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Those We Throw Away Are Diamonds: A Refugee's Search for Home

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A stunning and heartbreaking lens on the global refugee crisis, from a man who faced the very worst of humanity and survived to advocate for displaced people around the world One day when Mondiant Dogon, a Bagogwe Tutsi born in Congo, was just three years old, his father's lifelong friend, a Hutu man, came to their home with a machete in his hand and warned the family t A stunning and heartbreaking lens on the global refugee crisis, from a man who faced the very worst of humanity and survived to advocate for displaced people around the world One day when Mondiant Dogon, a Bagogwe Tutsi born in Congo, was just three years old, his father's lifelong friend, a Hutu man, came to their home with a machete in his hand and warned the family they were to be killed within hours. Mondiant's family fled into the forest, beginning a long and dangerous journey into Rwanda. They made their way to the first of several UN tent cities in which they would spend decades. But their search for a safe haven had only just begun. Hideous violence stalked them in the camps. Even though Rwanda famously has a former refugee for a president in Paul Kagame, refugees in that country face enormous prejudice and acute want. For much of his life, Mondiant and his family ate barely enough to keep themselves from starving. He fled back to Congo in search of the better life that had been lost, but there he was imprisoned and then forced to work as a child soldier. For most refugees, the camp starts as an oasis but soon becomes quicksand, impossible to leave. Yet Mondiant managed to be one of the few refugees he knew to go to college. Though he hid his status from his fellow students out of shame, eventually he would emerge as an advocate for his people. Rarely do refugees get to tell their own stories. We see them only for a moment, if at all, in flight: Syrians winding through the desert; children searching a Greek shore for their parents; families gathered at the southern border of the United States. But through his writing, Mondiant took control of his own story and spoke up for forever refugees everywhere. As Mondiant once wrote in a poem, "Those we throw away are diamonds."


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A stunning and heartbreaking lens on the global refugee crisis, from a man who faced the very worst of humanity and survived to advocate for displaced people around the world One day when Mondiant Dogon, a Bagogwe Tutsi born in Congo, was just three years old, his father's lifelong friend, a Hutu man, came to their home with a machete in his hand and warned the family t A stunning and heartbreaking lens on the global refugee crisis, from a man who faced the very worst of humanity and survived to advocate for displaced people around the world One day when Mondiant Dogon, a Bagogwe Tutsi born in Congo, was just three years old, his father's lifelong friend, a Hutu man, came to their home with a machete in his hand and warned the family they were to be killed within hours. Mondiant's family fled into the forest, beginning a long and dangerous journey into Rwanda. They made their way to the first of several UN tent cities in which they would spend decades. But their search for a safe haven had only just begun. Hideous violence stalked them in the camps. Even though Rwanda famously has a former refugee for a president in Paul Kagame, refugees in that country face enormous prejudice and acute want. For much of his life, Mondiant and his family ate barely enough to keep themselves from starving. He fled back to Congo in search of the better life that had been lost, but there he was imprisoned and then forced to work as a child soldier. For most refugees, the camp starts as an oasis but soon becomes quicksand, impossible to leave. Yet Mondiant managed to be one of the few refugees he knew to go to college. Though he hid his status from his fellow students out of shame, eventually he would emerge as an advocate for his people. Rarely do refugees get to tell their own stories. We see them only for a moment, if at all, in flight: Syrians winding through the desert; children searching a Greek shore for their parents; families gathered at the southern border of the United States. But through his writing, Mondiant took control of his own story and spoke up for forever refugees everywhere. As Mondiant once wrote in a poem, "Those we throw away are diamonds."

