How Dare the Sun Rise is a profoundly moving memoir of the remarkable and inspiring true story of Sandra Uwiringyimana, a girl from the Democratic Republic of the Congo who tells the tale of how she survived a massacre, immigrated to America, and overcame her trauma through art and activism.
I only have great things to say about this memoir and 100% believe it should be on everyone’s to-read list. I will not lie to you. This is a difficult read, emotionally. I can’t remember the last time I cried so hard that I was in pain, but this shouldn’t deter you from reading it. Pain is a part of everyone’s life and it is with that empathy and sympathy we find understanding, which is a theme found throughout the book. It’s also beautiful and inspiring and will leave you wanting to take action and reach out to other refugees and learn their stories. I also learned so much from this book. My morals and beliefs lie with the left, but I realized how, subconsciously, I was so incredibly wrong with my viewpoints on certain things.
I never really knew how difficult it is for one to be able to find refuge in America. I’m not naive enough to believe it to be easy, but I only thought of the difficulties it takes physically or mentally with tests, but I, for some reason, never thought of the emotional turmoil it takes for people. They are forced to relive their horrible traumas, talk about it in detail, to people who may care…probably care, but can be cold and distant. I also realized how I knew people in Africa have shoes and bikes, my first thought of the people are of what I see on tv, which is always, like how Sandra Uwiringyimana describes in her book, is a white woman gathered around a group of sad looking African children, flies buzzing around their heads. How sad is that? Here I am reading this memoir, envisioning this beautiful happy girl running around with her friends and siblings, caring so much about her education, and laughing and dancing, and before, this vision isn’t the first to appear. We can’t deny the violence, and therefore the pain that people in Africa face. We also cannot fathom it.
When we learn of refugees, I think most of us think, “wow – they are lucky to be here”, not in lucky to be in this perfect haven, because we all know America is not that, but lucky to be far away from the violence you endured in your country – but we fail to realize that that is not necessarily what refugees are feeling, because, they have to leave family they love and friends they cherish behind, come to a place where everything is foreign…the language, the food, the customs and culture. They probably feel isolated, lonely and confused and sadly soon realize that America is not the perfect haven some make it out to be. There is violence and hate, and there is a celebrity obsessed culture that feeds most Americans, which is unhealthy and superficial and leaves the important things unnoticed. Paraphrasing what Sandra says in the book, we live in a culture where Kim Kardashian is all over the news instead of what is happening in Africa – and the only time their is a discussion is when their is a disease outbreak. It pains me because there are so many voices in this world, so many voices of people we don’t get to hear, and coming from a first world nation we should feel a responsibility to listen to those voices, to seek them out and listen to their stories. People are afraid of what doesn’t look or sound like them. They are afraid of people who don’t love like them. That fear turns to hate. It’s unnecessary, ignorant, and bigoted. As we learn from Sandra, humans are humans, and I, a white woman from the south can find ways to relate to people from everywhere, because as they may be different from me in some ways, we all want the same things deep down. We want love & happiness. We want our families and friends to be safe and happy. We want success in whatever we do. What if we lived in a world where instead of hating and punishing the people that are different from us, we embraced the differences. We learn from each other and grow & evolve into better human beings. Technology & our intelligence would be more advanced, and our quality of life would be better. There would probably be less pain and more justice in the world.
I think reading How Dare the Sun Rise as a person born in America, made me realize how young we are when we start absorbing these unhealthy and superficial beliefs. At one point, Sandra mentions how weird she finds it that a young girl (or boy’s) Barbie doll is so developed. I never thought about that before. Why do Barbie dolls have large breasts? Why do they have breasts at all? Why is ‘beauty’ and beauty meaning being a certain way…having an unrealistic body for most, so important? Why is it so ingrained in our culture and within our consumerism? Why is a 13 year-old girl so consumed with her looks? She should be focused on being free, having fun with her friends, learning, figuring out who she is. Not that boys don’t feel the stress of their appearance at that age, but being a girl is definitely different.
There are so many things we don’t think about…so many things we take for granted. Our education being the most fundamental. Education is a privilege and so many of us, especially when we are young, view it as a chore. We don’t respect what we are given. Some tend to be rude to their teachers that don’t deserve the hostility. Some don’t even want to learn or challenge themselves. Sandra saw this gratefulness when she arrived, surprised that so many children just seemed bored to be in school. The other thing about education, something that completely breaks my heart, is the fact that people from different countries work tirelessly and dedicate themselves fully to a better education. Then they arrive here in America, and it doesn’t matter. They have to start over, which can be impossible. Once a surgeon, now a cook at a school – unable to practice medicine. As said in the book. “There lives before America, doesn’t matter.” Another huge sacrifice to be in a safer, more inclusive country with less government corruption and yet still have to experience violence, hate, racism, prejudice, ignorance, bigotry, and corruption in government.
How Dare the Sun Rise gave me everything I want from a book. It gave me a story and a person I can connect with. I learned so much from it, and had an overwhelming feeling to do better, to pay attention, to help where I can, and to ask for these unheard voices to be heard. I feel so grateful that Sandra Uwiringyimana used her voice and shared her story. She is a powerful woman with a powerful story and you should definitely read How Dare the Sun Rise.