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Deogratias, A Tale of Rwanda by…
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Deogratias, A Tale of Rwanda

by Jean-Philippe Stassen

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A graphic novel covering the civil war in Rwanda. The action moves between the titular character's pre war and post war experiences, from school boy to young man made insane by what happened.

The book starts with Deogratias, a young Hutu, a broken man who is reminded of his past through a meeting with people he knew from before. This provokes a series of flashbacks, showing how Deogratias and his friends were affected by the civil war. Deogratias, a Hutu, was in love with two girls, both Tutsis, who must hide as the call comes over the radio to rid Rwanda from "cockroaches". The outside world is also involved, in the form of foreign priests and the Frenchman, none of which have a positive influence.

It's a short book, less than 100 pages, but, actually, the author packs in a great story, as well as showing us the personal cost of the genocide. I've read a few books and seen films about Rwanda, but what sets this apart is the fact that it is a graphic novel. This format actually allows the author to be more brutal, but leaves more room for the reader to reflect on what is happening. Recommended. ( )
  soffitta1 | Mar 23, 2012 |
Deogratias, the protagonist of this graphic novel, is a young boy, living in a country torn by ethnic strife as the Hutu prepare and eventually attempt to eliminate the Tutsi. The story swings back and forth between the time before and after the genocide, and readers watch as a young boy concerned only about girls transforms into a young man tortured by his memories.

Hearing the word Rwanda evokes one of the most horrible feelings in me. The feeling of horror that permeates my soul when I hear Rwanda is entirely due to the film Hotel Rwanda, starring Don Cheadle, which brought the tragedy to life for me. Saying it like that, it seems trite, but it's honest. The film introduced me to the events that occurred and sparked in me my natural desire to research. I read the news articles, tracked down YouTube videos of broadcasts, and was heartwrenched to find the appalling lack of coverage by American news people. The blindness of the world during this atrocity fills me with shame for humanity and the willful resistance to helping makes me illogically angry.

All of this is just to say that going in to the graphic novel, I already had images, preconceived notions and biases, swimming in my head. This may be what caused the graphic novel to be rather underwhelming for me. I was struck, emotionally, by the plight of Deogratias as he suffers mentally in the brutal aftermath of the genocide. His madness sinks my soul in anguish.

And yet, overall, I was a bit disappointed. The juxtaposition of past and present seemed less than ideal, and the lack of depth to the plot and the characters left me feeling as if I had just scratched the surface of the story. Honestly, I enjoyed the text-based introduction to the graphic novel more as it informatively and evocatively covered the historical situation.

I realize that I am very much in the minority here. Most seem to adore this graphic novel; inasmuch as one can adore something exceedingly dark, full of despair, and painful to the heart. I don't know why I didn't feel this level of emotion while reading; perhaps it was the quickness of the read, the lateness of the hour, or the heart-wrenching images already present in my brain from other tellings of the genocide. I do not know. ( )
  EclecticEccentric | May 31, 2010 |
Disturbing and graphic, but so important. ( )
1 vote SandSing7 | Jun 23, 2009 |
The full-color realistic illustrations contrast against Deogratias' flashbacks as a happy boy with his friends Benina and Apollinaria who are Tutsis, and his present internal conflict with the atrocities he has committed against the Tutsi race are dramatic and will resonate with many readers. Stassen’s illustrations are brutally honest and depict the horrific atrocities of genocide. The complex subject matter and intense images makes this story suitable for older teens and adults (recommended for 10th grade and up).
1 vote YAlit | Apr 29, 2009 |
Deogratias is very disturbing. I was haunted by pictures of a rape scene and by pictures suggesting prostitution. I would never recommend this book to anyone who is below upper high school. Even then, I probably would not recommend it. Although I believe it to be a realistic portrayal, I don't believe that it's worth putting such violence, profanity, racism, and pure evil in your mind. I wish I had not read this book. I also found it to be confusing, and I could not bear to take the time to reread to get a better understanding. ( )
  astreet | Jan 16, 2009 |
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The 2000 winner of the Goscinny Prize for outstanding graphic novel script, this is the harrowing tale of the Tutsi genocide in Rwanda, as seen through the eyes of a boy named Deogratias. He is an ordinary teenager, in love with a girl named Be;nigne, but Deogratias is a Hutu and Be;nigne is a Tutsi who dies in the genocide, and Deogratias himself plays a part in her death. As the story circles around but never depicts the terror and brutality of an entire country descending into violence, we watch Deogratias in his pursuit of Be;nigne, and we see his grief and descent into madness following her death, as he comes to believe he is a dog. Told with great artistry and intelligence, this book offers a window into a dark chapter of recent human history and exposes the West's role in the tragedy. Stassen's interweaving of the aftermath of the genocide and the events leading up to it heightens the impact of the horror, giving powerful expression to the unspeakable, indescribable experience of ordinary Hutus caught up in the violence. Difficult, beautiful, honest, and heartbreaking, this is a major work by a masterful artist.… (more)

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