Originally published in: 2018
What it’s about: The author’s refugee experience escaping the Rwandan genocide and the years she spent traveling from one camp to another before immigrating to the US.
What made me pick it up: It was really well reviewed.
My favorite parts: Wamariya escapes at such a young age she almost doesn’t understand death and war and why they are walking and not stopping. She yearns her whole life to go back to her family, as it was, even as she reconnects with them. It is heartbreaking, both reading of the little girl who does not comprehend and as the adult who cannot stop grieving all that is lost. I so admire her indomitable spirit and the unbreakable will of her older sister who helped her survive through multiple countries and camps. Wamariya examines the many ways to move past trauma, especially that caused by civil war and genocide, with no easy answers only her personal truth and what she sees others attempting as well. If you are American you will feel shame for the atrocities we ignored in 1994 and the ongoing ones we continue to ignore worldwide. You will also be immensely grateful for all you have lucked into based on the geography of your birth. Mostly, you will want to help refugees any way you can.
Who it’s great for: Readers who want to learn more about the unending trauma of war.
Originally published in: 2017
What it’s about: Miriam Makeba, a South African musician who used her music to tell the story of apartheid to the rest of the world and request their aid.
What made me pick it up: I was checking out the Wikipedia pages of some local authors and found out Erskine had put out a picture book about Africa. Win win.
My favorite parts: Once again a picture book for young children teaches me about history I never knew. Erskine lived in South Africa when she was younger and always wanted to tell this story. I have read many stories about apartheid but not heard this one. I appreciated having the history fleshed out and learning about a musician who used her gift to not only get out of deteriorating South Africa but ask for help from everyone she could. Truly powerful and inspiring.
Who it’s great for: Anyone interested in the history of Africa, South Africa, apartheid, or music.
Find this book in your local library or on Amazon (affiliate link).
Originally published in: 2009
What it’s about: A man who survives the genocide in Burundi between Hutus and Tutsis (similar to the more publicized one in Rwanda) finds his way to America where he begins to make a new life.
What made me pick it up: After writing my review of Kidder’s most recent book, I realized I hadn’t read this one.
My favorite things: Like I’ve said before, Kidder has a strong ability to present his subjects as if you were at a dinner with them. It makes you feel included in the circle and that much more interested in their story.
Who it’s great for: Adults. Older teens. Anyone who has an interest in Africa and its recent history — especially Hotel Rwanda fans. Those with a strong stomach. People looking for a story that is ultimately about hope.
Originally published in: 2016
What it’s about: Newly minted The Daily Show host Noah recounts his childhood in South Africa just as apartheid ended.
What made me pick it up: I’m a huge fan of Noah. I’ve watched his stand up and enjoyed immensely his new hosting duties. He shares many key features with former host Jon Stewart – a quick wit and a wide understanding among them.
My favorite things: This was a great tale well told about Noah but the best bits were actually the inter-chapter focus pieces on apartheid. I really liked how he wove them in so seamlessly. He reads his own books, so the audio is equally great.
Who it’s great for: Noah fans. Daily Show fans. Anyone who has a strong interest in Africa or apartheid. Those looking for a great, quick, memorable memoir.
Get a copy of this book on Amazon (affiliate link) or at your local library.