Friday, October 2, 2015

Stay Strong: A Musician's Journey from Congo

There couldn't be a more relevant time to read Stay Strong: A Musician's Journey from Congo, with refugee issues taking the front stage each day in the news. And this is exactly what occurred to me when I was asked by the publisher to read and review Natalie Hyde's latest book.

Debuting under Clockwise Press' new nonfiction Arrivals* series, Stay Strong tells a story that we all need to hear.

Growing up, Gentil Misigaro only knew the world as a place of loss, fear, and death. For fifteen years he and his family moved from country to country to escape the violence, but it followed them from their village in Congo to Rwanda and then to Uganda. Through it all Gentil found strength and hope in music. When his family got the news that they had finally found a new home in Canada, Gentil saw his music as a powerful force that could bring positive change to his new homeland and to the world. (from the publisher)

Natalie Hyde does an excellent job of detailing the terror that was experienced and witnessed by Gentil and his family without resorting to graphic descriptions. The reader is consumed by the extreme fear that ruled the lives of the Misigaros for over 15 years.  They were "never free from fear".  I was struck by the passage of time - life continued despite the lack of a permanent home or the continuation of violence and uncertainty. And yet, remarkably, Gentil continued to have hope. I'm not sure I could have done the same.

Upon learning that they had been accepted as refugees to Canada, Gentil "felt as though they had won the lottery".  But his story does not end there. The theme of music, which is woven throughout Stay Strong, helps Gentil adapt to his strange new home, and then to become a valuable contributor to his community.

Stay Strong is an enlightening read. It is an uplifting read. And it is an important read. Young people should be challenged by this book to be grateful for the peace and security that most have been afforded, and to search for a way that we can all make our world a better place to live.

Stay Strong: a Musician's Journey from Congo by Natalie Hyde. Clockwise Press, 2015.
ISBN: 9780993935121
Ages 12+
Set in dyslexia-friendly font. Includes Timeline, Resources, How Kids Can Help

*Arrivals is a narrative non-fiction series featuring the life stories of inspiring immigrants and refugees from all over the world who have come to Canada to find a better life. In return they have made valuable contributions to their new home and have been positive influences in their communities.

I would like to thank Solange from Clockwise Press for the copy of Stay Strong that she provided to me in return for an honest review. This copy will find a new home in my school library where it will be shared with young Canadians who I'm sure will be interested in hearing Gentil's story.


  1. Wow, this sounds so moving and enlightening! I love the idea of Arrivals - what a positive and timely contribution to literature. The line "they were never free from fear", yet life still went on, really resonated with me. Excellent review!

    I'm curious though, what is dyslexia-friendly font?

    1. Thank you so much. Yes, the whole series is certainly timely. The font used is called OpenDyslexic and from what I understand it is more easily grasped by people suffering from dyslexia. It has to do with letters appearing more as they appear in a hand-printed format. it is very easy on the eyes.


I would love to hear your story!