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The Barefoot Woman    by Scholastique Mukasonga order for
Barefoot Woman
by Scholastique Mukasonga
Order:  USA  Can
Archipelago Books, 2018 (2018)
Softcover, e-Book
* * *   Reviewed by Barbara Lingens

Rwandans who had to flee their homeland left much behind - their deceased loved ones and their ways of living as well as their possessions. The Barefoot Woman is an homage to the author's mother as she tried to make her way in this new situation.

A beautifully written (and translated) story of how it was for families to be torn from their homes in a mountain setting and forcibly moved to a drier plains setting, it addresses many important questions: How to rebuild their lives? How to secure food and housing, to protect themselves from the harassment of their victors, to provide an education for the children? Mukasonga's mother is somehow able to keep her wits about her and provides a beautiful role model for her children as she struggles through the everyday tasks, all the while devising ways to hide her children, to protect them from the guard soldiers' marauding ways.

We learn the importance of sorghum, how the natives treated their illnesses, their marriage customs, women's affairs. But most of all we feel the tremendous loss that was suffered by the Rwandans, a loss that would forever wound the survivors. Mukasonga's tribute is even more heartbreaking when one considers she is the only one of her large family to survive this horrible time in history.

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