How Dare the Sun Rise: Memoirs of a War Child by Sandra Uwiringyimana. New York, NY: Katherine Tegen Books, an imprint of HarperCollinsPublishers. Copyright 2017.
Sandra Uwiringyimanawas 10 years old when she experienced the horrors of war and the mass killing of her Congolese tribe, firsthand. Before the night of the massacre, Sandra already had been through much in her childhood: one of her siblings had been forced to become a child soldier, her family had fled their village many times, and was almost killed during the final escape to a refugee camp in Burundi. Unfortunately, any illusion of safety that refugee camp provided was shattered by the Gatumba Massacre.
That night, Sandra’s family woke to gunshots and blazing fires as chanting rebels senselessly murdered their camp’s inhabitants. After seeing two of her family members shot, Sandra became lost in the chaos and ended up with a gun held to her own head. Though she escaped, she lost siblings and friends in the attack. Her mother was grievously injured. Life for Sandra would never be the same.
Her family was eventually chosen to start again in America through a refugee program. Unfortunately, their lives remained uncertain even after the move. Though measures were taken to ease transitioning, the struggles of assimilating into such a different country and culture were overwhelming. When Sandra was a teenager, she finally began finding her place, and even speaking out about her experiences. However, conflicts sometimes arose within her family. Her parents didn’t always understand or approve of the American way of life that she was accepting. Eventually, Sandra would find herself spiraling into a deep depression. She dropped out of college and left her family, seeking healing elsewhere.
In spite of such obstacles, Sandra became and remains a strong, uncompromising voice for the people of her tribe and others like them. She recounts being invited to attend or speak at events with the likes of Michelle Obama and Oprah Winfrey. Pieces from her art exhibit focused on the surviving refugees are even included within the book, and help to illustrate her message of truth and hope.
Sandra’s memoir does not sugarcoat the many difficulties of refugee life. Instead, she bravely details her experiences and, in doing so, helps to illuminate the experiences of refugees everywhere. Her story forces readers to acknowledge harsh realities, not only in other parts of the world, but for people living right here in America. The book is recommended for young adults and adults who want to learn more about the lives of refugees who come to the United States to escape war and unrest, such as Sandra and her family. Reading this memoir is a deeply emotional experience, but one that leaves readers with a deeper understanding of the world, the importance of speaking their truth, and the resilience of the human spirit.
Kelsey Blackburn is a Circulation Assistant at North Park Public Library. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (336) 226 7185.