Sunday, 8 January 2012
Baking Cakes in Kigali
Baking Cakes in Kigali, by Gaile ParkinMy Goodreads Review
A couple of years ago, I walked into a bookclub meeting, clutching the book, Tears of the Desert by Halima Bashir. "I do not want to read any more of these kinds of books!" I exclaimed almost tearfully. "I find them too disturbing."
My friend Bernice said, "They're supposed to make you feel disturbed."
And thus began a discussion as to the merit of being exposed to graphic descriptions of the autrocities inflicted on people by fellow people.
Tears of the Desert is set in Darfur during the Sudanese genocide which started in 2004 while Baking Cakes in Kigali is set in Rwanda during the aftermath of the Rwandan genocide that occurred in 1994. Tears of the Desert is a memoir while Baking Cakes is a novel. Is it fair to compare the two? Perhaps. Perhaps not.
I was about a quarter into Baking Cakes when I came across a very thought provoking section. Angel and her husband were travelling to Cyangugu with his collegues when they stopped to see the memorial set up at the Murambi Technical School, the scene of a large massacre. (Further reading may be found here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Murambi_Technical_School). When the men returned from the school, they commented that they saw the sentiment, "Never again" written repreatedly in the guest book. Angel recalled that they had seen the same sentiment in the guestbooks in Germany at memorials for the Holocast. She wondered if there would be another occasion when people would write, "Never again" in future memorial guest books. Of course, the Sudanese genecide had not yet accurred when she was contemplating the possibility of history repeating itself.
History does seem to repeat itself inspite of our remembering. We remember the Alamo. We remember the Holocast, Pearl Harbour, 911, the Rwandan and Sudanese genocides. And still, war breaks out in hot spots around the world.
The difference in these two books was the portrayal of the genocides. Tears of the Desert had graphic descriptions of female genital mutilation and the rapes of young girls who had not yet healed of the procedure. Baking Cakes was more about the hopes of healing, rebuilding, and reconnecting. Even the chapter on female genital mutilation indicated hope in the changing of people's beliefs and cultures. While I did ponder all those dark things, I didn't feel overwhelmingly disturbed. I actually felt like I had read something monumental, something with balance.