Tuhabonye, Gilbert 1974-
Tuhabonye, Gilbert 1974-
Born November 22, 1974, in Bujumbura, Songa, Burundi; immigrated to the United States; married; wife's name Triphine; children: Emma, Grace. Ethnicity: Tutsi Education: Attended college in GA; graduated from Abilene Christian University. Religion: Catholic.
Home—Austin, TX. E-mail—[email protected]
Run Tex, Austin, TX, running coach.
National Track Champion of Burundi in 400 and 800 meter; six-time All-American track star, Abilene Christian University; Lonestar Conference Champion, 1500 meters, 1999.
(With Gary Brozek) This Voice in My Heart: A Genocide Survivor's Story of Escape, Faith, and Forgiveness (autobiography), Amistad (New York, NY), 2006.
Gilbert Tuhabonye, who was born in Bujumbura, Burundi, in east central Africa, is a member of the Tutsi, one of two local tribes that live in the region. His family were farmers, and they raised potatoes, peas, corn, and beans, as well as keeping cows for milk. Tuhabonye loved to run from a young age, often racing the five miles to his school or just among his friends. He was sent away to boarding school in Kibimba when he was old enough for middle school, and it was there he began to run on a competitive level. As a freshman, he won an eight-kilometer race. The following year, he was taught proper running technique, and his speed increased, causing his coach to encourage him to aim for the Olympics. As an eleventh-grader, Tuhabonye became the Burundi national champion in both the 400-and 800-meter races, and it looked likely that he would achieve his ambition of earning a running scholarship to a university in the United States. However, on October 21, 1993, war broke out between the Tutsi and Hutu tribes, an escalation of an age-old animosity. The Hutu students, parents, and teachers affiliated with Tuhabonye's school forced the Tutsi teachers and students to gather in a classroom, where they beat them and then set fire to the room. Gilbert spent nine hours in the room, as his friends and teachers perished around him, and he himself struggled to keep from burning to death. Ultimately, he was forced to use the bone of one of his classmates to break through a window and escape. Still not safe, Tuhabonye relied on his skills as a runner to flee for his life.
Tuhabonye survived his ordeal, and immigrated to the United States. He attended college in Georgia on a track scholarship, and was eventually recruited by Abilene Christian University. He continues to run, competing in races of varying lengths, and also coaches other young runners. He lives in Austin, Texas, with his wife and two daughters, where he founded Gilbert's Gazelles, his running group associated with Run Tex. In addition, Tuhabonye has written about his experiences as the survivor of a genocide in This Voice in My Heart: A Genocide Survivor's Story of Escape, Faith, and Forgiveness, recounting how his faith and his drive enabled him to overcome the trauma of the experience and go on with his life. A contributor for Kirkus Reviews wrote: "The only element his moving book lacks is a sustained analysis of the Hutu- Tutsi struggles and Burundi's political landscape, which would have given it broader appeal." Writing for University of Oregon's Etude Online, Rita Radostitz remarked that the book "has a rhythm, a pace, a melody, which draws you in." A contributor for Publishers Weekly found Tuhabonye's effort to be an "inspirational autobiography woven with a gruesome eyewitness account."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Tuhabonye, Gilbert This Voice in My Heart: A Genocide Survivor's Story of Escape, Faith, and Forgiveness, Amistad (New York, NY), 2006.
Kirkus Reviews, March 15, 2006, review of This Voice in My Heart, p. 283.
Library Journal, May 15, 2006, James Thorsen, review of This Voice in My Heart, p. 115.
Publishers Weekly, March 6, 2006, review of This Voice in My Heart, p. 62.
Texas Monthly, August, 2003, Michael Hall, "Ten Years Ago, before He Came to Texas and Established Himself As a World-Class Marathoner, Gilbert Tuhabonye Cheated Death at the Hands of Tribal Warriors by Running for His Life," p. 78.
About Running,http://running.about.com/ (November 16, 2006), author biography.
Austin Chronicle Online,http://www.austinchronicle.com/ (November 16, 2006), Rita Radostitz, author interviews.
Dallas Morning News Online,http://www.dallasnews.com/ (December 12, 2004), Milenko Martinovich, "A Happy Ending for Half Marathon Winner: Graytock Puts Troubled Year behind with Victory in Half Marathon."
Denver Post Online,http://www.denverpost.com/ (November 16, 2006), Anthony Cotton, author interview.
Gilbert's Gazelles Web site,http://www.gilbertsgazelles.com (November 16, 2006).
Today's Catholic,http://www.satodayscatholic.com/ (November 16, 2006), Carol Sowa, "Tale of Escape from Genocide One of Faith and Forgiveness for Burundi Refugee."
University of Oregon's Etude Online,http://etude.uoregon.edu/ (November 16, 2006), Rita Radostitz, review of This Voice in My Heart.