Eight hundred thousand murders


Title: We Wish to Inform you That Tomorrow We Will be Killed With our Families: Stories from Rwanda

By: Philip Gourevitch

You know you love a book when it’s dog-eared, scribbled with notes, and always by your bedside. When friends ask to borrow it, you whistle, and hope someone changes the subject quickly.

One of my favorites is journalist and now Paris Review Editor Philip Gourevitch’s first non fiction volume, We Wish to Inform you That Tomorrow We Will be Killed With our Families: Stories from Rwanda. Like all great books it is written with simplicity and clarity. As a writer at the New Yorker, at the time, Gourevitch was able to return to Rwanda over several years and like any outstanding journalist the knowledge he accrued in no way eroded into the stories of the survivors. Their voice is as clear and loud as he promises, and he merely nudges them along with sympathetic and considered insight.

The background needs little explanation. In the April of 1994, the Government of Rwanda sponsored the murder of an estimated eight hundred thousand Tutsis by the Hutu majority. Using primarily machetes and in under a hundred days, the Hutus committed what Gourevitch describes as “the most efficient mass killing since the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.” Gourevitch explores not just the historical background of the massacre, but its outcome, and legacy. Go with him to the refugee camps which sheltered Hutus with blood on their hands, and watch as the international community’s disconcern threatened another massacre following the first. Meet already familiar figures like hotelier Paul Rusesabagina, who, “armed with nothing but a liquor cabinet, a phone line, and an internationally famous address,” managed to save refugees in his Hotel des Milles Collines, and is immortalized in the film Hotel Rwanda. Learn about how relief agencies are neither as benign nor as helpful as they appear.

Beautifully written and absolutely shocking, this multiple award-winning book is one I recommend everyone read.