This Voice in My Heart
Reviewed by Rita Radostitz, Fri., June 2, 2006
This Voice in My Heart: A Genocide Survivor's Story of Escape, Faith and Forgiveness
by Gilbert Tuhabonye with Gary Brozek
Amistad, 260 pp., $23.95The story of genocide is left to be told by the scarred souls who survive it. Scarred by fire, Austinite Gilbert Tuhabonye tells a story of evil so vast as to be incomprehensible except perhaps in small doses.
In This Voice in My Heart, Tuhabonye's story of the 1993 genocide in Burundi is interspersed and italicized between the story of his life growing up in a small village, allowing us to absorb without retching, without turning away in horror. But horrific it was, that day in October 1993, when Hutu neighbors butchered and burned Tuhabonye's Tutsi classmates, teachers, and friends. Tuhabonye alone survived the attack after breaking a window with a charred femur, avoiding a crowd of murderers and running through the woods with his skin aflame.
Tuhabonye survived, he believes, in order to tell the story. The "voice in his heart" spoke to him through the horrors, telling him that he would survive so that he could bear witness. That voice, Tuhabonye believes, was God, speaking strength, saving his life, and imbuing his days with new meaning. Switching between the horrific and the mundane, This Voice in My Heart has a rhythm, a pace, a melody, which draws you in. A morbid fascination with the acts of ordinary citizens gone feral is balanced against daily life in a place with limited electricity, water drawn from a well, and no indoor plumbing. You learn how running the discipline, the ability to endure pain, and ultimately the opportunities for travel played a powerful role in Tuhabonye's life (including bringing him to Austin). You also learn how the massacre strengthened Tuhabonye's faith, and how that faith has become the central tenet of his life. This Voice in My Heart contains a photograph of a monument on the site of the massacre. It reads "Never Happen Again." In the face of the current genocide in Darfur, it is hard not to be cynical about such sentiments. Yet after reading Tuhabonye's story, told without rancor, one is led to have faith that in the end, there is redemption in hope.