30 review for Those We Throw Away Are Diamonds: A Refugee's Search for Home

  1. 5 out of 5

    Jennifer Schultz

    Read if you: Want an astonishing memoir about life as a (Congolese) refugee. Important to note: As you can imagine, this is a brutal read at times. The terror, violence, and loss that Mondiant Dogon endured when he was only five years old is immense. However--many books about refugee experiences are rarely written by those that have experienced it first hand. Utterly powerful, devastating, but filled with love for his family and his country (as it was and could be). The horror of Belgian coloniz Read if you: Want an astonishing memoir about life as a (Congolese) refugee. Important to note: As you can imagine, this is a brutal read at times. The terror, violence, and loss that Mondiant Dogon endured when he was only five years old is immense. However--many books about refugee experiences are rarely written by those that have experienced it first hand. Utterly powerful, devastating, but filled with love for his family and his country (as it was and could be). The horror of Belgian colonization is an important aspect to Congo's history, which is woven throughout the narrative. Librarians/booksellers: Definitely one of the best books about refugee experiences in some time. Many thanks to Penguin Group and NetGalley for a digital review copy in exchange for an honest review.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Joy

    Dogon’s story begins in his early childhood in the family village in Congo. As part of an ethnic minority, their lives are very much in danger, and they must flee the country. At only five years old, the incredible brutality he witnesses is just unfathomable; it is ravaging to even read. The atrocities continue even after the family has made it across the border into Rwanda and are in refugee camps, and Dogon doesn’t allow readers to look away as he presents clear, direct descriptions. As his li Dogon’s story begins in his early childhood in the family village in Congo. As part of an ethnic minority, their lives are very much in danger, and they must flee the country. At only five years old, the incredible brutality he witnesses is just unfathomable; it is ravaging to even read. The atrocities continue even after the family has made it across the border into Rwanda and are in refugee camps, and Dogon doesn’t allow readers to look away as he presents clear, direct descriptions. As his life continues through his teen years, readers will continue to feel the incredible plight of not only Dogon and the Tutsi refugees, but indeed that of many refugees around the globe. He states that awareness is his intent, and Those We Throw Away Are Diamonds certainly achieves the goal. Thank you to Mondiant Dogon, Penguin Press, and NetGalley for an advance reader copy in exchange for an honest review.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Jonathan Carter

    BLOG | INSTAGRAM | TWITTER | FACEBOOK An e-arc of the book has been provided by the publisher, Penguin Random House International, in exchange for an honest review. “I hoped that none of these new refugees would be forgotten as we were for decades, forever lost in a permanent impermanence.” A poignant and beautiful eye-opening life story of a Congonese refugee. The intensity of this memoirs is truly mind-blowing. At some point, while reading this book, my mind keeps on blocking the reality o BLOG | INSTAGRAM | TWITTER | FACEBOOK An e-arc of the book has been provided by the publisher, Penguin Random House International, in exchange for an honest review. “I hoped that none of these new refugees would be forgotten as we were for decades, forever lost in a permanent impermanence.” A poignant and beautiful eye-opening life story of a Congonese refugee. The intensity of this memoirs is truly mind-blowing. At some point, while reading this book, my mind keeps on blocking the reality of the story. I was reading it as something that is fictional to stop myself from cascading into anxiety. It was surreal to read the firsthand experience of a boy—a BOY! might I remind you—experiencing genocide. It is appalling and I needed to put the book down to breathe as, one by one, this boy’s friends and family dies. Never experiencing proper childhood but the horror of life, Mondiant became so much older for his age. Despite all that, he never lost that light of kindness within him. Considering it ate up most of his childhood life, it was an amazing thing how he never resorted to the violence the life has offered. “I was so young. But living through a war makes you older. When you are three or four or five years old and you spend a year living in a war you become as wise as if you were twenty years old. You learn when to close your eyes and how to keep them open even while you sleep. You stop asking for food no matter how hungry you are. You see people dying wherever you go, and you you say, “Wow, I’m next.” It breaks my heart that the reality of our world is extremely cruel. The never ending war, big or small, ruins so many wonderful experiences these kids and families could have had. Mondiant told his story. He showed us his vulnerability in order for us to know his truth. I want to give him a huge hug.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Joann

    I am grateful for Mondiant Dogan for writing so graphic an account of his time in a refugee camp. I am also very sorry that the subject was even available for him. Is the day near when we, as humans, will have respect and acceptance for others so that situations such as Dogan shares would be unheard of? If we are going to survive, we must adopt another perspective about life and its value.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Jill Dobbe

