Muneza, Honoré, and Rosamund Haden
My Name Is Honoré
Stars of Africa Series
Illustrated by Sarah Pratt. Cape Town, South Africa: Maskew Miller Longman, 2003. 32 p. ISBN 0-636-05749-6. Ages 8 and up.
Publisher: Maskew Miller Longman (MML)
This autobiography of Honoré Muneza, a sixteen-year-old refugee from Rwanda, was told to Rosamund Haden, a skilled writer who has crafted the account into a moving and accessible story of displaced people in Africa today. Large-scale panic and continuous relocations from country to country are not topics that young minds can comprehend easily. Yet, this simply told story achieves a rare balance between desperate survival and the belief that there must be a future, somewhere. From Rwanda, Honoré and his mother and sisters trudge and hitch through Zaire, Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania, and Mozambique to seek a home in South Africa. The five-year journey is narrated through glimpses and memories. For example: “Our family got a rope and we tied ourselves together with that rope so that we wouldn’t get lost.... One day the rope broke…I didn’t see Mom again for a whole year” (10). In addition to these difficulties, the refugees also have to face harsh and blunt rejection: “They say: Go back where you come from! But we can’t go back” (19). The end pages consist of factual information about refugees, a glossary, and photographs of Honoré and his family. The book is mostly illustrated with artwork that is dark in tone and not very distinct.
The young people of Africa need stories that reflect the reality of their situation – but they also want good writing that is exciting and worth reading. This 32-page booklet, with its background of wars and refugees, succeeds on all counts. Hopefully, it will impact as effectively on safe, rich, privileged readers elsewhere.