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The Tears of a Man Flow Inward: Growing Up in the Civil War in Burundi

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A prize-winning young author tells the moving story of growing up during Burundi's civil war in a powerful memoir hailed as "a jewel of a book" (Margaret MacMillan) When I felt tears streaming down, I wiped my eyes and repeated to myself what I heard the adults say, that the tears of a man flow inward. As a little boy, Pacifique Irankunda lived through the thirteen-year A prize-winning young author tells the moving story of growing up during Burundi's civil war in a powerful memoir hailed as "a jewel of a book" (Margaret MacMillan) When I felt tears streaming down, I wiped my eyes and repeated to myself what I heard the adults say, that the tears of a man flow inward. As a little boy, Pacifique Irankunda lived through the thirteen-year civil war in Burundi, the war that upended his home and family and destroyed Burundi's beautiful culture and traditions. He hid and watched as military units destroyed his village. Paci's extraordinary and wise mother, one of the inspiring beacons of light in this book, led her children and others in ingenious acts of survival and kindness, through her unique ability to bring out the good in people, generosity towards even the soldiers who threatened them, and in her role as a Mushingantahe, an honorary title for a chosen leader in the village. Paci and his brother slept in the woods on nights when they heard shooting and violence. From his own memories and those of his family, he tells this story of surviving the vicious conflict between ethnic divisions in a country that once had a rich and beautiful culture of belief and traditions that was lost in the aftermath of the country's destructive history of colonialism. Written in lyrical prose, The Tears of a Man Flow Inward gives us a rare window into what it means to come of age in dark times, and how light can be found even in the midst of violence.


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A prize-winning young author tells the moving story of growing up during Burundi's civil war in a powerful memoir hailed as "a jewel of a book" (Margaret MacMillan) When I felt tears streaming down, I wiped my eyes and repeated to myself what I heard the adults say, that the tears of a man flow inward. As a little boy, Pacifique Irankunda lived through the thirteen-year A prize-winning young author tells the moving story of growing up during Burundi's civil war in a powerful memoir hailed as "a jewel of a book" (Margaret MacMillan) When I felt tears streaming down, I wiped my eyes and repeated to myself what I heard the adults say, that the tears of a man flow inward. As a little boy, Pacifique Irankunda lived through the thirteen-year civil war in Burundi, the war that upended his home and family and destroyed Burundi's beautiful culture and traditions. He hid and watched as military units destroyed his village. Paci's extraordinary and wise mother, one of the inspiring beacons of light in this book, led her children and others in ingenious acts of survival and kindness, through her unique ability to bring out the good in people, generosity towards even the soldiers who threatened them, and in her role as a Mushingantahe, an honorary title for a chosen leader in the village. Paci and his brother slept in the woods on nights when they heard shooting and violence. From his own memories and those of his family, he tells this story of surviving the vicious conflict between ethnic divisions in a country that once had a rich and beautiful culture of belief and traditions that was lost in the aftermath of the country's destructive history of colonialism. Written in lyrical prose, The Tears of a Man Flow Inward gives us a rare window into what it means to come of age in dark times, and how light can be found even in the midst of violence.

30 review for The Tears of a Man Flow Inward: Growing Up in the Civil War in Burundi