    The life of most refugees is inhumane. That becomes clear after reading the emotional, honest, and heartbreaking account of the horrifying life Mondiant and his family lived. A Tutsi, born in Congo, first fled with his family into the nearby forest to hide, which was the beginning of their lives on the run. They eventually relocated to Rwanda to reside in various refugee camps where they suffered continuous violence, poverty, and extreme hunger. The author realized his only way to a better life The life of most refugees is inhumane. That becomes clear after reading the emotional, honest, and heartbreaking account of the horrifying life Mondiant and his family lived. A Tutsi, born in Congo, first fled with his family into the nearby forest to hide, which was the beginning of their lives on the run. They eventually relocated to Rwanda to reside in various refugee camps where they suffered continuous violence, poverty, and extreme hunger. The author realized his only way to a better life was through education, and he worked hard to attend school, eventually enrolling in graduate school in the U.S. Never feeling like they belonged, Mondiant and his family hoped to one day return to Congo, their homeland, but the continuous war made it too dangerous, and the beautiful country they remembered, was destroyed. Mondiant's accounts of what he and his family went through are difficult to read, almost inconceivable. His story shows that humans can survive almost anything if they believe in themselves and their worth as human beings. An exceptional read. Thank you to Mondiant Dogon, publisher, and Netgalley for this ARC.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Lynn

    Very Accurate Observation on Being A Refugee The author gives a very clear view of his experience as a refugee from Rwanda and how the international organizations help refugees and hurt them too. How refugees are treated in many countries and how so few experience success.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Kelly_Hunsaker_reads ...

    Thank you to Penguin Press for sending me a beautiful finished copy of Mondiant Dogon's heartwrenching, insightful book about his life as a refugee. It is impossible to read this book without learning something and feeling a lot. You will see the worst of humanity because Dogon shares his own story with brutal, devastating honestly. He is a Tutsi, born in the Congo, and was forced to flee his home during the genocide. They ran, hiding in forests, eventually arriving in Rwanda where they lived th Thank you to Penguin Press for sending me a beautiful finished copy of Mondiant Dogon's heartwrenching, insightful book about his life as a refugee. It is impossible to read this book without learning something and feeling a lot. You will see the worst of humanity because Dogon shares his own story with brutal, devastating honestly. He is a Tutsi, born in the Congo, and was forced to flee his home during the genocide. They ran, hiding in forests, eventually arriving in Rwanda where they lived through continuous violence, starvation, and multiple moves from one refugee camp to the next. He eventually seeks an education which allowed him to go to graduate school in the United States. His family always hoped to return to their homeland, but the continuous war would see the place they knew destroyed. Between August 1998 and April 2003, an estimated 3.8 million people died. But, ultimately this is a story of survival, resilience and hope, and teaches the rest of us to find the compassion we need to make a home for the refugees of the world. I wish that everyone would read it.

