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Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Deogratias, A Tale of Rwanda (graphic novel) by J.P. Stassen

An important tale to be told - unfortunately this one fails to tell it well enough

Published by First Second in 2006.

An image from the graphic novel
Deogratias is the name of a young man from Rwanda. The story dances back and forth between pre- and post-1994 massacre Rwanda. Pre-massacre Deogratias is a likeable young man. Post-massacre Deogratias is insane. As one reads this graphic novel one finds out what drove him insane - in a climax that is not all that surprising or shocking (just sad), especially if one knows any of the detail of the Rwanda massacre.

Great works take the story of one person or group of people in a tragic situation and somehow make their story universal. For example, the Civil War movie Glory is the story of the first all-Black Federal regiment in the Civil War - it is also the story of every soldier - black or white, Union or Confederate. In Saving Private Ryan, the Tom Hanks character epitomizes the average man stuck in a terrible situation doing the best he can and dying in the process.

Deogratias fails to do this. It is too personal. The story is too small. Not to say it isn't important, but rather to say that it fails to become a universal story of the Rwanda tragedy.

My copy of the book has an introduction from Alexis Seigel, the translator. He does an exceptional job of explaining the Rwanda tragedy and its aftermath. I would give his introduction 5 stars.

However, the grade has to go to the graphic novel, not its introduction. So, I give this graphic novel 3 stars out of 5.

This graphic novel can be found on Amazon.com here: Deogratias: A Tale of Rwanda.

Reviewed on December 11, 2006.

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