Sandra Uwiringiyimana's autobiography is a wonderful read for teens and YA because of her straightforward, if rather simple, writing style, but it is a good read for all ages to learn more about activism, refugees, Africa, and the Gatuma massacre. It also forces an American reader to think about some difficult issues around race and how we treat those who seek asylum in our country.
Sandra shares her story from her childhood in Congo and Burundi, as a member of a tribe that isn't seen as part of either country; to life in a refugee camp; the process of coming to the United States and the shell-shock of being dropped into a new culture; to finding her place in the US while still fighting for justice.
Her descriptions of Africa fit some of America's negative stereotypes: tribal disputes, ongoing warfare, young boys kidnapped to become soldiers, girls raped to force marriage; but she takes the reader inside the beauty of her native home as well: the beautiful home with friendly families, watching soccer, going to church and school, and kids playing, just like nearly anywhere in the world. And so it is an extra horror to compare it to the UN refugee camp where hope seems gone, especially after a Burundi militia kills over 150 refugees, including Sandra's youngest sister.
When Sandra and her family come to the US, her difficulty in adjusting is understandable, but also highlights the lack of resources her family was given to adjust, especially mental health services for a family whose youngest member had recently been shot to death. How Dare the Sun Rise gives a glimpse into life in central Africa, but perhaps is even better at showing the United States from the perspective of an outsider. And finally, we see Sandra take up the mantle of fighting for justice for her tribe, and how she is able to use the tools she has in the US to further that fight, tools that include this autobiography.