We Wish to Inform You That Tomorrow We Will be Killed With Our Families: Stories from Rwanda

Philip Gourevitch
Winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award for Nonfiction.In April 1994, the Rwandan government called upon everyone in the Hutu majority to kill each member of the Tutsi minority, and over the next three months 800,000 Tutsis perished in the most unambiguous case of genocide since Hitler's war against the Jews. Philip Gourevitch's haunting work is an anatomy of the war in Rwanda, a vivid history of the tragedy's background, and an unforgettable account of its aftermath. One of the most acclaimed books of the year, this account will endure as a chilling document of our time.


Reviewed: 2021-08-08
The topic itself is, of course, not anything that could possibly be quantified on a 5 star spectrum, so there's no use in using that as a metric for this rating. I rate it 5 stars because the craft is thorough and excellent, and even if this is clearly a book written by a Westerner about Africa (the Africa that many Westerners like to imagine as some kind of primordial chaos), it is one of the good ones.

I think there are a few issues with Gourevitch's storytelling here, the most notable of which is the end where he essentially argues that it would be better if everyone just abandoned their ethnic labels and died all together. I get the sentiment, but the conclusion is very strange. At times I felt that there were generalizations and the classic Euro-American tendency to group Africans into one mass, but honestly, I can understand that in this context. I particularly wished to know more about the experience of non-génocidaires in the refugee camps, but again, I know that that was in many cases simply impossible. You can't possibly collect the entire stories and thoughts of everyone who experienced the genocide. It would be unfair for me to expect someone to be able to do all of that. There's one awkward moment where he wonders why there hasn't been a genocide in Bangladesh - another densely populated poor nation - but that's only really a notable issue for someone like me.

Other than that, however, this is a stunning book. (It would be hard, obviously, to write a book that isn't stunning about the Rwandan Genocide. But that's another story). There is a very real sense in which there are just no good options, no good answers, no good solutions - largely because of the mere scale of it all. How do you prosecute hundreds of thousands of people? How do you help hundreds of thousands - millions, even - who have lost everything in the most horrific possible way? And that's not even to mention the circumstances Rwanda was in after 1994 - unbelievable trauma, massive population loss followed by an equally massive gain, a world war, a "developed" world with little to no concern for those outside of its profit spheres, and you can go on forever. There is truly no good way forward, and I think that's the point. Kagame emerges looking like the exact man for the job, but the truth is there's no one that could've done this perfectly.

I suppose what I mean to say is that I can't really say much. Like, I could describe it as a tragedy, or an atrocity, or a catastrophe, or even apocalyptic, but none of that is really enough. How can you possibly describe the experience of someone who has watched their children be hacked to death? Ah.
Reviewed: 2020-05-27
To put it bluntly, this is an amazing book. The author does a great job of presenting a wildly complicated situation from as many angles as necessary, without straying too far into presenting a "balanced" view that the truth gets obscured. He uses a great combination of chronology and good writing so that everything comes at the right time and additional pieces of information fit into the framework he set up. I'd strongly recommend this to just about everyone, but especially to millennials and anyone else who, for whatever reason, was not entirely cognizant of world events in the 1990s.
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