  8. 5 out of 5

    thewanderingjew

    Those We Throw Away Are Diamonds: A Refugee's Search for Home, Mondiant Dogon, with Jenna Krajeski, authors; Dominic Hoffman, narrator The author is a “Bagogwe Tutsi, born in the Democratic Republic of Congo.” This book is his story. It is a heartbreaking tale of tragedy and treachery. For two decades, Mondrian and his family, and thousands of other refugees driven from their homes in this Civil War, were subjected to deprivation and barbarism. Those who survived, only survived because of chance Those We Throw Away Are Diamonds: A Refugee's Search for Home, Mondiant Dogon, with Jenna Krajeski, authors; Dominic Hoffman, narrator The author is a “Bagogwe Tutsi, born in the Democratic Republic of Congo.” This book is his story. It is a heartbreaking tale of tragedy and treachery. For two decades, Mondrian and his family, and thousands of other refugees driven from their homes in this Civil War, were subjected to deprivation and barbarism. Those who survived, only survived because of chance and/or miracles. How he survived to become so successful and ambitious is miraculous if anything. He is motivated now, completely by his desire to help those who were less fortunate than he was and who were unable to escape the life he left behind An enemy because he was a refugee in Rwanda, he soon became a traitor to those he left behind in Rwanda because they remained refugees without hope. His tortured life began when he was just three years old, while living in the Congo, his first horrible memories of brutality began on the day that a Hutu neighbor and friend warned his father to run. The Hutus were coming to kill anyone that was a Tutsi. The why and the how are explained by the author, and the fact that this hatred and these attacks went on for decades is unexplainable to those that have no way to understand their culture and poverty. The fact that most of his family survived defies reality after their story is told. After the neighbor left, they quickly packed what they could carry, including Mondrian’s infant sister. They ran and ran. Over and over, they thought they reached safety, only to be run out of their homes again. On this nightmare journey, his little sister Patience succumbed to starvation, his “Aunt” Florence was brutally murdered, his uncle and others were beheaded, his father was beaten and imprisoned for being a Tutsi refugee, others were burned alive. Mondrian witnessed the murder of his relatives and young friends, for years, and he was unable to prevent any of it from happening. Impoverished, starving, always in danger, he still never gave up hope of getting back to his homeland, even after, alone at 12 years old, he felt it necessary to join the rebels as a child soldier in order to survive. He was called abusive names by his classmates, when he managed to go to school, because he was a refugee in rags, and was considered to be no better than a cockroach”. Often the members of his family was separated as one or another member searched for food, ran in a different direction, or tried to find a safe haven to rest. During the two decades his mother gave birth to more children, and eventually, they felt safe in a refugee camp, though not always together. Sometimes they were surprised to find someone alive. Mondrian lived in a refugee camp in Rwanda for twenty years, always hoping to soon return to his in the Congo. Stateless, without papers, he was unable to get aid and patiently worked the system so he could, at least, get an education. Promise after promise was broken and the refugees were abandoned, although the United Nations Refugee Agenc, the UNHCR, did what it could, but it was never enough. No matter the nightmare, Mondrian, rarely gave up hope which is why he thinks he was eventually able to escape, although he realizes that it was also good fortune and the kindness of others, the fortune and kindness not available to others. After years of trying, he finally graduated from high school. He was very proud. He also enrolled in College and eventually also graduated, as well. When an offer came from a benefactor in America, to complete his education with a Master’s Degree, he immediately agreed, aghast by his good fortune but so very grateful. The book tells the story of his journey to America, his startup non-profit business, Seeds of Hope, and his singular desire to help those of his country less fortunate than he is. While the story is really powerful, and it will not fail to touch your heart and shock your mind, it is in need of some heavy editing because it is extremely repetitious. The title is from a poem written by the author which stresses the fact that where you come from does not determine your worth, who you are and what you achieve are the more important factors. He inspires hope.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Mirissa Sorensen

    This is such an important Own Voices story, and a perspective that I haven’t read before. Usually when we talk about the genocide of Tutsis, we read about Rwanda—and that itself is usually from a third-party perspective with several tragic anecdotes. I had no idea that the violence spilled over into Congo and continues to this day. I had no idea that there were still refugee camps. By sharing his story, Mondiant made me aware of that. I particularly liked this quote: “My father can sound defensiv This is such an important Own Voices story, and a perspective that I haven’t read before. Usually when we talk about the genocide of Tutsis, we read about Rwanda—and that itself is usually from a third-party perspective with several tragic anecdotes. I had no idea that the violence spilled over into Congo and continues to this day. I had no idea that there were still refugee camps. By sharing his story, Mondiant made me aware of that. I particularly liked this quote: “My father can sound defensive when he’s talking to people who assume that because our life in Congo was simple, it was full of hardship, and that we must have become refugees because we no longer wanted to live where we were born…he wants you to know that being a refugee is a relief in the way that setting a broken bone is a relief. Once your leg is healed, you want to run again.” I think it perfectly encapsulates the way a lot of us feel about refugees, like survival and food is some big prize that everyone wants. We are these saviors bestowing life upon these people. But the right to life, to belonging, to working and thriving is not a gift for us to give. This book effectively shows that. I do feel that the book was very episodic. It read a lot like a list of deep, horrific traumas. By the end, I was pretty numb to a lot of it. Once you read about children being murdered and families being hacked by machetes, bullying and name calling in school seems not so bad when that was not how I should’ve been feeling. There’s also a lot of present-day information sprinkled into the entire story, which left me a bit confused at times. I’m not sure how Mondiant’s family ended up in the US, for example, but I know they’re there because it’s mentioned.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Robert Baumann

