Karabo is a survivor of the 1994 genocide against the Tutsi, which claimed the life of her father and sisters, and now she is left alone and lonely in the midst of wounded hearts of Rwanda. She does not know the whereabouts of her mother.
When Karabo goes to live with her paternal uncle Kamanzi, a colonel in the new army, she meets Shema, another genocide survivor, one of her uncle’s young escorts. Shema’s charm gives Karabo some jingling. She will surrender her heart to him, but it’s complicated —Shema knows only a part of her story. Shall she reveal the other part of the story to him? She is bamboozled.
Hearts Among Ourselves is a story of love, hatred, and the intersection of the two. Karabo and Shema, two grieving orphans, grow up in a torn society—caught between the world of the living and the dead, and the conflict between the Hutus and the Tutsis.
Some say love is like water—it flows with everything on its way. Will Karabo and Shema be swept up in its current or tossed to the shore?
“Umwagarwa’s prose, as narrated by Karabo, pops with inventive turns of phrase … a complex and empathetic perspective on [the Rwanda genocide’s] difficult aftermath … Karabo’s story provides readers with an illuminating investigation into the ways that people can dehumanize one another.” Kirkus Reviews
“Hearts Among Ourselves tells both a specific history of Rwanda and its deathly conflict as well as a universal tale of disaffection. … echoes of pure beauty … a powerfully emotional tale.”BlueInk Review
“Totally intriguing, thought-stretching insights into the life of a typical young distressed girl after the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi. Happy brings out a powerful and practical primer of the harmony and social cohesion of the societies after such brutal bloodshed, but also points out one communal approach to healing such a society and minimizing transgenerational trauma” Dr. Joseph Ryarasa Nkurunziza, Executive Director, Never Again Rwanda
In ‘Hearts Among Ourselves’, A. Happy Umwagarwa has masterfully recreated the intricacies and complexities of the post-genocide Rwanda and the difficulties for Rwandans to grapple with the meaning and implications of their own individual and family stories in a society where the stigma attached to the ‘Hutu’ and ‘Tutsi’ groups have for long left little room for any other stories. In her debut novel, A. Happy Umwagarwa doesn’t seek to offer a miracle solution on how to get out of this complicated web, or lessons on accepting oneself, reconciliation, or an idyllic account of the power of love across ethnic lines. What she does is to force us to reflect on how a History full of secrets and shameful deeds weighs on the individual histories and journeys of all Rwandans and make us, the readers, ask ourselves the life choices we would have made if we were to walk in the shoes of Karabo, Shema, Kamanzi, Devota or any other of the characters of this brilliant book. – Um’Khonde Patrick Habamenshi, Author, Rwanda Where Souls Turn to Dust