  1. 4 out of 5

    Dawn Michelle

    Read Around the World: Burundi I knew very little about Burundi going into this book and I come out of it with a little more knowledge and a deep respect and sorrow for the people who live there and all they have suffered and endured simply by being. Much like Rwanda and Congo [which the author mentions several times], Burundi has been ravaged by war and has displaced many of the people who call it home. The stories the author tells are both hair-raising and heartbreaking and I am so glad he fina Read Around the World: Burundi I knew very little about Burundi going into this book and I come out of it with a little more knowledge and a deep respect and sorrow for the people who live there and all they have suffered and endured simply by being. Much like Rwanda and Congo [which the author mentions several times], Burundi has been ravaged by war and has displaced many of the people who call it home. The stories the author tells are both hair-raising and heartbreaking and I am so glad he finally found safety and a little bit of peace. For the most part this is a very good if albeit rough read. Books like this are always tough to read as they describe a life most of the reading world will [thankfully] never know. Listening to the author narrate this book was also particularly heart-wrenching as you could hear the emotion in his voice multiple times as he described things he and his family endured and the love he still has for his country [a note: IF you listen to the audiobook be prepared. Pacifique speaks amazing English, but he does have a very strong accent and I had to look up several places where my old ears could not discern what he was saying. I would recommend having a copy of the book nearby as you listen as it will helpful. It is only a handful of times - again, his English is amazing and I would highly recommend the narration to anyone. It is just so amazing to hear this story in his own beautiful voice.]. My only issue was towards the end of the book it seemed to take a rambling turn and I was never really sure just where we were in the story anymore - what starts out as linear, does not end that way. It was really the only issue I had in an otherwise deeply compelling read. The one story of the author and a friend at school and the video games struck a deep chord with me and is one of the stories that I think will stay with me for forever. You will not read this and remained unchanged. Thank you to NetGalley, Pacifique Irankunda, and Random House Publishing House - Random House for providing this ARC in exchange for an honest review.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Skip

    The war between the Tutsi and Hutu tribes has been written numerous times, but in my experience from the Rwandan perspective. Author Pacifique Irankunda tells the story from the country of Burundi, and the civil war there, which started in his childhood into his later formative years. and coming of age. His life was difficult, moving around among relatives, sleeping in the forest, and never being sure if today was going to be the last day of your life. The structure of the book was a challenge a The war between the Tutsi and Hutu tribes has been written numerous times, but in my experience from the Rwandan perspective. Author Pacifique Irankunda tells the story from the country of Burundi, and the civil war there, which started in his childhood into his later formative years. and coming of age. His life was difficult, moving around among relatives, sleeping in the forest, and never being sure if today was going to be the last day of your life. The structure of the book was a challenge as Irankunda would move back and forth between the present and past and characters would appear and disappear without explanation. While perhaps useful as a documentary of African trauma, it was not particularly engaging for readers.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Kaitlyn

    A really powerful and important story about discovering and preserving one’s culture in the face of colonialism and civil war.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Liralen

    I find it hard to look back because most of what I see when I look back is painful. One doctrine of Western psychology has long held that the cure for the pain of memory is a return to the past itself. Burundian culture holds an opposite view. I now realize that each approach has its own wisdom. But for me the past is inescapable. (xv) Irankunda was a young child when civil war broke out in Burundi, and that war stretched to encompass his entire childhood and coming of age. His family was on and I find it hard to look back because most of what I see when I look back is painful. One doctrine of Western psychology has long held that the cure for the pain of memory is a return to the past itself. Burundian culture holds an opposite view. I now realize that each approach has its own wisdom. But for me the past is inescapable. (xv) Irankunda was a young child when civil war broke out in Burundi, and that war stretched to encompass his entire childhood and coming of age. His family was on and off separated and internally displaced: staying with relatives in safer areas, sleeping in the forest night after night, living with the fear that comes of not knowing whether the neighbour you help this week will be the same one to come to your house with a machete next week. I've read a handful of memoirs about the war in Burundi, and this is one of the first in which the writer was a child—not a teenager, not an adult—when war broke out. Time has passed, but some wounds cannot heal completely, and some memories are with you forever. But it's also striking that Irankunda and his family stayed largely in their home: even as their world fell apart around them, his mother tried to hold on to what they knew. Later, and I'm not sure when exactly this was relative to the end of the war but it would have been very close to it, Irankunda studied at the same school where many of his brother's classmates had been massacred. There's so much to unpack there—it's hard to compute. Structure-wise, I found the book to be a bit scattered, drifting between present and various points in the past. I would have liked some more concrete details, and more of a sense of what happened to the rest of his family, during the war or in general. But it ends up being a very thoughtful, painful look at culture and trauma.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Rachel

