In 1994, at age 26, Anderson flew to Africa to cover the Rwanda genocide. In a clash that lasted just 100 days, Hutu militias unleashed a bloody campaign of rape, murder and torture against ethnic Tutsis and moderate Hutus. An estimated 500,000 to 1 million Rwandans were murdered. "Scattered throughout the countryside you find the bodies. Five people lay in a row. Family, perhaps. You stare at the bodies, try to make sense of it, search for answers. But you find none. All you find are more bodies," Anderson reported.
"Rwanda was really beyond anything I had ever experienced," he says. "I'd seen death and people getting killed, but I mean just the number of bodies and the brutality. It was so intimate. It wasn't bombs and bullets. It was machetes and hacking fingers off of children."
After years of bearing the pain of his father's death and brother's suicide, Anderson says reporting has helped him learn to feel again. "Wherever I go, whether it's a disaster or war, you see people struggling to survive. I've learned so much from them and part of writing the book was to honor their struggle and to honor their stories."