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Poetry African

100 Days

by (author) Juliane Okot Bitek

foreword by Cecily Nicholson

The University of Alberta Press
Initial publish date
Jan 2016
African, Canadian, Women Authors
  • Paperback / softback

    Publish Date
    Jan 2016
    List Price
  • eBook

    Publish Date
    Mar 2016
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100 days... 100 days that should not have been... 100 days the world could have stopped. But did not.

For 100 days, Juliane Okot Bitek recorded the lingering nightmare of the Rwandan genocide in a poem—each poem recalling the senseless loss of life and of innocence. Okot Bitek draws on her own family's experience of displacement under the regime of Idi Amin, pulling in fragments of the poetic traditions she encounters along the way: the Ugandan Acholi oral tradition of her father—the poet Okot p'Bitek; Anglican hymns; the rhythms and sounds of the African American Spiritual tradition; and the beat of spoken word and hip-hop. 100 Days is a collection of poetry that will stop you in your tracks.

It was the earth that betrayed us first

it was the earth that held onto its beauty
compelling us to return


it was the breezes that were there
& then not there


it was the sun that rose & fell
rose & fell


as if there was nothing different
as if nothing changed

About the authors

Writer Juliane Okot Bitek is a PhD Candidate with the University of British Columbia’s Liu Institute for Global Issues in Vancouver. Some of her essays and creative writing can be found at Okot Bitek has never stopped exploring the power of narrative, focusing her passionate essays, poetry and nonfiction work on political and social issues. Her work has been anthologized and published widely on-line, in print and in literary magazines such as Arc, Whetstone, Fugue, and Room of One’s Own. In 2004, her short story Going Home won the Commonwealth Short Story Contest, and was featured on the BBC and CBC; her essay, War No More, won first prize in the post-secondary essay competition in 2005. Another essay, On Iris Chang’s Rape of Nanking, won a special mention in 2006 and is included in an anthology of winning essays from that year. In 2007, Juliane received a Canada Council grant which supported her writing a collection of non-fiction. Juliane Okot Bitek holds a Master’s Degree in English and a BFA in Creative Writing, and is currently a PhD student in the Interdisciplinary Students Graduate Program at the University of British Columbia’s Liu Institute for Global Issues. Her doctoral research focuses on post-conflict narratives of formerly abducted women in northern Uganda. Along with northern Ugandan women’s advocate Grace Acan, she recently co-authored the book Stories from the Dry Season. Juliane has been an invited poet at the International Poetry Festivals of Medellin, Colombia (2008) and Granada, Nicaragua (2009). She continues to write and speak about issues of home, homeland and diaspora.

Juliane Okot Bitek's profile page

Cecily Nicholson
Cecily Nicholson has worked with women of the downtown eastside community of Vancouver for the past ten years and is currently the Coordinator of Funds with the Downtown Eastside Women’s Centre. She has collaborated most recently as a member of the VIVO Media Arts collective, the Press Release poetry collective and the No One is Illegal, Vancouver collective. Triage is her first book.

Cecily Nicholson's profile page


  • Short-listed, Alberta Book Awards, Robert Kroetsch Award for Poetry
  • Short-listed, Pat Lowther Award (The League of Canadian Poets)
  • Short-listed, Dorothy Livesay Poetry Prize (BC Book Prizes)
  • Short-listed, Canadian Authors Award for Poetry (Canadian Authors Association)
  • Winner, Glenna Luschei Prize for African Poetry
  • Winner, INDIEFAB Book of the Year Awards (Poetry)
  • Winner, AAUP Book, Jacket & Journal Show, Book – Jackets & Covers
  • Winner, AAUP Book, Jacket & Journal Show, Book – Poetry and Literature

Editorial Reviews

"Juliane Okot Bitek is a memory keeper, and the memories she wishes to preserve in her majestic collection of poetry, "100 Days", are of the collapse of the imagination that was the 1994 Rwandan genocide.... What makes this collection such a pleasure to read is that it’s laced with moments of such grace that you have to pause and re-read the lines again in order to reflect upon each phrase.... "100 Days” is a masterpiece of uncommon splendour and Juliane Okot Bitek is a virtuoso performing at the height of her powers." [Full review at]

Huffington Post

"Speaking of and to humanity in raw, beautiful, moving words and rhythms about immense pain, the tragedy of what can be lost, including humanity itself, 100 Days appeals to the sapient, sentient, social side of human nature.... [I]f you want to be more human in the best sense, read this book. Think about it. Feel it. As a matter of urgency." [Full review at]


'"In 100 days, Juliane Okot Bitek recorded the lingering nightmare of the Rwandan genocide..." []

“Bitek’s absolutely-must-read 100 Days [is] an astonishing debut poetry collection…. Pieces are stark and plangent with simple concrete imagery and sensory detail…. A first-person narrator, sometimes plural, adopts varying roles of spouse, parent, sibling, witness, survivor, interrogator, with each story sadder and more haunting than the next…. Will moving backward from “Day 100” (disturbing) bring closure or a sense of a beginning? The book furthers the sense of relentlessness never-ending, one day as horror-filled as the one before or the next…. While specific, the book’s range is far-reaching. The simple image of the cut flowers at commemoration, ‘all dead from the moment they were cut . . . just like the children,’ haunts.”

