30. July 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: Courtney, Graphic Novel, Historical Fiction

Deogratias, A Tale of Rwanda by Jean-Phillipe Stassen, 79 pages, read by Courtney, on 06/18/2013

Deogratias is a Hutu youth who has lived through and participated in the Rwandan genocide in 1994. Told primarily in flashbacks, this graphic novel chronicles the mental toll the events of the war have taken on Deogratias. Prior to the conflict, he is a relatively normal teenager, falling in love for the first time and trying to figure out his life. The violence of the Rwandan conflict leaves Deogratias a broken man, one who can scarcely communicate with the outside world. The horrors he has seen and played a part in have destroyed his mind.
I can’t help but feel like this graphic novel only skims the surface of what really happened in Rwanda. The juxtaposition of past and present typically makes for effective storytelling technique, but somehow, it doesn’t work as well as it should here. The illustrations are decent, but not exemplary. I know the graphic novel format can be every bit as evocative, if not more so, than text alone, but it takes a very skilled artist to pull it off, particularly when there’s not a lot of text to explain the images. The simplistic artwork fails to give the reader the nuance that would set a book like this apart. What could have been a revealing portrait/introduction to the Rwandan genocide wound up being somewhat muddled. Not the best starting point for one just beginning to learn about Rwanda, but an interesting, if depressing, supplemental story.

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