Literary Voices from Rwanda is a project inspired by The Huza Press Anthology 2015: Versus and other Stories. In this series of interviews featuring writers from the anthology, we’ll be talking about the Rwandan society and literature; a way of promoting new tales from Rwanda, different from the regular genocide-related themes. Enjoy this feature from Eva Gara, a retired teacher who enjoys Rwandan folk tales and is currently at work on a collection of short stories.
Your story, ‘A Little Red Car at the Gusaba’ was a light read and as a non-Rwandan, it enlightened me on the marriage procedures in Rwanda. Learnt words like gusaba and umujeni. How long have you been writing?
Thank you so much for your comments on the story I wrote. In secondary school I used to be among the best composition writers and I remember my mother encouraging me to write more, citing that I was a talented writer. So I guess it is since my early teens that I started enjoying writing short stories in form of school assignments.
Even though the story explores the subject of conflict, long malice and clashes, you still managed to retain some humour in it. Is humor a technique you employ often in telling your stories?
Indeed when I get a chance, I love including humor in my stories. I do enjoy reading humorous stories as well.
And then the story reads like a folktale. At some point, the narrator addresses the readers as though they’re right there with her. What are some of the things that have influenced your style of writing?
I always find that reading a story where the writer makes me feel like I am travelling the same path makes for a more enjoyable read. So when I write I strive to bring the reader along and get him excited about the journey I am taking him through. I find that I take on the character I am writing about and start thinking like I was in his place.
It says in your bio that you’re a retired teacher. I’d like to think that there are traces of that in your story. Makes me wonder if children literature is something you’d like to explore? Also, how accessible are children books written by Rwandans for young readers in Rwanda?
Children books are so dear to me and I hope one day I will have a collection of them for Rwandan children. My major at collage was in Literature and it is my dream that Rwandan children will develop a love for reading which at present is still quite low. I believe the more books children can access the more interest they will develop. Right now, there are very few books by Rwandans for the young readers. Something I hope will be history in my lifetime. Reading stories of things they can relate to I believe will encourage them to read more. So there is a vacuum for Rwandan children books.
There is a hint of didacticism in your story. The groom’s dad lived a reckless life as a young man and so many years later, he gets served by karma and his son must pay for it. There’s the lesson on responsibility and forgiveness. Do you believe that literature should go beyond its aesthetic values to becoming a tool for instruct? Are you pro ‘arts for arts sake’ or ‘arts for change’? What are your thoughts on this distinctions?
My dream is to write books that leave a reader with a lesson. So definitely I am pro “arts for change.”
You’re currently working on a collection of short stories. What should your readers expect?
I am working on stories that relate to day to day human experiences. The reader should expect to feel like the characters he meets in the story may be someone he might have interacted with. I am also hoping to have a children’s book ready by the end of this year which besides the fun part has lessons for children, at preschool level, learn more about the different colors, numbers and different dimensions.