Roma Deli + the Rwandan Genocide (Book Review)

Last night, the Las Vegas Non-Fiction Book Group met at Roma Deli to discuss the book We Wish to Inform You That Tomorrow We Will be Killed With Our Families: Stories from Rwanda.

Although I live just down the street from the Roma Deli, I’d never previously been there. This casual restaurant/deli/small Italian grocery store lies in a non-descript strip mall near Spring Mountain & Jones. I had probably driven past it over 100 times, but had not taken notice until the book group decided to meet there. I am glad that they did.

The restaurant serves up both standard and unique pasta dishes and several dozen Italian specialties with a Sicilian flair. Their extensive wine list includes around 50 Italian wines and a handful of American ones, ranging in price from $20 to $599 per bottle. I chose a glass of the Ruffiano Chianti, which I thought was well-priced at $8 per glass.

For my main dish, I decided on the Linguine alle Vongole — pasta served with about a dozen fresh clams and tossed in a red sauce. It must have been delicious because I ate every bite of it. The dessert and coffee menu looked great too — especially the chocolate fudgecake — but I decided not to indulge.

The staff were friendly and the service efficient. It took only about 15 minutes to receive our food from the time we ordered. I would definitely come back here again, but maybe next time for lunch. The lunch menu is distinctly different from the dinner menu — with a focus on sandwiches, salads and soups — although there didn’t seem to be too many vegetarian options.

During dinner we discussed Philip Gourevitch’s award-winning 1998 book We Wish to Inform Your That Tomorrow We Will be Killed With Our Families: Stories from Rwanda.

This book about the 1994 Rwanda genocide gets its name from a letter that  seven Tutsi pastors sent to a Hutu colleague, Pastor Ntakirutimana,  in the midst of the ethnic killings. In this formal letter, the pastors continue (page 42):

We therefore request you to intervene on our behalf…We believe that, with the help of God who entrusted you the leadership of this flock, which is going to be destroyed, your intervention will be highly appreciated, the same way as the Jews were saved by Esther.

Instead of intervening, Pastor Ntakirutimana fled to Zaire and then to the United States, and the seven Tutsi pastors were killed.

From the opening of the book, I learned that the true meaning of the word decimation is “the killing of every tenth person in a population,” which is exactly what happened over a 100 day period in Rwanda in 1994. While the rate of killing was three times that of Jewish killed during the Holocaust and “the most efficient mass killing since the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki” (page 3), the leaders of the world largely remained silent and inactive during this time. In his book, Gourevitch sought to find out why.

The author interviewed some pretty powerful people throughout the course of his research: Paul Rusesabagina (whose heroics were made famous in the movie Hotel Rwanda), Ugandan President Yoweri Musevani and General Paul Kagame, who has gone on to become the current President of Rwanda. This book was clearly well-researched, however sometimes the amount of data and historical background is a bit overwhelming. While the subject matter is important, it is hard to digest.

Claire, who heads our book group, also recently read and recommended Paul Rusesabagina’s autobiography An Ordinary Man. It’s over 100 pages shorter than Philip Gourevitch’s book, and if you’re looking for a first person account from a survivor of the genocide, it may be worth a read.

Roma Deli on Urbanspoon

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2 Responses to Roma Deli + the Rwandan Genocide (Book Review)

  1. I commend you, Becky, and your book club for your willingness to immerse yourselves in such a horrifying bit of history. I was horrified just reading your review. I had no idea the Rwanda genocide was so much larger than the Holocaust, and we barely heard about it. Did the author have any suggestions for what we, in our little corner of the world, could do about it?

    On a happier note, the Linguine alle Vongole sounds delish!

  2. Old Geezer says:

    Coupons for the Roma Deli, buy one entree get 50% off a second entree, can be found occaisionally in the local newspaper. It sounds as though this restaurant may be worth a try, especially since I live less than three miles from it.

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