The Girl Who Smiled Beads by Clemantine Wamariya
A Story of War and What Comes After

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The passages on war here are vague, a litany of violence and despair presented without context or explanation. Yet Wamariya is piercing about her alienation in America and her effort to combat the perception that she is an exotic figure, to be pitied or dismissed.
-NY Times

Synopsis

“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.
 

About Clemantine Wamariya

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Published April 24, 2018 by Crown. 281 pages
Genres: Biographies & Memoirs, Political & Social Sciences, History, War. Non-fiction
Bestseller Status:
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Peak Rank on May 13 2018
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Weeks as Bestseller
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Critic reviews for The Girl Who Smiled Beads
All: 2 | Positive: 2 | Negative: 0

Star Tribune

Good
Reviewed by Laurie Hertzel on Jul 06 2018

Memoirs by immigrants and refugees are growing in number; they are important stories that need to be told, and told in the kind of bug-and-mud-and-dysentery detail that Wamariya’s is told.

Read Full Review of The Girl Who Smiled Beads: A ... | See more reviews from Star Tribune

NY Times

Above average
Reviewed by Alexis Okeowo on May 07 2018

The passages on war here are vague, a litany of violence and despair presented without context or explanation. Yet Wamariya is piercing about her alienation in America and her effort to combat the perception that she is an exotic figure, to be pitied or dismissed.

Read Full Review of The Girl Who Smiled Beads: A ... | See more reviews from NY Times

Reader Rating for The Girl Who Smiled Beads
91%

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