When I read I like to read about other cultures, others experiences, and hopefully how they overcome something. Going through my bookshelf I came across two books that really touched me. Both are true stories. Both take place during genocides in Africa. Both left me with the feeling that I needed to do more with my life and that if these authors could move on and forgive than I needed to reevaluate things in my own life.
Left To Tell: Discovering God Amidst the Rwandan Holocaust
by Immaculée Ilibagiza
Immaculee is a survivor of the genocide in Rwanda. How did she do it? Hidden in a tiny bathroom with 7 other women for 91 days. She talks about how her family was murdered, how God spoke to her, and her journey after leaving the bathroom in a still hate filled country.
Why I recommend this book is a bit more complicated than my simple description of it. In 2006 I met Immaculee at a conference. She talked a lot about her personal journey with God, but what struck me was her presence. This women had been to hell and back. Her family was slaughtered and their were many people specifically seeking her out to kill. How does she know this? Well, as she hid in a tiny bathroom that was hidden by a dresser in front of the door she heard people outside talking about killing her brother and yelling for her. As I sat there watching her talk I couldn’t imagine what I would be like after this ordeal. How much hate that would have penetrated my soul, but there was no hate. She even actually forgave one of the people responsible for killing her family. She found peace in her ability to let go.
Religion aside I walked away from this story with a lot on my mind about the power of forgiveness and the cycle of hate.
A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier
by Ishmael Beah
This is a rough story. Many reviews that I have read about this book complained about
how simple it was and it didn’t go far enough into the psychology behind what he did. Even in its simplicity I found myself horrified and in tears through much of his story.
The story is about Ishmael who grew up in Sierra Leone and lived through one of the most bloodiest civil wars in recent history. It is about a boy who loves hip hop and happened to be in a neighboring village when his is slaughtered. At the age of 12 he finds himself hiding in the jungle and traveling from village to village with a group of friends trying to find their families, but being a young boy many are afraid to help him since he might be a boy solider. During a twist of
fate he is “recruited” into the army and sent into war. We follow his journey from a sacred boy to a boy who is drugged daily and turned into a killing machine. Yes, it is difficult story, but don’t fear. That isn’t the end of his story.
Why I recommend this book is hard to explain. It shows what humanity is capable of. It shows the worst in us all. How we can promote and justify hate. However it also shows the path away from that. In a rehabilitation center in Sierra Leone people worked to show him that not only that is wasn’t a killing machine, but that he no longer had to be one. There was a goodness that prevailed. That goodness didn’t change everyone, but the fact that it is there in people does give me hope. Maybe I read into things too much, but I like to believe in the goodness of people. I like to believe that we are capable to love as much as we hate.
Have you read these books? What did you think?