fact that just a few thousand UN Soldiers, that was in fact requested by the commanding officer in charge in Rwanda at the time, would have avoided the majority of the killings. Instead, without even the basic machines and infrastructure of Nazi Germany, over 330 Rwandans would be slaughtered EVERY hour.
A fair amount of the book also explains how the global political community post-genocide would allow France to continue to not only fund the Hutu military that kept on slaughtering, but allow these leaders a safe passage out of Rwanda and avoid punishment by establishing refugees camps along the border.
Gourevitch’s also carefully writes about how one day teachers, priests, colleagues, family and neighbors that had lived together would, the very next day, slaughter their students, congregation, family members, and people they had worked with for a long time. For one of the most Christian countries in Africa – faith and religion actually expedited the genocide as thousands of Rwandans would flee to local churches where the were easily executed.
Finally, the author does spend enough time on one of the few bright spots of humanity, in particular how creative, determined and successful Paul Rusesabagina of the Hotel des Mille Collines (“Hotel Rwanda”), not just saved thousands of lives, but was also one of the only source of information to the outside world.
During my visit to Rwanda, it was surreal to be walking/driving on the same roads and visiting the same places that I had read about that just twenty years earlier was covered in bodies and blood. Moreover, having multiple conversations with the very same people that were either victims of dead family members, or the perpetrators of the senseless massacre left me somehow hopeful in humanity as not only was I warmly accepted by all that I met, but I could not sense a desire for revenge.
I was heartened to read the positive reviews of this book that were written in 2015, largely by young people who read it in school. This story isn't history, it's background and it is as relevant today as it was the day it was published. And, unfortunately, it's still happening all over the world.