Strength in What Remains
"There are degrees of loneliness," Deogratias, a young medical student from the mountains of Burundi, told Tracy Kidder in one of many conversations that led to Kidder's utterly mesmerizing Strength in What Remains: A Journey of Remembrance and Forgiveness. "The worst...was to be a poor person oppressed by diseases." In 1994 Deo arrived in New York with $200 and no English, sick, half-starved, and fully traumatized by his months on the run from Hutu militiamen, back and forth across the Rwanda border, as hundreds of thousands were slaughtered and both countries burned. Nearly as staggering as the horrors Deo witnessed were the frequency and ferocity of those who came to his rescue: the Hutu woman in the banana grove who dragged him toward Rwanda when he believed he could go no further; Muhammad, the JFK baggage handler who took him to a squatters' tenement and taught him to ride the subway; Sharon, the former nun—impoverished herself—who dedicated herself to Deo's health and safety; lawyer James O'Malley, who fought for Deo's green card; and Charlie, the "reformed academic," and his artist wife, Nancy, who sent Deo to Columbia University and gave him a place to call home. Most remarkable of all is Deo himself, who rose from the ashes of genocide to realize his teenage dream of building a public health clinic in rural Burundi, helping to heal a village, to reconcile a people, and find flickers of peace within himself.
— Pam Houston