Left to Tell by Immaculée Ilibagiza

Ruth Fernandes


Immaculée Ilibagiza was born in Rwanda and had a great child hood. She would always be outside playing with her friends and spending time with her family. She would play in the beautiful mountains and by the lakes around her house. She studied Electronic and Mechanical Engineering at the National University of Rwanda. Her life changed in 1994 during the Rwanda genocide when she and seven other women huddled silently together in a cramped bathroom of a local pastor’s house for 91 days. Immaculée lost most of her family, but she survived. Four years after the Rwandan tragedy, Immaculée immigrated to the United States and began working for the United Nations in New York City. She has established the Left to Tell Charitable Fund to help others heal from the long-term effects of genocide and war.

Overview of the War

The genocide was fought between the Hutu's and Tutsi's. It started when President Juvénal Habyarimana, a Hutu, was shot. The war was fought for dominance of race. It lasted 100 days. The UN came in to help stop this. The Rwanda Genocide ended only when the RPF took over the country. The RPF (Rwandan Patriotic Front) were a trained military group consisting of Tutsis.


Immaculee had a happy childhood. She was raised in a close knit Roman Catholic family on the beautiful shores of Lake Kivu. Her life changed in 1990, when she came home from University to visit her family. The Hutus were hunting and killing millions of Tutsis. This forced her into hiding because she was a Tutsi. She hid in a small bathroom barely large enough for one person, with eight women. The bathroom was located in a small church. She spent her time in forced silence and feared for her life. While they were hiding, the women could hear and see what was occurring outside of their hiding place. They witnessed the murders of many Tutsi people. While in hiding she focused on her faith and building her relationship with God. She prayed for many hours each day and experienced religious visions. Immaculee and the women eventually left their hiding place and moved through multiple military camps before finding freedom. Through a renewed and deepened faith she managed to forgive the killers who ravaged her village and create a legacy of courage for others to follow.


"There were many voices, many killers. I could see them in my mind: my former friends and neighbors, who had always greeted me with love and kindness, moving through the house carrying spears and machetes and calling my name."

“I knew that my heart and mind would always be tempted to feel anger--to find blame and hate. But I resolved that when the negative feelings came upon me, I wouldn't wait for them to grow or fester. I would always turn immediately to the Source of all true power: I would turn to God and let His love and forgiveness protect and save me.”

Writer's Purpose

Immaculee's purpose for writing this memoir was to inform people about the horrors of the Rwanda Genocide from her experience in it. It also gives people many reasons to have a strong faith.

Major Themes

No matter how bad things are, they do get better.

Faith makes people stronger.

Major Symbols

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Personal Reaction

This memoir was very moving. It opened my eyes to the actual horrors of the Rwanda Genocide. If I was in her shoes, I would not have forgiven the people who killed her family and her neighbors who tried many times to kill her. I really applaud her for not giving up and killing herself through all these events. She is very strong, brave, and inspiring woman.


I would recommend this book to anyone interested in wars and history. I would recommend this memoir for 9th graders and higher. It is a very moving memoir and you should read if you have the right mindset.