Rwandan author Scholastique Mukasonga’s critically-acclaimed memoir The Barefoot Woman was recently published in the UK.
The Barefoot Woman is centered around Mukasonga’s recollections of her mother, siblings, and the genocide that took place in Rwanda in 1994. The memoir describes the life of Mukasonga’s mother, Stefania, and the world she lived in before and during the war. Readers are let into Mukasonga’s “memories of their life together in spare, wrenching prose.” Archipelago Books writes that it is a “loving, funny, devastating tribute” to her mother and it is truly a work of art in the act of preserving history of lives lost.
First published in 2008 by France-based Editions Gallimard, the translation (by Jordan Stump) was published in the US by Penguin Random House in 2018 and received glowing reviews from Publishers Weekly and The New York Times. Now, the book has been published for UK audiences by London-based Daunt Books this month.
Jamaican-English author Zadie Smith describes the immense power of The Barefoot Woman to give a voice to those killed in the genocide:
The Barefoot Woman is simultaneously a powerful work of witness and memorial, a loving act of reconstruction, and an unflinching reckoning with the Rwandan Civil War. In sentences of great beauty and restraint, Mukasonga rescues a million souls from the collective noun ‘genocide,’ returning them to us as individual human beings, who lived, laughed, meddled in each other’s affairs, worked, decorated their houses, raised children, told stories. An essential and powerful read.
Mukasonga remains one of Rwanda’s best-known contemporary writers. She was born in Rwanda in 1956 and she moved to France in 1992. Two years later, she was notified that 37 members of her family had been murdered in the Tutsi genocide. The grief stemming from this unimaginable tragedy has inspired and been reflected in many of her literary pieces. Cockroaches, an earlier memoir, was nominated for the Los Angeles Book Prize and Our Lady of the Nile was selected as one of the ten best books for the Dublin Literary Award, and is being made into a film.
We are strongly recommending the book for its powerful representation of a woman’s fight to protect her family in the face of genocide.