17 January 2010

Baking Cakes in Kigali

The first book I read in 2010 was called Baking Cakes in Kigali. I finished it late last night - it was really, really great.

The story is about a woman named Angel, who lives in Kigali (in Rwanda). She bakes cakes for a living. Her husband, Pius, works at a university in Kigali. Both of her children passed away (one from AIDS, sort of, and the other was shot during the war), so she and Pius are in charge of the five grandchildren that have been left behind. It's really a heartbreaking story, in some parts - there are lots of scenes that discuss the genocide and the war that occurred in the area, and there are some really, really sad characters. There are children that live in dumpsters, a hooker named Jeanne d'Arc who is 17 and is caring for her two younger sisters and a boy they just found one day, that had no one to take care of him...

It sounds depressing, but it was really, really great. I was alive in 1994. I was only five or six, but still - it's insane that the Rwandan genocide happened recently. According to wikipedia, over 500,000 people were killed over the course of 100 days. Sick. So sad.

I think my favorite parts of the book have to do with the oppression of women. Angel and many of the other female characters struggle to make themselves heard and change the way that society views African women, and it was cool to read about that. The language of the book was confusing at first - some run-on sentences and weird phrases, switching back and forth between Swahili, French, English, and another African language that I forget - but the reader gets used to it.

Anyways - I would recommend this book to women. I don't think men would really get a lot out of it, but I feel that it women would enjoy reading about the baking portion (it's interesting to see how Angel bakes her cakes - it's hard to her to find all the ingredients and the reader follows her around the village where she gets everything she needs), along with just reading about women in other countries that have a much harder time than we do. I'm not a very patriotic person and I do tend to take my freedom for granted. This was a reminder that I needed.


Bridgett said...

Your mention of the Jeanne d'Arc character brought back real-life people from my past to mind--a woman from Liberia showed up at my parish's door a few years back with her three sons. Wanted them to go to school. They did--one was in my homeroom. But it was clear to everyone that none of those children were her children--too old, no resemblance, etc. The story never came out officially, but basically, their parents gave them to her to take to America. I can't even imagine.

Karen said...

Did you ever see the movie Hotel Rwanda? It was very educational about the genocide and was also really good (in this nature of the book). Of course, I spent approximately 2 of the 2.5 hours sobbing. But it's definitely worth adding to the Netflix queue if you missed it. (And Don Cheadle is fantastic in his role!)