Rachelfm's Reviews > Baking Cakes in Kigali

Baking Cakes in Kigali by Gaile Parkin
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's review
Jul 23, 2011

really liked it
bookshelves: africa, 100-in-2011, 1000-in-my-thirties
Read in July, 2011

I thought that this book was an accessible, sensitive treatment of modern life in Africa. The story of a Tanzanian family touched by tragedy who relocates to Rwanda manages to address a whole host of present-day issues: HIV/AIDS, FGM, foreign aid, reconciliation, religious, cultural, and economic differences, empowerment of women, effects of colonialism, etc. etc. The constant are the cakes created by the innovative and wise protagonist, Angel, and the way her role in the community draws out the stories of those around here. Interestingly, the Tanzanians are part of an expat community making a better living in Rwanda in the post-genocide rebuilding and unification.

Yes, it's a book about Rwanda, so there is inevitable discussion of the genocide in 94. I thought the treatment was sensitive, personal, and focused on the real individual, human results of living in a society so decimated. Rather than throwing a bunch of statistics or making sweeping generalizations, the author chose to tell aspects of the story of the genocide through very personal accounts. In contrast, SO many other books about Africa tend to treat the continent's myriad tragedies as a backdrop or an anonymous set of events without really portraying the personal heartbreak. However, this was not one of those solemn or depressing accounts; just a very human treatment of life somehow going on, with joys and daily dramas and love and children as well.

One of my favorite aspects of this book was how well I thought the author handled the English dialogue of native Kiswahili speakers. The idioms were all there, and the book's authentic chats and circular communication over cups of milk tea were some of the best illustrations of the modern speech and customs of East Africans. I'd highly recommend this book to people interested in Africa as well as those planning to travel there; the truths in this fiction contain sweets to savor for a long time.
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