    I feel so blessed to have encountered this memoir from the North Kivu region of the DRC (Democratic Republic of the Congo). It completely altered my understanding of the African/European colonial legacy. The memoir: "Those we Throw Away Are Diamonds" tells of the Bagogwe people, a culture rich in tradition and political history. This group was unfortunately deeply impacted by the events of the Rwandan genocide. In many places we seldom hear about, the wars have not ended and families are still in I feel so blessed to have encountered this memoir from the North Kivu region of the DRC (Democratic Republic of the Congo). It completely altered my understanding of the African/European colonial legacy. The memoir: "Those we Throw Away Are Diamonds" tells of the Bagogwe people, a culture rich in tradition and political history. This group was unfortunately deeply impacted by the events of the Rwandan genocide. In many places we seldom hear about, the wars have not ended and families are still in peril. Many of you have likely heard of the Rwandan genocide; unfortunately, more than just echoes of those catastrophic times live on in the struggles of displaced families from the Congo. Author and activist Mondiant Dogon started a foundation to support families like his own, helping them secure an education from within their refugee camps. I highly encourage everyone to read his inspiring journey!

  11. 4 out of 5

    Jessica

    "Refugees are usually written about. Our lives are evidence of the human toll of war or famine or prejudice or climate change...We rarely get to tell our own stories" "It wasn't until I arrived at NYU that I realized how most people my age looked at the world, not as a heavy door to pound on until it opened, but as a gift waiting to be unwrapped, full of possibility." This was such a tough read, especially as a parent, but so important. I imagined my 5 year old experiencing what Mondiant did at th "Refugees are usually written about. Our lives are evidence of the human toll of war or famine or prejudice or climate change...We rarely get to tell our own stories" "It wasn't until I arrived at NYU that I realized how most people my age looked at the world, not as a heavy door to pound on until it opened, but as a gift waiting to be unwrapped, full of possibility." This was such a tough read, especially as a parent, but so important. I imagined my 5 year old experiencing what Mondiant did at that age and was breathless. We are fed so many news stories about refugees and they are used as political fodder but rarely in humane ways. As he says himself, Mondiant has a happy ending (middle, really) to a story that at times was so horrible but there is so much work to do for those who do not get to live his ending or who still have the possibility, if people listen.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Jan

    What was it like to be a Tutsi refugee in Rwanda? It meant losing your cultural past, watching people you knew and loved die of starvation or beheading, being hunted like beasts (even in the refugee camps), and having your childhood stolen from you by violence. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) set up camps and schools and did the best they could under impossible situations. The author makes the point that all refugees from any country suffer from the terrible loss of ide What was it like to be a Tutsi refugee in Rwanda? It meant losing your cultural past, watching people you knew and loved die of starvation or beheading, being hunted like beasts (even in the refugee camps), and having your childhood stolen from you by violence. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) set up camps and schools and did the best they could under impossible situations. The author makes the point that all refugees from any country suffer from the terrible loss of identity and without any kind of citizenship are unable to get passports and are so very limited in life. This is a terrible wake-up call to the rest of us but is movingly writted and needs to be read by the many. I requested and received a free ebook copy from PENGUIN GROUP/ The Penguin Press via NetGalley. Thank you.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Kathleen Mckeown

    What an amazing life story! And he is only 28! Mondiant’s life as a refugee shows the capacity of the human spirit (his, his family members and the many good people that enter his life) to endure and to still do good but it also tells of an utter cruelty and terrible violence wrought against a group of people for what they looked like and the name they represented. That Mondiant not only survived but surpassed all expectations is a testament to his own strength and to that of his whole family.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Priscila Patatas

