Girl Who Smiled Beads: A Story of War and What Comes After, The

Clemantine Wamariya, Elizabeth Weil
“The plot provided by the universe was filled with starvation, war and rape. I would not—could not—live in that tale.”   Clemantine Wamariya was six years old when her mother and father began to speak in whispers, when neighbors began to disappear, and when she heard the loud, ugly sounds her brother said were thunder. In 1994, she and her fifteen-year-old sister, Claire, fled the Rwandan massacre and spent the next six years migrating through seven African countries, searching for safety—perpetually hungry, imprisoned and abused, enduring and escaping refugee camps, finding unexpected kindness, witnessing inhuman cruelty. They did not know whether their parents were dead or alive.   When Clemantine was twelve, she and her sister were granted refugee status in the United States; there, in Chicago, their lives diverged. Though their bond remained unbreakable, Claire, who had for so long protected and provided for Clemantine, was a single mother struggling to make ends meet, while Clemantine was taken in by a family who raised her as their own. She seemed to live the American dream: attending private school, taking up cheerleading, and, ultimately, graduating from Yale. Yet the years of being treated as less than human, of going hungry and seeing death, could not be erased. She felt at the same time six years old and one hundred years old.   In The Girl Who Smiled Beads, Clemantine provokes us to look beyond the label of “victim” and recognize the power of the imagination to transcend even the most profound injuries and aftershocks. Devastating yet beautiful, and bracingly original, it is a powerful testament to her commitment to constructing a life on her own terms.

Reviews

Reviewed: 2018-07-30

This book was one of those difficult to read books, since Wamariya details her and her sister Claire's travels through war torn countries of Africa. But the language is beautiful. 

It was an interesting choice to read given what has been in the news recently. 

This is one of those books that I want people to read, but I also don't want to tell you too much of the story. I simply want you to enjoy the book as much as I have.

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