Dominique Uwase Alonga is the founder and CEO of Imagine We Rwanda. She recently released her new book ‘Tracing the cracks’, a fictional book about the resilience of survivors of the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi, on her recently launched ‘Imagine We’ book app. She spoke with Sharon Kantengwa about the the book and the need to create the book app.
‘Tracing the cracks’ is a new genre in your collection. What drew you to the historical fiction genre?
I don’t think its historical fiction anymore. That was probably a mistake. I don’t know what to call that genre but it drew from our history as Rwandans. It was important to me to write a modern book about intergenerational trauma after the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi. The book is not about the Genocide but about the hardships that come with readjusting to normal life; healing, trusting and moving forward.
The book centres on trauma, healing, resilience and love. What inspired these particular themes?
Every day, I am amazed by Rwandan women, men and youth who choose to stay alive, to smile, to love, and so on. It is so easy to forget the strength it takes to do this given our past and I really wanted to honour that. We have heroes everywhere in this country. People who choose to wake up in the morning and raise their children. People who are looking for professional help to become better people. Young people starting businesses everywhere.
Dominique Uwase Alonga’s fictional book tells of the resilience of Rwandans. / Courtesy
I have so much admiration for Rwandans. And this was a way to internalise our story but also celebrate it. I truly hope I did it justice. I mean, it’s probably impossible to do it justice but I hope Rwandans who read it will feel seen and celebrated.
Immersing readers in a different time period seems like it would be overwhelming. What was your process like when writing the historical fiction?
I definitely don’t know if I did that. I wasn’t immersing them in a different time period. I feel like my goal was to make the readers pause and realise how much we walk around with as Rwandans. A time to just meditate on the strength of our mothers, fathers siblings and friends who are living life with so many questions and fears and wounds. It was a way for all of us to realise our strength but also to expose these wounds so we can start talking and healing.
What advice do you have for readers who might be too intimidated to write their story?
I think for whoever is trying to write, I would just encourage them to start and then find a great team to do the work of making it better. Every single story matters and more than anything, I believe we need more Rwandan stories for the youth behind us to grow up with content that will walk them in the different stages of their lives. These imaginary communities that books create for us shape our imagination in deep ways. Young Rwandans need this more than ever.
Your books are educative and vibrant. What made you decide to go to the next level and develop the Imagine We book app?
This is our current pet project. We are hoping to cross geographical boundaries and make it easier for African authors to share their stories with the world.
Coronavirus and the lockdown were a real lesson as to how technology can help people in different ways. We decided to jump on this boat and start our digital journey. I am very grateful for the team at Imagine We for the amazing work that they are doing, and for our partners Technfold for the assistance in this digital journey.
What has been your greatest compliment or achievement as a writer?
As a writer and a publisher, my greatest accomplishment has been creating communities and starting conversations. It could be conversations that readers have alone in their minds or conversations that we have as groups; in schools, online via social media, etc.
I’m proud to see the questions that rise after my books are read both from young and old people. And I love that these are Rwandan books happening in Rwanda where Rwandan readers can feel seen and heard. It is so important to create content for youth. So many times, we are forced to rely on content that comes from the West. And I’m happy to be among the people who are creating African content for Africans.
I’m very proud to be part of the creators who make stories that will stay with Rwanda long after we are gone.Follow https://twitter.com/SharonKMugabo