If the name Antoine Leiris sounds familiar, then you probably remember, or heard about, the powerful letter he shared on Facebook – the one he wrote days after losing his wife in the horrific November 2015 terrorist attack on the Bataclan Theatre in Paris. In that letter, he stated that he refused to give in to these terrorists by reciprocating their hatred. He refused to allow his infant son to be defined by that one act of hatred. He, like many other Parisians, decided to continue living his life refusing to give in to the terrorists’ goal of sowing division and hate in society – sending the message that love and happiness will always triumph over hate.
“You Will Not Have My Hate” feels like an expansion of that open letter Leiris posted on Facebook – the letter is its own chapter in the book. It’s Leiris’ train of thoughts during the days following Hélène’s murder – from him finding out about the attacks in Paris to attending her funeral. It’s his account of how he adjusts to being a widow and a single father to a 17-month-old. It’s a story of how a father and son endured after a mother’s murder – and a portrait to the love the family shares.
This book was not an enjoyable read in the traditional sense. To be honest, I don’t even know how to review this, or how to put my feelings about this book into words. It’s hard reading about somebody’s pain, especially when that pain is as raw as Antoine Leiris’. He wrote this book days after posting that open letter on Facebook – after seeing her body in the morgue. It was hard trying to even rate the book – it felt like I was rating someone’s diary. But I feel that this book is a must-read, which is why I gave it a 5+ rating. It’s raw, emotional, seriously moving, and extremely inspiring.
What I was most impressed with was that Antoine Leiris didn’t set out to become a hero. He doesn’t even see himself as a hero – he writes in his book that he’s lost and feels “dwarfed by his own words.” He’s just a guy trying to soldier on and continue living with his son after the terrifying attacks on his country and the loss of his beloved wife. Leiris didn’t know that his letter would go viral – he just wanted to share his feelings with his family and friends. This book was written because he needed to “disgorge all these words that live inside [his] head.” Yet, as a gentleman named Phillipe wrote to Leiris:
“You are the one who was hurt, and yet it is you who gives us courage.”
I honestly wish that we lived in a world where this book would never need to be written. It’s a memoir following France’s deadliest attack since World War II. It’s filled with feelings I’ve never felt – and hope to never feel. It’s an account of a man whose life simultaneously ended with his wife’s murder, yet continuing through his 17-month-old son. It’s also just absolutely beautifully written.
“You Will Not Have My Hate” is a must-read because it shares a message that must be heard. Hate should never define a person – which is why Leiris is not letting this attack define his son’s upbringing. It’s a reminder that we as humans, are stronger together, a reminder that these deadly attacks in Paris encouraged our nations to band together in the fight against ISIS. It’s a reminder that we should not give in to ISIS’ goals of division and fear – that we should combat that with blind love.
Thank you Antoine Leiris for having the courage to publish your memoir after writing it, and for reminding the world that hate should not rule us. And thank you to Sam Taylor, who did an extraordinary job translating this book.
To Buy or Not to Buy: BUY IT. BUY IT NOW. RIGHT NOW.
Extras: This passage from Chapter Four sums up [what I believe to be] the book’s message perfectly:
“We will never return to our life of before. But we will not build a life against them. We will move forward in our own life.”