trength in What Remains is the story of Deogratis, a young man growing in
Burundi and working as a medical student when the genocide breaks out. (Prior to reading this book,
I was not aware that there even was a genocide going in Burundi. Like everyone else, I had
heard of the atrocities in neighboring Rwanda, but I did not know about the Burundi genocide.) Deo
flees from the horror, and eventually makes his way to into the United States, despite the fact he has
no money or legitimate documentation - hard to imagine anyone repeating Deo's experience in our post-9/11
Once in New York City, Deo struggles to adapt to the harsh violent world. He lives with
homeless people and other illegal immigrants, squatting in abandoned buildings and working for tiny wages
delivering groceries. His life is greatly complicated by lack of language and cultural understanding of the
US, plus he doesn't know how to navigate around New York City.
There several different sections to this book
One describes Deo's life in Burundi before the genocide. His life is incredibly simple and poor - his family
tends cattle and grows meager crops. He and his brothers walk miles to attend school. They have the barest
amount of clothing and no medical services.
In the section describing Deo's life in New York City, I was impressed by how many saintly people took an interest
in his plight, and worked selflessly and hard to aid Deo. Their efforts eventually result in Deo attending
Columbia University and completing his medical training
The section of the genocide describes the ruthlessly killing between rival Hutus and Tutsi populations. Often it is
raw bloodlust, Hutus and Tutsi's can not always be distinguished by looks alone (Tutsi' tend to be taller, but
there is intermarriage between the two ethnicities, and of course not everyone matches a stereotype body-type).
At one point a Hutu woman whom Deo does not know saves him at a refuge camp by vouching for him. During his
months long escape from violence, Deo travels overland to avoid the killers, but he witnesses the results of
their handiwork - bodies clogging the river. Deo escapes being murdered at one point by hiding under a bed.
The final section describes Deo's return to Burundi. He is determined to go back and build a free clinic.