cover image Rwanda Means the Universe: A Native's Memoir of Blood and Bloodlines

Rwanda Means the Universe: A Native's Memoir of Blood and Bloodlines

Louise Mushikiwabo, Jack Kramer, with Jack Kramer. . St. Martin's, $25.95 (367pp) ISBN 978-0-312-20959-9

In her impassioned and necessary but overwritten memoir of the Rwandan genocide, Mushikiwabo delves deep into her family and national history to explain the horrific slaughter of 800,000 people in 1994. Mushikiwabo, the youngest of nine children in a Tutsi family, was living in Washington, D.C., at the time of the genocide—and many of her friends and family members back home were butchered. She begins her story by reconstructing the week leading up to the assassination of the Hutu president, Habyarimana, a murder that sparked the mass slaughter of ethnic Tutsis. From there, she looks back in an effort to recount the history of Rwanda, a former Belgian colony, through the aperture of a single family: "Trying to sort this out will send me rummaging back to my father's days and on past him, back three lifetimes... like some hapless sister searching for her missing in morgue after morgue, I'll slink from source to source." At times, Mushikiwabo overwhelms her already complicated story in her unbridled stretch for lyricism. But when she writes directly, especially as she does in the book's heartbreaking final pages, her journey into Rwanda's past offers urgent insight. (Apr.)