Book Review: 10 Valiant Things about VOICES FROM CHERNOBYL by Svetlana Alexievich

Voices from Chernobyl

by Svetlana Alexievich

Nikki’s Rating: 10 out of 10

Summary: The haunting account of survivors of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster. Svetlana Alexievich interviewed not just people who lived there but workers at the nuclear plant, scientists, doctors, soldiers, wives of firefighters, re-settlers, and those involved with the clean up including miners, helicopter pilots, and liquidators. Each story is tragic and harrowing as the aftermath of the disaster continues 10 years later and into the foreseeable future.

Click on the Image to Purchase the Book and Support your local Bookstore!

10 Valiant Things about VOICES FROM CHERNOBYL by Svetlana Alexievich’s

(May Contain Spoilers)

1. Survivors

The biggest reason why Svetlana Alexievich’s Voices from Chernobyl is so powerful is because it is in the survivors’ own words. Alexievich didn’t edit their words, try to soften them, or change their stories to fit her own perceptions. Many of these stories are horrific but they are real. Someone lived that nightmare and their story is worth being heard.

2. Diversity

Alexievich didn’t stick to interviewing just people who lived in the Zone, she actively searched and interviewed people who were affected by the Chernobyl disaster through different means. Thousands of people got radiation not from living in the Zone but from being involved with the clean up and containment of the nuclear reactor. These include soldiers, miners, liquidators, pilots, and firefighters.

3. Cover-Up

Of course, one of the worst things that Russia did during the Chernobyl disaster is the government attempted to cover-up how bad the disaster really was. Whether to keep face internationally or to avoid panic within the country, the government consistently denied the dangers and they still continue to do so. As noted in Voices from Chernobyl, a physicist in 1999 came forward claiming that living and farming in Belarus was dangerous due to radiation levels and was therefore imprisoned until 2005, upon release he was exiled and remains so.

4. Ignorance

One of the most surprising things to me was the disbelief that many people did have about the effects of radiation even after being warned by those in authority. There were areas that the government did actually evacuate and deemed unsafe for people to stay in and yet many people chose to stay or returned after being evacuated. These people continued eating food grown in the area and used milk and meat from contaminated livestock. One individual described radiation as believable as fairy dust, it cannot be seen and so it must be magic, it is of no consequence to them.

5. Clean-Up

While at times incredibly hard to read, Voices from Chernobyl gives details about how clean-up was done after the disaster. The burying of not just the top layers of soil but of everything above ground in some areas. The systematic killing of livestock, pets, and any animals found within the Zone. And then of course the evacuations of people within the Zone.

6. Willful Negligence

Voices of Chernobyl clearly shows the willful negligence and disregard for life that the Russian government had at the time of the disaster. Not only did they not distribute adequate protective gear for those responding to the disaster, they also didn’t educate them on safety measures that they could have taken. For example, authorities didn’t explain to the clean up crews and soldiers that their clothes would retain radiation. One liquidator allowed his son to wear the cap he wore in the Zone often with no thought of it, his then healthy son developed a brain tumor 2 years later.

7. Aftermath

Many of the stories in Voices of Chernobyl are not about the disaster itself but rather the continuing aftermath. The severely ill children, the high mortality rates, babies being born with defects, women unable to get pregnant or suffering from multiple miscarriages. Each year in Belarus, the number of people with cancer, neurological disorders, mental retardation, and genetic mutations increases.

8. Denial

Going along with the need to cover-up the effects of the Chernobyl disaster, Russia continues to deny them and the devastation radiation can cause. Officially, Russia accepts the Chernobyl death toll of 54 individuals. Many organizations, including the UN, believe that the death toll number is in the thousands with others believing that it may in the hundreds of thousands, if not millions. Without the government taking responsibility, many families will continue being burdened with expensive medical bills from their loved ones illnesses that were actually caused by radiation due to Chernobyl.

9. The Motherland

So many stories included a sense of pride in the Motherland that I’ve come to associate with the Russian people. While Chernobyl was an epic disaster, many of these stories included love for their fellow man and pride for their country. So many times in tragedy, we show our capability for courage, selflessness, and dedication to the greater good. There were those who knew the dangers of the radiation, who knew they were risking their lives, and still reported to Chernobyl to do what they could for the world, the Motherland, and their loved ones.

10. Love

Overall reading Voices from Chernobyl was difficult as the stories are all heartbreaking to various degrees. But regardless of the sorrow, pain, and suffering, the stories also included love and hope. Love for their land, their home, their family, their friends, their animals. That regardless of this tragedy in their lives, they will go forward and live the best life that they can.


As always, thank you for reading. I would love to hear from you so feel free to contact me or comment below. If you would like to support this blog and/or my paintings please become my patron.

Be Authentic. Be Unique. Be You.

Book Review: 10 Welcome Things about WE WISH TO INFORM YOU THAT TOMORROW WE WILL BE KILLED WITH OUR FAMILIES by Philip Gourevitch

We Wish to Inform You that Tomorrow we will be Killed with Our Families

by Philip Gourevitch

Nikki’s Rating: 10 out of 10

Summary: With devastating clarity, thorough research, and extensive interviews of survivors, Philip Gourevitch investigates the horrors that occurred in Rwanda during 1994. In just three months starting in April 1994, 800,000 Tutsis were killed by the Hutu majority. Unbelievably, it was not simply soldiers or government agents but neighbors, friends, and family members of the Tutsis who participated in the mass genocide. Gourevitch examines not just what led up to the genocide but the aftermath for Rwanda, its people, and the world.

