Paul Rusesabagina has never considered himself a hero or an activist, even though his actions saved the lives of more than a thousand people. He was the manager of the Hotel Mille Collines in Rwanda that sheltered members of the Tutsi clan and Hutu sympathizers in the middle of horrific slaughter. His exploits were dramatized by Don Cheadle in the film Hotel Rwanda, but Rusesabagina's new autobiography An Ordinary Man (written with Tom Zoellner) shows that the movie only scratched the surface in depicting the magnitude of the carnage and the impact it had on his life and family. Rusesabagina, the son of a Hutu father and Tutsi mother, grew up on a small farm. He overcame numerous obstacles to become the first Rwandan general manager of the luxurious Mille Collines. Rusesabagina developed relationships and friendships even among those who considered him inferior. He also turned the hotel into one of Africa's most profitable institutions.
Then the genocide began, and Rusesabagina used diplomacy, bribery and deception to shelter almost 1,200 Tutsis and Hutu moderates while mobs raced through the city. He describes in sobering detail the spectacle of seeing friends hacked to death, and his words underscore the frustration and helplessness he felt while his pleas for aid were ignored or unheeded. He survived 100 days in this captivity before order was restored. Sadly, Rusesabagina and his family can no longer emotionally abide living in his homeland and have relocated to Belgium.
An Ordinary Man is an extraordinary tale of heroism and sacrifice, told in steady, unrelenting and often self-deprecating fashion. It's clear that Rusesabagina will never forget the atrocities he witnessed, nor completely forgive the West for its inaction. But rather than engage in bitterness, he uses the book's final section to fervently insist that the world never again ignore genocide in any nation or on any continent. Ron Wynn writes for the Nashville City Paper and other publications.