Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Welcome to Book Rater

Welcome to Book Rater's Literature Reviews. I have an MA in English Literature and MS in Library Science, but what really matters is that I am a reader.

My latest obsession is reading young adult literature. I recently went on a YA mysteries binge--Christopher Killer, What Happened to Cass McBride, The Body of Christopher Creed--but I just finished a book so good and so disturbing that I have to start a blog just to write about it.

What is this book? Deogratias: A Tale of Rwanda by J.P. Stassen.

Originally published in Belgium and translated by Alexis Seigal, Deogratias is a graphic novel exploring the effects of the Rwandan genocide on Deogratias, the main character.

Although this is a young adult novel, the content is very adult. Stassen does not shy away from discussing the realities of the genocide. The language and images are strong, realistic, and disturbing. As a reader, I wanted to hide from these realities, yet I felt compelled to keep reading.

The story opens with Deogratias clearly suffering from delusions and substance abuse. Stassen uses flashbacks to reveal what led to Deogratias's madness--the horrors he had both seen and committed. Stassen boldly assigns responsibility for the genocide--Belg colonizers, French "peacekeepers," European missionaries.

The U.S. edition comes with a preface by the translator. Seigal provides important historical context for the graphic novel. Interestingly, he also attempts to temper Stassen's condemnation of Europeans and places the responsibility on all actors.

This is an R-rated book with R-rated language and images. Yet, both are appropriate for the topic, and this stark book might be the closest any reader comes to visualizing--and hopefully empathizing--with this tragedy.


Anonymous said...

Wonderful first review. I'll send all of my friends your way.

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Lisa said...