Name of Book: Left to Tell
Author: Immaculee Ilibagiza
Publisher: Hay House Inc.
Publisher’s Intended Audience: High school/Adult
Summary: This book tells the true story of an African young girl who tells her account of her genocide survival in Rwanda. In 1994, Immaculee Ilibagiza was 24 years old and home for college during Easter vacation when more than 1 million ethnic Tutsi Rwandan’s were slaughtered by their ethnic Hutu neighbors because of their ethnicity. The book gently walks you from her childhood, with loving Catholic parents, siblings, and community to her survival during the genocide in a very tiny bathroom with seven other starving, unclean women. It shares her profound spiritual transformation which will impact everyone who reads this book.
Literary Elements at work in the story: The book begins with Immaculee as a child playing at her home in the beautiful country of Rwanda. The book vividly describes the beauty of Rwanda with its beautiful, breathtaking mountains and streams.
Plot: It is told in first person of her account being born to two loving parents, growing up surrounded by a loving extended family. In her home, racism and prejudice were unknown. Both parents were educators, well respected in the community who worked and sacrificed to make every effort for their children to receive an education. Her parents were devout Roman Catholics and passed on their beliefs to their children. It was during Immaculee’s visit home during Easter vacation that her country and her people were ripped apart during a three month slaughter of Rwandan’s Tutsi’s. The book does not slight any detail of people being butchered as animals, women being raped, babies being thrown against rocks and homes being burned to rubble.
Conflict: It was in 1994 when the death of Rwanda’s Hutu president sparked this holocaust. Rwanda was made up of three tribles: a Hutu majority, a Tutsi minority; and a very small number of Twa, a pygmy-like tribe of forest dwellers. In 1962, a Hutu government was firmly in place and the Tutsis were second class citizens. Tension mounted and conflict erupted which led to a holocaust of Hutus and Tutsis.
Tone: This book is very vivid, with etched out details of murder, rape, etc. during the Rwanda genocide. However, the book etches out smoothly the details of Immaculee’s unquenchable faith and connection to God throughout this horrific ordeal.
Theme: Pain. Forgiveness. Rejection. Resurrection. Relationships. Reconciliation. Healing. Anger. Prayer. War. Love/Hate. Courage. Faith. Death.
Perspective: Multicultural. This book should be read by every nationality. It is a story of what can happen when we allow hatred to enter into our hearts of our brothers and sisters who do not physically look like us.
Theology: This book has to be one of the most inspirational books to strengthen your belief in the power of prayer and forgiveness. Within the pages of this book are the details of a young woman whose parents and brothers were brutally slaughtered at the hands of people who they considered neighbors in every sense of the word. The Bible ask the question, “Am I my brother’s keeper?” The Biblical answer is gently, yes. God expects us to love our neighbors and help each other as much as possible. However, when we allow the satanic plot of the devil named hatred to enter into our hearts we forget who we are. This situation clearly depicts our human condition of sinfulness and brokenness. We feel that we cannot become as the Hutu’s in this story, but we can and we do. This is why the Bible warns us to guard our heart. When hatred enters and takes over we become desensitized to our brothers and sisters which leads to horrific activity such as murder.
However, no matter what we experience in our lives, God is always present. This story tells of a faithful act of surrendering all to God in the midst of turmoil that words could never give the full account of the experience. Through acts of praying in season and out of season, constantly calling on the name of God, constantly depending on God’s word, forgiveness and love will overpower all hate and demonic activities.
Scripture: Proverbs 14:17, Psalm 37:8, Psalm 27:14, Psalm 23:4, 2 Kings 6:16, John 13:34-35, Matthew 21:22
Faith Talk Questions (Intended for use with high school girls):
- As a young girl Immaculee’s parents taught her to pray and the power of prayer. Throughout the reading of this book, she shares her prayers with us. How do you believe that prayer sustains a person through struggles in their lives?
- Immaculee often speaks of God’s protection and the reason she was not killed because there was something God wanted her to do in her life. I feel we will never understand why God chooses some and not others for certain work in his vineyard. This is part of God’s sovereignty. Do you feel God has a devout calling on your life? Why or why not?
- Immaculee was able to forgive those persons who killed her parents, her brothers and other love ones? How do you feel she was able to do this as a young woman?
- As you read this book what were some of the emotions you encountered as an African American young woman?
Review prepared by Vera Witherspoon, MDiv, Entering Cohort Fall 2005
Left to Tell by Storypath is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.