    Pacifique Irankunda was 4 when civil war broke out in Burundi. While he provides some detail about atrocities committed during the 13 year war, those passages feel detached and nearly emotionless. The Tears of a Man Flow Inward reads more like a love letter to his homeland. You can feel his longing for the culture, the storytellers, and the sense of community that was lost or dying even before he was born, due to German and Belgian occupation. The memoir is sad and hopeful, and it was clearly ca Pacifique Irankunda was 4 when civil war broke out in Burundi. While he provides some detail about atrocities committed during the 13 year war, those passages feel detached and nearly emotionless. The Tears of a Man Flow Inward reads more like a love letter to his homeland. You can feel his longing for the culture, the storytellers, and the sense of community that was lost or dying even before he was born, due to German and Belgian occupation. The memoir is sad and hopeful, and it was clearly cathartic for Irankunda who writes, “the first time I wrote a story about a dreadful memory from the war, I actually felt relieved. I could control the experience”. This effort at control, of turning pain into something beautiful, does lend itself to a detached feeling as one is reading, but it’s still a well-written narrative.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Kerry Beth

    I won a copy of this book in a Goodreads Giveaway. Thank you! The author witnessed Civil War based on ethnicity in his home country from the time that he was 4, and is writing about some of his experiences. That said, I felt like much of this book was more of a cultural history of Burundi and less memoir or information about growing up during the war. It was well written, has a unique, engaging and easy to read style, and I learned a lot about a previously unfamiliar culture, but relatively littl I won a copy of this book in a Goodreads Giveaway. Thank you! The author witnessed Civil War based on ethnicity in his home country from the time that he was 4, and is writing about some of his experiences. That said, I felt like much of this book was more of a cultural history of Burundi and less memoir or information about growing up during the war. It was well written, has a unique, engaging and easy to read style, and I learned a lot about a previously unfamiliar culture, but relatively little about Maman Clemence who is labeled as the central figure of the book and the realities they faced, so felt perhaps the book was mistitled or focused. I would have loved to know more about his mother and family. Well worth the read.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Dallas Shattuck

    The Tears of a Man Flow Inward chronicles Pacifique Irankunda's childhood growing up during the civil war in Burundi. This was an intense and eye-opening memoir to read. I admire Paci's courage and strength to relive these events and share them with the world. I appreciated all of the context Paci included to help the reader understand Burundi's civil war and the ethnic and cultural differences that led to this tragic event. One thing I noticed was, even though this memoir covers such a tough and The Tears of a Man Flow Inward chronicles Pacifique Irankunda's childhood growing up during the civil war in Burundi. This was an intense and eye-opening memoir to read. I admire Paci's courage and strength to relive these events and share them with the world. I appreciated all of the context Paci included to help the reader understand Burundi's civil war and the ethnic and cultural differences that led to this tragic event. One thing I noticed was, even though this memoir covers such a tough and traumatic topic, Paci's never-ending sense of hope. I loved his message, and I think it will resonate with a lot of readers. Thank you so much to Paci for sharing your story! and thank you to Random House and NetGalley for the gifted e-copy in exchange for an honest review!

  8. 4 out of 5

    B. Thomas

    Pacifique Irankunda takes the reader from his earliest years as a young boy in pastoral Kigutu along on his desperate escape from ethnic genocide, with only his brother, as company to successfully rebuild his life in New England. Told in a spare and concise manner, the stories are both heartbreaking and inspiring. Man’s inhumanity to man is the reality of Pacifique’s past and he counters with his belief in the light of “umoco” inside all of us. In Pacifique’s words, “We can easily forgive a chil Pacifique Irankunda takes the reader from his earliest years as a young boy in pastoral Kigutu along on his desperate escape from ethnic genocide, with only his brother, as company to successfully rebuild his life in New England. Told in a spare and concise manner, the stories are both heartbreaking and inspiring. Man’s inhumanity to man is the reality of Pacifique’s past and he counters with his belief in the light of “umoco” inside all of us. In Pacifique’s words, “We can easily forgive a child who is afraid of the dark; the real tragedy of life is when men are afraid of the light.”

