The Discover Archive: Rwanda

Dear Reader,

One of the most frequently asked questions heard during meetings of the Discover Great New Writers selection committee is, Will we be reading this author a decade from now? The answer is a rousing yes for the  novelist, critic, screenwriter/director, and art-world prankster William Boyd, whose novel Brazzaville Beach was a Discover pick in 1991.


It was a pleasure to see Boyd's review of Naomi Benaron's taughtly-woven debut novel, Running the Rift, in The Washington Post last week.  Set in Rwanda in the years leading up to the horrific genocide in 1994, and told from the point of view of a young man hoping to run in the Olympics, Benaron's Bellwether prize-winning novel humanizes the unfathomable: 800,000 dead in 100 days, the killings conducted at an intimate level, neighbor against neighbor, machetes in hand.  


In his review, Boyd writes:  "Audacious and compelling...It’s a brave writer, then, who takes a subject as historically complex and gravid with emotion as this one as the background to her first novel, and Benaron has to be loudly applauded for her bravura and heartfelt attempt to encapsulate and document this corner of 20th-century bestiality through her story of a young man’s teenage and early adult years....Benaron does not spare us any of the abominations of the genocide, but her denouement is surprisingly redemptive."


If reading Running the Rift has left you wanting to understand more about the atrocities in Rwanda, I suggest starting with two previous Discover selections: Philip Gourevitch's We Wish to Inform You That Tomorrow We Will Be Killed with Our Families, a model of long-form reportage written with a novelist's sensibilities, and Gil Courtemanche's tragic, poetic novel, A Sunday at the Pool in Kigali.


[Boyd is one of my favorite writers, and I've lost count of the times I've recommended Brazzaville Beach, A Good Man in Africa, or An Ice-Cream War to friends looking for a wry, engaging read with moral heft to it. His terrific new novel, Waiting for Sunrise, set in Vienna at the turn of the 20th Century, will be available 4/17.]


Cheers, Miwa











Miwa Messer

Miwa Messer is the Director of the Barnes & Noble Discover Great New Writers program, which was established in 1990 to highlight works of exceptional literary quality that might otherwise be overlooked in a crowded book marketplace.  Titles chosen for the program are handpicked by a select group of our booksellers four times a year.  Click here for  submission guidelines.

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Kenneth Calhoun (Black Moon) and Lysley Tenorio (Monstress) of the Discover Great New Writers program on B-movies, heritage, and finales.

Books, CDs, DVDs to know about now
In the Light of What We Know

Zia Haider Rahman's mystery of a brilliant Bangladeshi mathematician's past barrels through the Ivy League, London high finance, and spy-haunted Afghanistan in a page-turning tale of exile, intrigue and the price of friendship. A Discover Great New Writers selection.

The People's Platform

Once touted as the foundation for tomorrow's digital democracy, the Internet is increasingly ruled by a few corporate giants, while millions of contributors till its fields for free. Astra Taylor looks at why the web has failed to deliver a communitarian cyberscape, and offers a compelling case for restoring its original vision.

A Private Venus

Dubbed "the Italian Simenon," Giorgio Scerbanenco (1911-1969) began his crime-writing career with books set in the USA, but quickly shifted scene closer to home, the city of Milan.  In this adventure, appearing in English for the first time, his underdog hero Dr. Duca Lamberti finds himself in the middle of a seedy, scantily clad criminal racket, where the presence of an outsider could result in death.