In remembrance of the 12th anniversary of the Rwandan genocide, this spring will see the release of "An Ordinary Man" (Viking, $23.95), the autobiography of Paul Rusesabagina,written with Tom Zoellner.
Rusesabagina is the hotel manager who saved the lives of over 1,000 people during the horrific events of 1994. Confronting killers with diplomacy, flattery and strategic deceit, he was able to protect hunted members of the Tutsi clan and Jutu sympathizers within Kigali's Hotel Mille Collines, while slaughter occurred literally right outside its doors. Rusesabagina has since become the most prominent public face—and nearly the only recognized hero—of Rwanda's bloody conflict. His tale was portrayed by Don Cheadle in the recent film Hotel Rwanda. In this book, he tells his personal story for the first time.
In a way that Hotel Rwanda could not, "An Ordinary Man" expands more deeply on Rusesabagina's own inner turmoil. As the child of a Hutu father and a Tutsi mother, he has always been caught in the midst of the racial unrest that plagues his country. Rusesabagina's account of his youth — and the remarkable career path that led him to become the first Rwandan general manager of the Belgian-owned Hotel Mille Colines — sets the stage for the emotionally wrought 100 days he spent harboring refugees. He recounts in startling detail how he was forced to negotiate with killers time and again in order to protect his family, friends, neighbors and complete strangers.
In"An Ordinary Man," Rusesabagina brings into focus how the history of tension between the Hutus and the Tutsis came to a gruesome head on April 6, 1994, when RwandanPresident Juvenal Habyarimana, a Hutu, was killed as his plane was shot down above the Kigali airport. He offers an inside look at the phenomenon of genocide and the actions of average people caught up in extraordinary and awful events. Rusesabagina also uses his story to explore the tremendous power of words — they have the potential to sow hatred, but also to sustain life.
In gripping, intimate detail, Rusesabagina recalls the anguish and gut-wrenching sorrow felt by those who saw loved ones — men, women and children, young and old — hacked to bloody pieces by machetes, beaten to death, shot in the skull at close range and slaughtered in broad daylight. He describes his own emotional struggle as he continued to pour Scotch and light cigars for the very people who were responsible for the mass killings, using his connections to hide and protect as many refugees as possible.
And finally, he explains the difficulties that he and his family faced after the genocide was over, when they were forced to leave Rwanda and start a new life in Belgium.