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How Dare the Sun Rise: Memoirs of a War Child

HarperCollins 2017. 296 pages
First published: 2017
ISBN: 9780062470140 (hardcover)
9780062470157 (paperback)
9780062470164 (e-book)
Original language: English
Dewey: 967
Book type: Novel
Book genre: Memoir

Text Elements:

conflict, dialogue, evocative language, figurative language, point of view, setting, stance

Reading Range

 
Cycle
Elementary
Secondary
 
1
2
3
1
2
ELA
K
1
2
3
4
5
6
1
2
3
4
5
ESL
1
2
3
4
5
6
1
2
3
4
5
ESL Intensive & Enriched
5
6
1
2
3
4
5

Description:

This eye-opening memoir begins with an account of the simple joys—and dramatic terrors—of the author’s childhood. As members of the Banyamulenge, a minority, “stateless” tribe in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Sandra’s family had known generations of persecution. During her own life, they are forced to seek refuge in Burundi, where they survive a bloody massacre at a refugee camp—with the sad exception of Sandra’s beloved little sister, Deborah. Determined to give the surviving children better opportunities, the family emigrates to the United States, where Sandra’s journey to young adulthood continues.

In both the African and American sections, direct and eloquent language features evocative descriptions (“We went to sleep to a cacophony of crickets, their chirps floating through the windows. We lay on mattresses with mosquito nets draped overhead”) and commentary: “Anyone who thinks it’s easy to get to the States as a refugee has no idea.”

Sandra’s observations are the richer for being informed by two cultures, as her American role at home and school requires the transmission of different values and knowledge sets: “In America, we live in a world where Kim Kardashian dominates the news, not massacres in Africa.”

A mid-section of full-colour photos includes family snapshots and Sandra’s portraits of fellow Gatumba massacre survivors. Also of great interest are Sandra’s insights on racism (American) and sexism (African). At college, a flare-up with PTSD is related with clarity and insight. Altogether, this memoir is extraordinary for its intensity and positivity: “if we want to change the world, we can’t harden our hearts and shut ourselves off from other cultures.”

  •  

    The opening chapter moves from a time of peace to one of violence and unrest. After reading the first section, discuss what you noticed about the scene and how it serves the story.

  •  

    In small reading groups, discuss the issues that Sandra addresses through her memoir. Explore how each of her experiences has led to her current position.

  •  Include the text, along with other memoirs of young people during times of war and socio-political upheaval, in a text set intended for use in literature circle discussion and/or in a mini genre study.
  •  

    Research the Hutu and Tutsi conflict, focusing on the Gatumba Massacre and the Banyamulenge people. With a partner, discuss how you believe the survivors coped with the aftermath. What do you think the long-term effects of that event may be?

  •  

    While you read, look for the sources of strength and courage Sandra tapped into in order to survive her childhood and adolescent trials and ordeals.

  •  

    In an expository essay, describe the discrimination and conflicts Sandra faced in Africa and in the U.S.A. Explain how and why she survived and thrived, despite it all.

  • To construct his/her identity
  • To use information
  • Citizenship and Community Life
  • Personal Development
  • Social Sciences