Monday, November 27, 2017

CYBILS SENIOR HIGH NONFICTION: How Dare the Sun Rise by Sandra Uwiringiyimana


ABOUT THE BOOK

This profoundly moving memoir is the remarkable and inspiring true story of Sandra Uwiringyimana, a girl from the Democratic Republic of the Congo who tells the tale of how she survived a massacre, immigrated to America, and overcame her trauma through art and activism.

Sandra was just ten years old when she found herself with a gun pointed at her head. She had watched as rebels gunned down her mother and six-year-old sister in a refugee camp. Remarkably, the rebel didn’t pull the trigger, and Sandra escaped.

Thus began a new life for her and her surviving family members. With no home and no money, they struggled to stay alive. Eventually, through a United Nations refugee program, they moved to America, only to face yet another ethnic disconnect. Sandra may have crossed an ocean, but there was now a much wider divide she had to overcome. And it started with middle school in New York.

In this memoir, Sandra tells the story of her survival, of finding her place in a new country, of her hope for the future, and how she found a way to give voice to her people.


REVIEW

I found this book both heart-wrenching and inspiring.  Sandra's story is an important one.  Unfortunately, there are far too many others who could tell similar stories of life as a refugee.  I was fascinated as Sandra starts by introducing the event that changed her life forever, the massacre at Gatumba Refugee Camp.  Then she shares what her life was like leading up to that pivotal event.  I enjoyed this part of the book as I read about a culture and way of life very different from my own.  When she returns to the shocking events that occurred when she was ten, that cost her her beloved little sister and left her suffering from delayed PTSD (it all comes back to haunt her in her late teens).  That part was hard to read.  It's hard to comprehend what leads people to do such evil things as massacre the innocent just because they are from a different culture/tradition.

The story of how Sandra and her family came to the United States, found a way to cope with the culture shock while simultaneously living with the difficulties caused by the massacre is a powerful one.  At least I found it so.  Life as a refugee is difficult, no matter the circumstances.  But adjusting to a new country, a new language, and a new culture is hard enough without the challenges of dealing with trauma on top of that.  Sandra's family's difficulties weren't over.  As she struggles to adjust to school, she runs into numerous challenges, but she finds a way to carry on.  But she never forgets her people and what happened to them.  She gets involved in telling not only her own story but the story of her people.  She has what I would call some rather remarkable experiences. 

All in all, I found this a remarkable story that reminds me of the importance of people telling their own stories and that the only way to overcome the prejudices that continue to plague society is to tell those stories and listen to the stories of others.

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