Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Broken Memory

Broken Memory by Elisabeth Combres is a novel of Rwanda, originally written in French, but translated to English. There are only 138 pages in this book, yet the story is powerful, as we follow Emma's life after the genocide in her country that took her mother from her. Orphaned, Emma eventually finds a Hutu woman to care for her, but continues to have nightmares of what she has gone through. She is befriended by an elderly gentleman who has seen more than his share of tragedies, and a young boy who also survived the genocide though his family did not. Over time Emma's memories of what she went through return. When she makes a trip to her old home, now a heap of ruins, she is able to remember her mother, and finally let go of some of her nightmares.
This is a powerful story about an event that devastated Rwanda. I have read memoirs written for adults about the genocide, but have not seen a single book for young adults until now. This is an important book, giving a voice to those who suffered.
By book's end, Emma is able to find some hope in her future:

"Emma realized that every thing and every person had an outside and an inside, and that the two were not necessarily the same. She also saw how beautiful her country was (112)."

"At the beginning of the journey, she had been ready for anything to happen, especially the worst. She never imagined she would be surprised by so much, feel so carefree. She could see no signs of the past horror, no scars. She saw nothing on the faces around her that reminded her of the tragedy she had lived through and that had shaped the entire country (113)."

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