Canadian Literature

"The 'Hundred Days' from April to July 1994 witnessed one of the great genocides of the twentieth century and all while the world looked on and did nothing..... The poetry of Juliane Okot Bitek takes you through its villages and churches and lost innocence, relationships where time was measured out in machete strokes and words that made light of indifference and nothing to tie it to but days and the chattering of birds and bayonet sticks and the awful brutality of it all. There are no epiphanies here, no wise men to make sense of it, no Christian sacrifice or saviours, only the memories and a poet who wrote them out for one hundred days lest we forget." Full post at

"In 100 Days, poet Juliane Okot Bitek set out to memorialize the tragedy of the Rwandan genocide, but the witnessing force of these brief, incantatory poems ripples outward to figuratively encompass multiple histories of violence and brutality, including the terror her own family and countless others faced under Idi Amin’s regime in Uganda. The lyric beauty, intertextual depth, and metonymic power of Okot Bitek’s poetry underscores the capacities of of art and language to cast light into the darkest corners of our human experience, and bridge the gulfs that lie between us.” John Keene, Award-winning writer and scholar [Full release at]

John Keene

"Bitek’s absolutely-must-read 100 Days, [is] an astonishing debut poetry collection.... Pieces are stark and plangent with simple concrete imagery and sensory detail.... The book furthers the sense of relentlessness never-ending, one day as horror-filled as the one before or the next. The University of Alberta Press has produced a tall, beautiful book.... While specific, the book’s range is far-reaching." Canadian Literature, Spring/Summer 2016 [Full review at]

Canadian Literature

"Juliane Okot Bitek's poetry tells it like it is no matter how difficult these truths may be to absorb. In 100 Days Bitek holds you in place by the shoulders and paints a vivid picture of genocide, terror, and yet does so through hymn, music, and rhythm." [Full article at]

Chelene Knight

"The poems... engage traumatised personal memory, suspect the objectivity of official discourse and explore the complications involved in forging a new future. This collection, therefore, does not only add to the ever-growing library of contemporary African poetry, but it does so in ways that will further the postcolonial conversations around nationhood, security and interethnic conflicts as they cross paths with ideas of autochthony, place, displacement and ecological interests in twenty-first century Africa." [Full review at] 

Transnational Literature

"[H]ow could an event so terrible birth a myriad of powerful words so beautiful in their execution... 100 Days is a deserving tribute to a time when humanity forgot what it meant to be human. Reading the poetry collection is a humbling experience." [Full review at]


Bitek’s poems are fierce, directly straightforward and unrelenting, composing her poems in an unadorned manner that increase in tension through the accumulation.... Part of what makes the collection so engaging is in the way she focuses on intimate spaces and details, refusing to utilize the form for a simple re-telling of history (which, frustratingly, so many poets tend to do) but engaging the smaller moments. The witness here is personal and deeply felt, even when she writes on large abstracts, proclaiming in broad gestures, exploring through the lyric a human tragedy so brutal and extensive that it becomes unfathomable." [Full post at]

rob mclennan

"Bitek’s ability to connect with the beauty and pain of human suffering seems supernatural, this ability to give voice to those who seem to have no voices. Bitek wrote this book with her blood and it shows.... Bitek is a gifted seer, she sees tomorrow with a sweet but earthy, guttural voice, voice of the masquerade.... [Bitek] takes the reader to places in the heart that the writer never intended or imagined. That is powerful, how she makes 100 Days a deeply personal journey to each reader." [Full post at]

Reading and Writing... Loudly,

"As the poems work themselves back to the origin of the first day, time confuses itself, is misrecognized.... Given the subject of "100 Days"—the Rwandan Genocide—history’s unreliability questions memory’s ability, as Okot Bitek explores the stakes of storytelling, witnessing, and claims of innocence. Memory elaborates its own confusion, weaving among the personal past, the intimate present, collective recollection, and human responsibility." Jami Macarty & Nicholas Hauck, The Maynard, Full review at

The Maynard

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