Karen Bugingo on her new book 'My Name Is Life'

Karen Bugingo is a 25-year-old Rwandan who recently published her debut novel ‘My Name is Life'
Karen Bugingo  (Courtesy)
Karen Bugingo (Courtesy)

Karen Bugingo is a 25-year-old Rwandan who recently published her debut novel ‘My Name is Life'.

She is currently pursuing a Bachelor’s degree in Journalism and Mass Communication at Mount Kenya University in Rwanda. She was born and raised in Kigali where both her parents were killed in the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi.

Bugingo was raised by her grandmother and aunt together with her only brother. Her dream and goal is to travel the world and inspire people in her generation to have bigger dreams in life.

How do you hope to use your book ‘My Name is Life’ to influence change in your community?

I hope to use my book to change the mindset of the community by bringing hope to young people. To show them that no matter where life has taken you, you can stand up for yourselves and make the decision to look pain in the eye and tell it that, “I am stronger than my circumstances.”

What are your thoughts on changing the Rwandan and African narrative that is stereotypically biased in the western media?

There’s definitely a lot more the African continent has to offer. We have the most beautiful natural resources and the richest cultures are found in Africa. As for Rwanda, we are an amazing people who have shown great courage and we should be represented that way.

So I want to change the narrative of what is said or thought of about Rwanda and Africa because we are a well-educated people, growing together and learning from each other.

How will your book change the way people view Rwanda and Africa?

I hope that my book will be an addition to the many good things that are talked about Rwanda and more especially, the courage of the Rwandan people. How we are a people who will always rise from our ashes fighting every day to move forward irrespective of our past. And that’s exactly what ‘My Name is Life” is about.

What were some of the challenges you faced during the writing process of this book?

In the beginning, I had financial constraints especially for editing and printing. I had a budget to meet as well as a deadline but eventually I got sponsors and everything worked out.

Another challenge were the days, I experienced “Writer’s block” where I would spend a week without writing due to lack of inspiration as well emotional battles.

Was your vision to write this book immediately embraced by people at the start? How so?

Yes, my vision to write my story was well embraced by many people seeing as a lot of people had already heard about my story, many of whom I didn’t know. I had also started a blog where I would share bits and bites of my story.

And so when I announced that I am going to write a full detailed version of my story, everyone was excited. I received a lot of encouraging messages from my family and friends and people on all Social Media platforms (again most I didn’t know).

How long did it take you to write ‘My Name is Life’? How many copies have you printed?

It took me two years to write the manuscript before bringing it to my publishers at Imagine We Rwanda in 2016.

From then on, we worked together on the book until the final printing stage. I have printed 1,000 copies.

How do you hope to impact the publishing market with your book? Are you looking to taking it beyond the borders?

I have purposely written my book in the English language so that it can travel beyond Rwanda, beyond East Africa as well as beyond Africa.

I hope to impact the publishing market by inspiring many writers who have not had the courage to take their stories to publishing houses.

What’s your take on the reading culture in Rwanda?

I think the reason why the reading culture is not doing well in Rwanda is because kids are not taught to discover the different genres of books they like at a young age.

Some kids may prefer reading fiction and others non-fiction stories. So when a kid is mostly exposed to fiction stories yet they are more into non-fiction, they will get bored and they’ll give up on reading by claiming that “Reading is boring”.

What has motivated you to this point in your career and journey as a writer?

I feel like the most expressive way to share how you feel is through writing. Writing gives a voice to many people, myself included.

And so, when I am able to share my story and everything that I am thinking about without necessarily standing in front of a big crowd has motivated me to keep writing more and more.

Where do you derive your inspiration?

I derive my inspiration from music and being around great minds.

What message would you want Rwandans to stick with after reading ‘My Name is Life’?

A message I would want Rwandans to stick with after reading “My name is Life” is to stay strong in any situation they are going through because it is preparing and shaping you for a brighter future.