Sandra Uwiringyimana’s memoir, How Dare the Sun Rise, was on my radar after reading the similar, equally heartbreaking, The Girl Who Smiled Beads so the Bingo category “Underrepresented” was the perfect excuse to bump it up on my TBR. Sandra and her family are from the Democratic Republic of the Congo but their tribe, the Banyamulenge, have Rwandan roots; neither country claims the Banyamulenge which has led to generations of discrimination and war.
“It was light out when we found them, the sun rising slowly in a pale blue sky, casting a warm glow over the fields of sorrow and grief. I remember thinking: How dare the sun rise, as if it were any other day, after such a gruesome night.”
Sandra was ten years old when the refugee camp she was staying at with her family was attacked in the middle of the night by gun wielding rebels. Her mother was wounded and her younger sister was killed along with their aunt. Remarkably Sandra, who got separated from her family after the camp was set on fire, survived and was reunited with her parents and older siblings. They began a nomadic life of staying with various relatives but they were essentially homeless and they struggled to survive. There was little food to go around and Sandra, who was an excellent student, was unable to attend school. Sandra was briefly sent to live apart from her parents but she was sexually assaulted by an uncle.
Eventually, through a United Nations refugee program involving extensive interviews, Sandra and her family were selected to resettle in upstate New York. Things weren’t immediately easier for Sandra, there were language and cultural barriers to overcome, but eventually Sandra became the eloquent spokeswoman of sorts for her tribe and the atrocities being committed against them. She was a speaker at the Women in the World Summit in 2012, where her story made Angelina Jolie cry, and has been a vocal advocate for refugees and asylum seekers.
Sandra is a public speaker so it isn’t a surprise that this book is beautifully written. She is passionate and it comes through the pages; she also speaks candidly about her PTSD. Her story is so important for people to read, especially in today’s world where people are so against refugees fleeing terrorism in their home countries for the American dream, and I highly recommend it and the previously mentioned The Girl Who Smiled Beads.