  9. 4 out of 5

    Irene

    Loved the final chapters on the saga of the watusi and the tradition of storytelling 'The most pleasant times I remember from my childhood are the times of stories. For my country, it was a loss. Storytelling had played an important role in passing on cultural knowledge and collective memory. My hope since I began to write has been to carry on the tradition in my own small way, and to honor my elders and their stories of what used to be' Loved the final chapters on the saga of the watusi and the tradition of storytelling 'The most pleasant times I remember from my childhood are the times of stories. For my country, it was a loss. Storytelling had played an important role in passing on cultural knowledge and collective memory. My hope since I began to write has been to carry on the tradition in my own small way, and to honor my elders and their stories of what used to be'

  10. 5 out of 5

    Josh

    I’ve read a bit about Rwanda and wanted to learn more about its neighbor to the south so I was excited to start listening to this book. The author’s English accent is thick and while it added to the authenticity of the listen I didn’t catch everything. My favorite parts were the stories of life in Burundi before and during the civil war. I grew tired of hearing about the ancient wisdom of Burundi and how it’s restoration could solve the country’s current troubles. Also a lot of talk about cattle I’ve read a bit about Rwanda and wanted to learn more about its neighbor to the south so I was excited to start listening to this book. The author’s English accent is thick and while it added to the authenticity of the listen I didn’t catch everything. My favorite parts were the stories of life in Burundi before and during the civil war. I grew tired of hearing about the ancient wisdom of Burundi and how it’s restoration could solve the country’s current troubles. Also a lot of talk about cattle.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Cori

    Thanks to Goodreads, Random House Publishing and Pacifique Irankunda for my copy of "The Tears of a Man Flow Inward." This was a beautifully written story that was both moving and horrifying in the atrocities that civilians suffered. I appreciated the comparison between the division of the people of the United States to those of Burundi. Reading this book has also caused me to want to read more about the civil war in Burundi and the surrounding countries. Thanks to Goodreads, Random House Publishing and Pacifique Irankunda for my copy of "The Tears of a Man Flow Inward." This was a beautifully written story that was both moving and horrifying in the atrocities that civilians suffered. I appreciated the comparison between the division of the people of the United States to those of Burundi. Reading this book has also caused me to want to read more about the civil war in Burundi and the surrounding countries.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Mary Erickson

    Chapters are somewhat disjointed--more a series of essays of memories and political thoughts than a memoir. Includes authors' love of family, cattle, ancient Burundi (pre-European conquest) and "Bashingantahe," a wisdom collective who provided justice and stability. It's a quick read--less than 200 pages and the book is quite small, and worth the effort, but I was hoping for something more comprehensive. Chapters are somewhat disjointed--more a series of essays of memories and political thoughts than a memoir. Includes authors' love of family, cattle, ancient Burundi (pre-European conquest) and "Bashingantahe," a wisdom collective who provided justice and stability. It's a quick read--less than 200 pages and the book is quite small, and worth the effort, but I was hoping for something more comprehensive.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Jen

    There is a lot of good information in here and I was unaware that the clash between the Hutus and the Tutsis started in Burundi rather than Rwanda. However, I had difficulty with the layout of the themes presented and felt a bit tossed about with keeping up with the chronology and the different people that were written about.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Sean

  15. 5 out of 5

    Heather

  16. 4 out of 5

    Mark Rowell

  17. 5 out of 5

    Cass

  18. 4 out of 5

    Kenny

  19. 4 out of 5

    Emma

  20. 4 out of 5

    Faye

  21. 5 out of 5

    Jacob

  22. 5 out of 5

    Barrie

  23. 5 out of 5

    Qbot

  24. 4 out of 5

    Cornelia Lundell

  25. 4 out of 5

    Jason Reist

  26. 5 out of 5

    Daniel

  27. 5 out of 5

    Amanda

  28. 4 out of 5

    Jordan Gadsby

  29. 5 out of 5

    Jenny

  30. 4 out of 5

    Anna Cokeley

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