Synopses & Reviews
The 2000 winner of the Goscinny Prize for outstanding graphic novel script, this is the harrowing tale of the Tutsi genocide in Rwanda, as seen through the eyes of a boy named Deogratias. He is an ordinary teenager, in love with a girl named Bénigne, but Deogratias is a Hutu and Bénigne is a Tutsi who dies in the genocide, and Deogratias himself plays a part in her death. As the story circles around but never depicts the terror and brutality of an entire country descending into violence, we watch Deogratias in his pursuit of Bénigne, and we see his grief and descent into madness following her death, as he comes to believe he is a dog.
Told with great artistry and intelligence, this book offers a window into a dark chapter of recent human history and exposes the West's role in the tragedy. Stassen's interweaving of the aftermath of the genocide and the events leading up to it heightens the impact of the horror, giving powerful expression to the unspeakable, indescribable experience of ordinary Hutus caught up in the violence. Difficult, beautiful, honest, and heartbreaking, this is a major work by a masterful artist.
"Deogratias means 'thanks be to God,' and it's the name of a boy coming of age in Rwanda in 1994. He is just figuring out what it means to be a man, and wrestling with the feelings he harbors toward two sisters, Apollinaria and Benina. The sisters are themselves struggling to establish their own place in society and understand the difficult decisions their mother, Venetia, has made Apollinaria's real father is a white Catholic priest, and Venetia has been forced to leave the country in the past to save her daughters. But Deogratias is Hutu, and they are Tutsi, a simple fact that renders all of their internal battles irrelevant. This award-winning comic was originally published in Belgium in 2000 and has an introduction explaining the history leading to the Rwandan genocide. The heartbreaking power of Deogratias is how it keeps the reader distant from the atrocities by showing the trivial cruelties of everyday life before and after the genocide. Stassen is a journalist who lives in Rwanda, and his art is bold and clear, using different color palettes to seamlessly shift between before and after. There is no catharsis, only the realization that even justice turns its champion into a monster." Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"Only a few of the panels depict the actual massacre; still, the ghastly subject matter, sexual themes and coarse language, along with the elliptical narrative structure, restrict this title to a mature audience. Nonetheless, the importance of the story and the heartbreaking beauty of its presentation make it an essential purchase." Kirkus Reviews
"Deogratias is less graphic than might be expected from its subject matter, but it doesn't pull any punches." KLIATT
"Its richly tinted comic strip-style panels are realistically drawn, and the story is easy to follow once readers realize that the aftermath story panels are outlined in black, whereas the flashback panels are not. Easy to follow, however, does not mean easy to read, although the story manages to convey its horror with a minimum of gore." VOYA
Set in Rwanda before and after the Tutsi genocide, and seen through the eyes of a young Hutu boy, this story reveals the grip of madness and horror on one young man and his country. Full color.
About the Author
Stassen won the coveted Goscinny prize for Deogratias, and has developed other stories that offer a window into African daily life. His artwork is remarkably distinctive and eminently readable. He lives in Rwanda with his family.