Tracy Kidder, winner of the Pulitzer Prize and author of the bestsellers The Soul of a New Machine, House, and the enduring classic Mountains Beyond Mountains, has been described by the Baltimore Sun as the master of the non-fiction narrative. In this new book, Kidder gives us the superb story of a hero for our time. Strength in What Remains is a wonderfully written, inspiring account of one mans remarkable American journey and of the ordinary people who helped him a brilliant testament to the power of will and of second chances.
Deo arrives in America from Burundi in search of a new life. Having survived a civil war and genocide, plagued by horrific dreams, he lands at JFK airport with two hundred dollars, no English, and no contacts. He ekes out a precarious existence delivering groceries, living in Central Park, and learning English by reading dictionaries in bookstores. Then Deo begins to meet the strangers who will change his life, pointing him eventually in the direction of Columbia University, medical school, and a life devoted to healing. Kidder breaks new ground in telling this unforgettable story as he travels with Deo back over a turbulent life in search of meaning and forgiveness.
An extraordinary writer, Tracy Kidder once again shows us what it means to be fully human by telling a story about the heroism inherent in ordinary people, a story about a life based on hope.
Part One, Flights
Bujumbura - NewYork, May 1994
On the outskirts of the capital, Bujumbura, there is a small international airport. It has a modern terminal with intricate roofs and domed metal structures that resemble astronomical observatories. It is the kind of terminal that seems designed to say that here you leave the past behind, the future has arrived, behold the wonders of aviation. But in Burundi in 1994, for the lucky few with tickets, an airplane was just the fastest, safest way out. It was flight.
In the spring of that year, violence and chaos governed Burundi. To the west, the hills above Bujumbura were burning. Smoke seemed to be pouring off the hills, as the winds of mid-May carried the plumes of smoke downward in undulating sheets, in the general direction of the airport. A large passenger jet was parked on the tarmac, and a disordered crowd was heading toward it in sweaty haste. Deo felt as if he were being carried by the crowd, immersed in an ...
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Note to Teachers
Strength in What Remains (hereinafter Strength), recounts the story of Deogratias (Deo) his flight from civil war in Burundi and Rwanda to homelessness in Central Park, New York City, to graduation from Columbia University, and to the fulfillment of the dream of his youth: to build a health care clinic in his homeland, free to those who can't pay. Deo grows up in Burundi, and eventually becomes a United States citizen.
In September, 1993, while Deo is in his third year of medical school, the president of Burundi is assassinated. Ethnic civil war ensues...
This is a smart book for what it does not do. It does not attempt to get inside Deo’s head to guess what he might have been thinking. It does not try to psychoanalyze him once he starts talking about his trauma. It does not overly dramatize this story of extreme suffering and redemption, simply allowing the events to unfold on the page. And it does not attempt to puff out Deo’s story and make it represent more than it does. Kidder takes on the role of a reporter on Deo’s life, but his unusual narrative structure lends the story the grace and depth of a novel.
(Reviewed by Amy Reading).
Full Review (1129 words).
The Burundian Genocide
The 1993 Burundian genocide (which preceded the 1994 genocide in Rwanda) traces back to the end of Belgian colonial rule in the 1950s and 1960s and the first Berudian genocide of 1972. Burundian history fits, like interlocking puzzle pieces, with that of its northern neighbor, Rwanda (map of Central Africa).
Like in Rwanda, Hutus make up about 86% of the population in Burundi, with only about 13% Tutsis (the remaining 1% are Twa pygmies). Unlike in Rwanda, where the Hutu majority took power, the small Tutsi elite in Burundi held onto government and military positions after independence. In April 1972, there was a bloody Hutu uprising which prompted an even more grisly retaliation by the Tutsi military. The Tutsis ...
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