Click on the Image to Purchase the Book and Support your local Bookstore!

10 Welcome Things about WE WISH TO INFORM YOU THAT TOMORROW WE WILL BE KILLED WITH OUR FAMILIES by Philip Gourevitch

(May Contain Spoilers)

1. Educational

We Wish to Inform You that Tomorrow we will be Killed with Our Families should be required reading in school, this book has so much educational worth! One of the most important educational piece that Gourevitch includes is the role that colonialism and Western interference had that helped pave the path for the Rwanda genocide.

2. Well Researched

Gourevitch meticulously researched other works on Rwanda in order to write this novel. While his sources are not listed in a reference list, he does include the authors of the works he used in his acknowledgments.

3. Personal Interviews

The most powerful and effective aspects of We Wish to Inform You that Tomorrow we will be Killed with Our Families are the personal stories. Speaking with hundreds of Rwandans, Gourevitch weaves their stories throughout this book and it allows the reader to really understand that these atrocities happened to individual people, it is not a tale of fiction but rather the reality for thousands of Rwandans.

4. Failure of the World

In a perfectly summarized sentence Gourevitch states,

“If Rwanda’s experience could be said to carry any lessons for the world, it was that endangered peoples who depend on the international community for physical protection stand defenseless.”

In so many ways, the international community failed epically and Gourevitch shows this time and time again throughout the novel.

5. Consequences

Returning to Rwanda in 1997, Gourevitch looks at how Rwanda has continued on since the genocide. He realizes that the genocide is not just an isolated event but one that will have continued consequences for years to come. And while the rest of the world had moved on, Rwanda had not and even 4 years later ethnic killings continued weekly with no end in sight.

6. Vivid

This novel is so vivid and haunting. Descriptions are plentiful and really capture the scenes Gourevitch is painting. There are moving scenes that will be imprinted in the minds of readers forever.

7. Writing

While reading Gourevitch’s novel, it is apparent that he went to great lengths to give as much information as possible while not losing the reader. He writes in a fluid, engaging manner that allows the reader to know dates, facts, and names without being read like a dry history textbook.

8. Courage

While Philip Gourevitch is one of many reporters who have braved visiting a dangerous area in order to get the facts, it doesn’t make it any less impressive. Gourevitch had the courage to not only do the story but to visit Rwanda multiple times and to travel to different areas in the region regardless of the hazards to himself.

9. Outsider

Regardless of Gourevitch visiting Rwanda, interviewing hundreds of its people, and doing extensive research, Gourevitch humbly acknowledges that he is an outsider. He comprehends that no amount of visitations or education of Rwanda will allow him to understand the country, its politics, or people fully. He could never truly grasp what it means to be Rwandan, he is and will always be an outsider looking in.

10. Powerful

Ultimately, We Wish to Inform You that Tomorrow we will be Killed with Our Families is a powerful novel. It truly paints the picture of what humanity is capable of, the horrors we commit against one another but also the beauty in our resiliency and bravery to survive and help each other in times of adversity. The book ends on a hopeful note of a group of schoolgirls refusing to separate based on being Hutu or Tutsi but rather said they were simply Rwandans.


As always, thank you for reading. I would love to hear from you so feel free to contact me or comment below. If you would like to support this blog and/or my paintings please become my patron.

Be Authentic. Be Unique. Be You.

Book Review: 6 Knowledgeable Things about KING LEOPOLD’S GHOST by Adam Hochschild

King Leopold’s Ghost

by Adam Hochschild

Nikki’s Rating: 6 out of 10

Summary: A meticulously researched book focused on the exploitation of the Congo by King Leopold. A detailed account of key players and how abuse and slavery were able to continue for years with the world none the wiser. An honest, disturbing look at how colonialism continues to negatively impact the world today.

Click on the Image to Purchase the Book and Support your local Bookstore!

6 Knowledgeable Things about KING LEOPOLD’S GHOST by Adam Hochschild

(May Contain Spoilers)

1. Educational

This book was a huge eye-opener. Nowhere in any formal education was there mention of the massacre that happened in the Congo, or anywhere else in Africa, due to colonialism. As in everywhere else in history, the victors write the history books and conveniently omit any negative images of themselves.

2. Citing Sources

Hochschild did his research diligently. His pages of notes and bibliography provide ample evidence and support of his narrative of what happened in the Congo under King Leopold’s rule.

3. Characters

In King Leopold’s Ghost, Hochschild does an amazing job of bringing his historical characters to life. He includes key life events to help readers understand their motivations and values that may have impacted their decisions. However, there is a lack of African voices and Hochschild makes note of this and gives valid reasons why this is so.

4. The Atrocities

While not giving traumatizing details, Hochschild clearly paints a picture of the horror many Congolese people experienced at the hands of their European suppressors. From forced slavery in terrible conditions to being used as target practice, King Leopold encouraged a holocaust in the name of greed.

5. Silence

King Leopold’s Ghost includes an explanation of how these atrocities were not made public and how King Leopold was able to manipulate others in power and the media to keep the silence of the massacre that was occurring.

6. Impact

One of the strongest points Hochschild presents in King Leopold’s Ghost is how colonialism continues to have an impact in the Congo today. Due to American and European investments, these governments continue interfering with democracy in the Congo going so far as in 1961, providing the means to assassinate Lumumba, an elected prime minister.


As always, thank you for reading. I would love to hear from you so feel free to contact me or comment below. If you would like to support this blog and/or my paintings please become my patron.

Be Authentic. Be Unique. Be You.