COVID-19: Five Rwandan books to read during the lockdown

Yolande Mukagasana (left) and Dr Zoe Norridge, who translated the book ‘La mort ne veut pas de moi’ into English. / Photo: Net.

This is the second week of the new, unprecedented normal of – working, learning, working out - from home.

The stay-at-home lifestyle feels uncomfortable at first, but gets unusually cozy as one crafts new habits. However, some routines like taking in so much information - (and misinformation sometimes – may become unexpectedly addictive and toxic.


While one needs courage to overcome confinement, periods of outbreaks are packed with fake news that inspire panic, causing anxiety and depression.


The New Times has curated five Rwandan books by five Rwandan authors that shades a brave rebound from dark territories of despair and shattered lives.


‘My Name is Life’ by Karen Bugingo

In her 145-page novel, Bugingo is inspired by her real life to tell a heart touching story of a fearless fighter against cancer.

Karen Bugingo is a normal teenager roaming the streets of Kigali.

Her story seems quite usual, almost boring, until a series of heart-wrenching events tore her from her friends, her school and life as she knew it. This is the journey of her courage to fight back and the strength to look death in the face and say “My name is life.”

This book is available here at Rwf13,000.

‘Not My Time to Die’ by Yolande Mukagasana

This unflinching testimony of the 1994 genocide in Rwanda by Yolande Mukagasana, first published in 1997, is a gruelling read, but a charged page-turner that curves hope with uncertain hands.

Though a true-life narrative is almost novelistic in the way it builds tension. The brutality and inexorable losses sometimes render you numb and stunned that you always pause to take a breath and turn to the next page.

This book is available at Rwf8,000.

‘Life and Death in Nyamata’ by Omar Ndizeye

Life and Death in Nyamata is a memoir that brings the reader to an unimaginable place of fear and disbelief, when at any moment life could end. Yet Omar manages to tell his story with a sense of gratitude and joy at being alive.

Life and Death in Nyamata takes you to Omar’s journey from days preceding the genocide, his escape into the hills of Bugesera, and days of survival believing in the strength of the human spirit to live a life of hope beyond fear, pain and loss.

‘Small Country’ by Gaël Faye

Already an international sensation and prize-winning bestseller in France, Small Country is an evocative coming-of-age story of a mixed-race young boy, a lost childhood and a shattered homeland.

Faye, a French-Rwandan rapper turned novelist from Burundi crafts a beautifully powerful novel that paints innocence as seen through the eyes of a child caught in the maelstrom of history.

But in a two-fold narrative, the author depicts the gradual loss of that innocence over tragedy before he revives a world forever lost through the cut breaths, the deployed laughter and the scent of lemongrass.

The last two titles above can be ordered on Amazon as eBooks or paperback.

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