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Uniting a community by 'Running the Rift'

North Plains hosts monthlong focus on book about Rwandan genocide


The North Plains Public Library is kicking off its seventh annual One Book One Community reading program Feb. 1, with a host of cultural events focused on Rwanda, all of which are free.

This year’s selection is “Running the Rift” by Naomi Benaron, winner of the Bellwether Prize for Socially Engaged Fiction, that follows an aspiring runner who dreams of becoming his country’s first Olympic medal winner in track. Set in the time of the Rwandan genocide of 1994, Jean Patrick is a Tutsi in a world that has become increasingly restrictive and violent for his people. As tensions mount between the Tutsi and Hutu tribes he holds fast to his dream that running might deliver him and his people from the brutality around them.

The month-long itinerary starts Saturday, Feb. 1, with a talk by Sam Munyandamutsa of the Pacific Northwest Rwandan Association from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. Munyandamutsa, who first came to Oregon in 1995, met Benaron by chance and discovered they had much in common and that Benaron already knew Munyandamutsa’s family.

Munyandamutsa praises “Running the Rift,” stating that although it is hard-hitting as it takes the reader through the horrors of genocide, it is ultimately an uplifting story about making something positive out of the worst possible circumstances.

Munyandamutsa will share his personal story and treat his audience to some traditional Rwandan finger foods. Free copies of “Running the Rift” will be distributed at the event.

On the following Saturday, Feb. 8, the Kúkátónón Children’s African Dance Troupe will perform in the Jessie Mays Community Hall from 1 to 2:30 p.m.

The group, named the Best African Dance Troupe by the African Messenger, will perform traditional dances appropriate for the whole family accompanied by two drummers.

Musician and storyteller, Enric Sifa will entertain at 7 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 13, as he shares his memories of growing up during the Rwandan Genocide.

A child of the streets at age nine following the death of his parents, Sifa sang to comfort himself and to entertain his fellow orphans. He has since become an advocate for marginalized children and aims to become involved with conflict resolution and human rights advocacy. Sifa has released three albums in the U.S.

As the end of the month draws near, “Hotel Rwanda” (PG-13) will screen Friday, Feb. 21, at 7 p.m.

A 2004 drama set in 1994 during the Rwandan Genocide in which an estimated 800,000 people — mainly Tutsi — were killed by Hutu extremists, the movie follows a hotel manager who saves the lives of many.

The month focused on Rwandan culture and literature will conclude with a discussion of “Running the Rift” at 7 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 27, at the North Plains Library.

The North Plains One Book One Community program is funded for the third year in a row by a grant from the Cultural Coalition of Washington County.




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