Mental Floss

A rare moment of seriousness


The January/February issue of mental_floss featured an unusually sober, and sobering, article -- the second in a series on global conflicts -- that explained the reasons for the Rwandan massacres of 1994. It was written in clear, straightforward terms, and I remember thinking at the time that maybe tragedies of such magnitude demand that kind of description; there's no point in cluttering it with overblown rhetoric because the atrocities speak for themselves. That thought was in the back of my mind again this weekend while I read "My Parents' Bedroom," a short story in the New Yorker told from the perspective of a nine-year-old child with a Hutu father and a Tutsi mother. Writing with a juvenile narrator, it's easy to slip into cloying, singsong faux innocence; this story, however, is almost baldly simple. It is also the most devastating thing I've read in years.

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