35 pages 1 hour read

Tracy Kidder

Strength in What Remains

Nonfiction | Biography | Adult | Published in 2000

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Index of Terms


Genocide is the attempt by one group to wipe out another group, as defined by ethnicity, religion, nationality, or race. This is an ancient problem, but one certainly exacerbated in modern times by the proliferation of powerful weapons and the increase of population.

Genocide is prevalent in Strength in What Remains. Both Rwanda and Burundi endure ethnic-based genocides during the course of Deo’s life; he is from Burundi and escapes to Rwanda before making his way to New York City. When he eventually returns to Africa, the devastation caused by the genocides is overwhelmingly painful. 


The Burundian concept gusimbura is very important to this text. Specifically, gusimbura is the notion that it is bad to bring up people who have died, or horrible events of the past, because doing so is forcing the person who lived through the horror to relive bad memories all over again. To have this effect on someone is to “gusimbura” them.

Tracy Kidder first learns about gusimbura when traveling in Africa with Deo; Deo advises Kidder not to bring up Clovis, Deo’s school friend who died. Interestingly, despite the intention of gusimbura, Deo inevitably must confront events from his past upon his return to his homeland.