Thursday 14 April 2016

One Thousand Hills by James Roy and Noel Zihabamwe

In 1998 I read Philip Gourevitch's harrowing, detailed account of the 1994 Rwandan genocide of the Tutsi population called We Wish To Inform You That Tomorrow We Will Be Killed With Our Families.

For some reason which I couldn't fathom back then, there seemed to be some doubt in some people's minds that this event was somehow not our problem or not really a genocide. That somehow this was just a local dispute that was none of our business.

I made myself read this book to try and understand what really happened. Gourevitch's writing was compassionate but brutally honest.

As I read the book, I regularly felt sick with horror and disgust and often had to put the book down to regroup, all the while painfully aware that none of the Tutsi in this book had that privilege or recourse available to them.
They had to live through this. The survivors would never be able to put the things they saw and heard out of their minds. How do you regroup and move on from something like that? Especially when 'moving on' means becoming a refugee in a world that struggles to deal humanely with those who can never return home.

Noel Zihabamwe and James Roy in their new YA book called One Thousand Hills give us hope that it is possible to move on from such tragic events.

Zihabamwe is a survivor. He was ten years old when his parents were killed in the Rwandan genocide. He has been in Australia for eight years. He learnt English, went to TAFE and eventually graduated with a Bachelor of Community Welfare and International Social Development from the University of Western Sydney in 2012. He now works to improve the lives of refugees, asylum seekers and immigrants.

In an interview with the Daily Telegraph last year, Zihabamwe said that his personal philosophy was "We can't be held back by the past to change the future."

Writing One Thousand Hills with Roy must surely count as another action to further the cause of future change.

Telling the story of young Pascal and his family in the week leading up to the massacre meant reliving his own past, but
we wanted to tell this story because we believe it's only by understanding the terrible and tragic events of the past that we can prevent similar events happening again in the future. (Authors' Notes)
Zihabamwe and Roy have crafted a well-paced, easy to read story. The emphasis is on family life with the build up of tensions being told through the child's eyes. They also use a flash-forward interview device between chapters, that show Pascal chatting with a counsellor in Belgium in 1999. These sections give us a glimpse of the lingering after effects on Pascal.

A worthy read and a very worthwhile one too.
Highly recommended for mature 12+ readers.


  1. Sounds very interesting. I have read a few books about the Rwandan genocide and think everyone should at least read one of those books. Have you read Shake Hands with the Devil by Roméo Dallaire or Left to Tell by Immaculée Ilibagiza? If yes, how do they compare? I will certainly try to get a hold of this book.

    Have a good day,
    Marianne from
    Let's Read

    1. No, the Gourevitch book was the only other book I have read about Rwanda and that experience is seared into my mind for all eternity. Gourevitch was a journalist, so he had researched his book very thoroughly, using eyewitness accounts and survivor stories to flesh out the facts.

    2. It certainly sounds like a very worthy read. Thank you for visiting my page earlier and commenting on one of the books I read on this subject. Always interesting to talk about this. And very important.

      Have a good weekend,
      Marianne from
      Let's Read

  2. I'm very intrigued. Even the We Wish To Inform You is now added to my tbr.


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