    This ARC was offered in exchange of an honest and impartial review: • 4* Pros: Soul-crushing realistic portrait of life in the refugee camps around the world, particularly in Rwanda. Talks about the wars and conflicts of Congo, of life under contact threat, full of violence, blood and horrors. Delves deep into the reaches human beings will go just to survive. Important notes on trauma, desensitisation, grief, displacement and overall utter hopelessness. . Cons: Often repetitive, describing the same i This ARC was offered in exchange of an honest and impartial review: • 4* Pros: Soul-crushing realistic portrait of life in the refugee camps around the world, particularly in Rwanda. Talks about the wars and conflicts of Congo, of life under contact threat, full of violence, blood and horrors. Delves deep into the reaches human beings will go just to survive. Important notes on trauma, desensitisation, grief, displacement and overall utter hopelessness. . Cons: Often repetitive, describing the same information multiple times. Incoherent timeline, often leading to confusion.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Katie

    Absolutely incredible. This is so well-written. He does an excellent job of leading the reader through his life, providing details needed for understanding without being grotesque, which is so impressive considering he experienced so many horribly grotesque things. He speaks of everything in such a respectful manner, despite so many treating him and his people with such disrespect and awfulness. This author is a true hero and his story needs to be heard by the world.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Jeannette

    The horrors that people can endure are astounding. The horrors that people are forced to endure, even children, are staggering. Mondiant describes his life and that of his family as Congo Tutsi refugees forced to live in dismal camps in Rwanda for more than 20 years. He describes the killings, starvation and threat of death that forced him to become a child soldier. What is most remarkable is his determination to get an education -- despite so many obstacles.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Zoë

    This is an education, a sad recounting of lives lost, an indictment of the UNHCR, several countries' governments and the lack of global response to our human community. As tough as it was to hear these bleak stories of refugees and camps it needs to be told, and unfortunately retold until we get the message loud and clear and respond. This is an education, a sad recounting of lives lost, an indictment of the UNHCR, several countries' governments and the lack of global response to our human community. As tough as it was to hear these bleak stories of refugees and camps it needs to be told, and unfortunately retold until we get the message loud and clear and respond.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Lydia Wallace

    Everyone should read this book. Very well written. Mondiant Dogon only five years old experienced a horrible live as a refugee. A very powerful and devastating book. This author actually experienced this life and you can imagine what he went through as you read this book. A must read.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Mary

    This is an amazing journey. I’ve never been more impressed by a man's want for education. His tale is an incredibly comprehensive illustration of numerous aspects of the Congolese refugee struggles. His travels place him among several of the most nationally known massacres at these camps among many other dangers outside of the camps. He was a small child at the start of the refugee camps. He attended several schools in both countries before he was a teen, including when circumstances caused him This is an amazing journey. I’ve never been more impressed by a man's want for education. His tale is an incredibly comprehensive illustration of numerous aspects of the Congolese refugee struggles. His travels place him among several of the most nationally known massacres at these camps among many other dangers outside of the camps. He was a small child at the start of the refugee camps. He attended several schools in both countries before he was a teen, including when circumstances caused him to fend for himself. & he still lived in adulthood at the final camp his family had been taken to before a program found him & promoted his access to a sponsor for a graduate degree in the states.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Leia

    A stunning story of survival and a reminder that there is so much work left to do.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Avi

    Required reading

  22. 5 out of 5

    Liz Hatcher

    Amazing book!!!!!! What a journey for Mondiant! An eye opening story! Highly recommend this book.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Jill Lucas

    This memoir was absolutely magnificent and unforgettable.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Linda Shaw

    This is a powerful book. Any adjectives I'd use seem meaningless after reading Mondiant's story. Keep telling the stories. This is a powerful book. Any adjectives I'd use seem meaningless after reading Mondiant's story. Keep telling the stories.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Kim

    Love love love. Stay for the epilogue and the photos. Amazing.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Braden

  27. 4 out of 5

    Steven Schlossman

  28. 5 out of 5

    Jess

  29. 5 out of 5

    Ana Shifaa

  30. 4 out of 5

    Ximena

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