cover image Over a Thousand Hills I Walk with You

Over a Thousand Hills I Walk with You

Hanna Jansen, , trans. from the German by Elizabeth D. Crawford. . Lerner/Carolrhoda, $16.95 (344pp) ISBN 978-1-57505-927-3

Smoothly translated, this hard-hitting book chronicles the experiences of Jansen's adopted daughter, Jeanne d'Arc Umubyeyi, the sole member of her Tutsi family to survive the 1994 Rwandan genocide. Jansen first depicts Jeanne's happy, secure life with her educator parents, older brother and younger sister. Yet the early chapters hint at trouble ahead, as the eight-year-old overhears her mother and a friend discussing political unrest in Rwanda and news of the persecution of Tutsis. As Jeanne listens to this, "the sense of an approaching calamity crept up to her like a predator." Jansen's description of the brutal massacre that follows is candid and horrifying, especially when Jeanne witnesses the murders of her mother and brother. Some readers may feel that the opening notes for each chapter, from Jansen to her daughter, disrupt the narrative flow as the author reflects on the vastness of Jeanne's loss and the depth of her strength and resilience (she likens the girl's resolve to that of her namesake: "Jeanne d'Arc of the thousand hills, you are a fighter!"). But the account of Jeanne's survival is remarkable and inspiring, as she indeed proves herself a fighter in many ways, battling sadness, extreme physical discomfort and an acute sense of loneliness. The heroine's story ends on a welcome note of hope, as the author describes a girl riding on an airplane, bound for Germany, where after "a time of getting to know each other" she will know "that she belongs to us." Ages 12-up. (Apr.)