Gripping, stylish journalism that proves the modern history of Rwanda is hardly settled.



A veteran journalist challenges entrenched wisdom about the 1994 Rwandan genocide.

Drawing on her years of experience as an Africa correspondent for Reuters, the BBC, the Financial Times, and other outlets, Wrong focuses on the repressive regime of Paul Kagame, who rose to power as commander of the Rwandan Patriotic Front, a rebel force that instigated the catastrophic civil war against the Rwandan government and armed forces. The fighting climaxed in the notorious genocide, a 100-day massacre of more than 800,000 ordinary Tutsis by the Hutu government—“an event ranking in horror with the Holocaust, the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings, and the flattening of Dresden.” However, the rebels rallied and won decisively later that year, and Kagame, their de facto leader, has been president since 2000. Much of his legitimacy derives from a carefully honed image of “underdog turned moral crusader,” and he has been honored at the Davos World Economic Forum and universities around the world. With characteristic flair, Wrong uses dogged investigative reporting and historical background to show that Kagame’s regime is every bit as cruel and double-dealing as the one it sought to replace, spying on its citizens and exiling or murdering its critics. Even former supporters aren’t safe: The book’s title comes from the sign on the door of the Johannesburg hotel room where Patrick Karegeya, Kagame’s erstwhile intelligence chief and later critic of the regime, was strangled to death in 2014. Such brutal violence, the author astutely notes, reveals the inadequacy of “the Hutu-versus-Tutsi prism through which Rwandan events are routinely viewed.” To label the event as the “genocide of the Tutsis” ignores the thousands of moderate Hutus who were killed. Nor does Rwanda’s spying stop at its borders given the regime’s blacklist of unsympathetic journalists around the globe. In Wrong’s panoramic cast of characters, the voices of those whose lives were destroyed ring out the loudest.

Gripping, stylish journalism that proves the modern history of Rwanda is hardly settled.

Pub Date: March 30, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-61039-842-8

Page Count: 512

Publisher: PublicAffairs

Review Posted Online: Jan. 27, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2021

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...


Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

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The powerful story of a father’s past and a son’s future.

Atlantic senior writer Coates (The Beautiful Struggle: A Father, Two Sons, and an Unlikely Road to Manhood, 2008) offers this eloquent memoir as a letter to his teenage son, bearing witness to his own experiences and conveying passionate hopes for his son’s life. “I am wounded,” he writes. “I am marked by old codes, which shielded me in one world and then chained me in the next.” Coates grew up in the tough neighborhood of West Baltimore, beaten into obedience by his father. “I was a capable boy, intelligent and well-liked,” he remembers, “but powerfully afraid.” His life changed dramatically at Howard University, where his father taught and from which several siblings graduated. Howard, he writes, “had always been one of the most critical gathering posts for black people.” He calls it The Mecca, and its faculty and his fellow students expanded his horizons, helping him to understand “that the black world was its own thing, more than a photo-negative of the people who believe they are white.” Coates refers repeatedly to whites’ insistence on their exclusive racial identity; he realizes now “that nothing so essentialist as race” divides people, but rather “the actual injury done by people intent on naming us, intent on believing that what they have named matters more than anything we could ever actually do.” After he married, the author’s world widened again in New York, and later in Paris, where he finally felt extricated from white America’s exploitative, consumerist dreams. He came to understand that “race” does not fully explain “the breach between the world and me,” yet race exerts a crucial force, and young blacks like his son are vulnerable and endangered by “majoritarian bandits.” Coates desperately wants his son to be able to live “apart from fear—even apart from me.”

This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

Pub Date: July 8, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-8129-9354-7

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Spiegel & Grau

Review Posted Online: May 6, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2015

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