The Barefoot Woman

Finalist, National Book Awards 2019 for Translated Literature

ISBN 9781939810045
Archipelago Books |
Scholastique Mukasonga

Scholastique Mukasonga was born in Rwanda in 1956. She settled in France in 1992, only two years before the brutal genocide of the Tutsi swept through Rwanda. More about this author >

Jordan Stump

Jordan Stump is a professor of French in the Department of Modern Languages at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln, specializing in 20th– and 21st-century French literature and literary translation. More about this author >

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From the publisher:

The Barefoot Woman  is Scholastique Mukasonga’s loving, funny, devastating tribute to her mother Stefania, a tireless protector of her children, a keeper of Rwandan tradition even in the cruelest and bleakest of exiles, a sage, a wit, and in the end a victim, like almost the entire family, of the Rwandan genocide. But it’s also a wry, sharp-eyed portrait of the world her mother lived in, from its humblest commonplaces (beer, sorghum, bread) to its deepest horrors (rape, murder, unimaginable loss).

In a telling both affectionate and haunted, Mukasonga sinks her feet into this dense “land of stories.” Each step, each verse of her careful lament carries both the weight of her mourning and the fortitude of the myriad silenced voices she speaks for. Whether describing the dry, cracked layers of mud on her mother’s feet, or the stretch marks that line strong legs, Mukasonga follows the threaded rivulet of her mother’s pulsing memory.

Judges Citation

In this elegant and lyrical memoir, Scholastique Mukasonga tells the story of her mother, Stefania, one of thirty-seven of Mukasonga’s family members who was eventually killed in the Rwandan genocide. In these pages, Stefania lives as the heart of her exiled Tutsi community, a determined, funny, and graceful woman who keeps watch over the neighborhood on her termite mound, acts as a matchmaker and healer, and obsessively plots her children’s escape. Mukasonga masterfully conveys how the joys of daily life can co-exist with horror and Jordan Stump’s translation honors this outstanding storyteller and her remarkable personal history.