Not My Time To Die by Yolande Mukagasana
Published by: Kuza Press
Release Date: 2019
Genre: Nonfiction; Memoir
Yolande Mukagasana is a Rwandan nurse and mother of three children who likes wearing jeans and designer glasses. She runs her own clinic in Nyamirambo and is planning a party for her wedding anniversary. But when genocide starts everything changes. Targeted because she’s a successful woman and a Tutsi, she flees for her life.
This gripping memoir describes the betrayal of friends and help that comes from surprising places. Quick-witted and courageous, Yolande never loses hope she will find her children alive.
How do you review a person’s lived experience? Especially when the said experience is a brutal recollection of how base and violent humans can be towards each other.
“Not My Time To Die” is a prophecy that was handed to Yolande Mukagasana by her brother on the eve of what was to become the destruction of life as she knew it. In no time at all, everything she knew was turned against her and her family as a systemic genocide was executed against the Tutsi’s in Rwanda.
This book is one of the reasons I will continue to value the experiences curated at the Ake Festival. Before listening to her interview at the festival, I had never heard of Yolande Mukagasana but after watching her speak, there was no question that I had to read her memoir.
What quickly jumps out at you as you start reading this book is that Yolande Mukagasana wants you to bear witness to her ordeal. The atrocities she narrates are mind-boggling and you have to wonder how the nation let themselves get to that point.
All the facts are there but it’s still difficult to process how an imported system of division amongst a people could fuel so much hate and cruelty. If “Not My Time To Die” was a work of fiction, I would call it a brilliantly executed thriller. However, I found myself dealing with guilt for enjoying the writing until I got to this quote:
“One day, I will write all this down,’ I vow to myself. ‘May those who don’t have the strength to read it denounce themselves as complicit in the genocide against the Tutsi in Rwanda. I, Yolande Mukagasana, declare before humanity that whoever doesn’t want to know about the ordeal of the Rwandan people shares in the guilt of the perpetrators.”
At this point, Yolande Mukagasana is hiding under a neighbour’s kitchen sink as members of her community describe in graphic detail how they plan to kill her and her children when they finally get their hands on her.
It’s hard to read and I can’t imagine living through this but Yolande Mukagasana is a triumphant survivor. The unfortunate thing about all of this as she mentioned during her interview is how it seems the youth of Africa (read Nigeria) have learnt nothing from the tragedies of our very recent pasts.
Read this book.
I’m not sure why stories from the Rwandan war are only just popping on my radar now, but between this and The Girl Who Smiled Beads, I’m all for listening to the voices of survivors and hopefully playing our parts in making sure bloody histories don’t repeat.