We Wish to Inform You That Tomorrow We Will Be Killed With Our Families is a non-fiction book by Philip Gourevitch about the 1994 Rwandan genocide. The book chronicles the events leading up to the genocide, the genocide itself, and its aftermath.
Gourevitch provides a detailed account of the political and social tensions between the Hutu and Tutsi ethnic groups in Rwanda, which ultimately led to the genocide. He also explores the role of the international community in the genocide and the failure of the United Nations to intervene.
The main themes of the book include the struggle for power, the consequences of hatred and prejudice, and the importance of bearing witness to history. Gourevitch’s writing is powerful and thought-provoking, and he presents the stories of survivors and witnesses with sensitivity and respect.
Useful takeaways from the book include:
- The importance of recognizing and confronting hatred and prejudice in society
- The need for accountability and justice in the aftermath of mass atrocities
- The role of the international community in preventing and responding to genocide and other crimes against humanity
- The power of individual stories and testimonies in bearing witness to history and promoting understanding and empathy.
What I Liked
I am so thankful that this book exists. Even when the genocide was happening (in 1995!), it was generally ignored and not documented well. It happened quickly too. This book is well-framed, well-sourced, and digs into all the complicated nuance of the genocide.
There are deep, timeless lessons to be learned from Rwanda. And lessons that are even deeper than the Holocaust in some ways. Unlike the Nazis, there was no single, overwhelming “Bad Guy” to blame the genocide on. And also unlike the Nazis, the genocide was physically perpetrated, not on an industrial scale with corporate style organization, but by everyday groups of people in everyday situations.
And also unlike Nazi Germany where the focus was on society wide justice (e.g., Nuremberg Trials), the focus in Rwanda was much more on individual forgiveness. It’s mind-boggling.
In Germany, you might know someone who was a guard or train operator. And you might have known a Jewish family in your town. But the actual killing was disconnected and abstract.
In Rwanda, many people not only had an immediate family member killed, but they also know the exact person who actually killed them. And then, it’s not uncommon to still be neighbors with the person who killed your family member. How justice, forgiveness, and life at all moves on after that blows my mind. Rwanda has deep lessons for everyone at every level.
I could go on – I mean, at the highest levels of power, what are the responsibilities of nation-states to non-citizens? How do you provide peacekeeping without committing violence? It’s all hard and confusing and complicated. And I love that this book embraces all of it.
What I Did Not Like
Nothing. I wish this book was more widely read. That said, I can’t just wholeheartedly recommend it to anyone. The event was deeply horrific and visceral.