The Girl Who Smiled Beads
A riveting story of dislocation, survival, and the power of stories to break or save us.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 wandering 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 asylum in the United States, where she embarked on another journey--to excavate her past and, after years of being made to feel less than human, claim her individuality.Raw, urgent, and bracingly original, The Girl Who Smiled Beads captures the true costs and aftershocks of war: what is forever destroyed; what can be repaired; the fragility of memory; the disorientation that comes of other people seeing you only as broken--thinking you need, and want, to be saved. But it is about more than the brutality of war. It is about owning your experiences, about the life we create: intricately detailed, painful, beautiful, a work in progress.

The Girl Who Smiled Beads Details

TitleThe Girl Who Smiled Beads
Author
LanguageEnglish
ReleaseApr 24th, 2018
PublisherDoubleday Canada
ISBN-139780385687003
Rating
GenreNonfiction, Autobiography, Memoir, Cultural, Africa, Biography

The Girl Who Smiled Beads Review

  • Angela M
    January 1, 1970
    4.5 stars . I read very few memoirs, but felt I should read this one after recently reading a novel about the Rwanda genocide which made me realize of how little I knew of it. In this book, we are exposed to it head on, with excruciating honesty . So many people killed but what about those who escaped? This book focuses on the story of one family, about how two young girls ran from the murderers and endured horrible conditions in refugee camps. Clementine at six years old is sent by her parents 4.5 stars . I read very few memoirs, but felt I should read this one after recently reading a novel about the Rwanda genocide which made me realize of how little I knew of it. In this book, we are exposed to it head on, with excruciating honesty . So many people killed but what about those who escaped? This book focuses on the story of one family, about how two young girls ran from the murderers and endured horrible conditions in refugee camps. Clementine at six years old is sent by her parents from her home with her older sister Claire to family in hopes of remaining safe . But the men appear there too and they must run. The narrative alternates between her present as a teenager in an American school and moving from one refugee camp to another, from one country to another until the sisters are granted asylum along with Claire’s husband and child. For me the format felt somewhat disjointed and the back and forth from present to past was confusing. However, it seems to illustrate how it was for her . “Often still, my own life story feels fragmented, like beads unstrung. Each time I scoop up my memories, the assortment is slightly different. I worry that I’ll forever be confused.” “My past receded, grew washed- out, jumbled and distorted. I could no longer discern what was real and what was fake. Everything, including the present, seemed to be both too much and nothing at all. Time, once again, refused to move in an orderly fashion...”This is difficult to read as Clemantine struggles to find a way to heal and move forward. That involves moving back to what happened. This is an impactful telling, depicting the refugee experience in ways that we may not think about. It’s easy to think how lucky they are, how lucky to be alive, giving not much thought perhaps to the trauma they have experienced, the displacement, the identity crises each one may experience, the loss of home and perhaps family.“The word genocide cannot tell you, cannot make you feel, the way I felt in Rwanda. The way I felt in Burundi. The way I wished to be invisible because I knew someone wanted me dead at a point in my life when I did not yet understand what death was...... “ I recommend you read this memoir to see the rest of what Clementine has written about genocide and see for yourself the strength that she embodies. I recommend it because while this is a story of this one person and her family, it provides much to think about - what happened in Rwanda and about what happened during the Holocaust and what is happening in places in the world today. I received an advanced copy of this book from Crown Publishing through NetGalley.
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  • Lola
    January 1, 1970
    ''Here's my story,'' I said. ''Use it now or later. When you need it, it'll be there for you. Maybe someday you'll be facing a challenge, and you'll think of my story. You'll think of Claire. You'll remember to put your ego in a bag and throw that bag away. You'll remember to be kind and generous and a better human.'' It’s hard to review this book, because this is not a book that was written to be reviewed.This written work, in itself, is a review. Clemantine is reflecting upon her past, presen ''Here's my story,'' I said. ''Use it now or later. When you need it, it'll be there for you. Maybe someday you'll be facing a challenge, and you'll think of my story. You'll think of Claire. You'll remember to put your ego in a bag and throw that bag away. You'll remember to be kind and generous and a better human.'' It’s hard to review this book, because this is not a book that was written to be reviewed.This written work, in itself, is a review. Clemantine is reflecting upon her past, present and future, but especially her past with her sister Claire. How does one review another person’s life?Normally, I have no problem discussing memoirs, and offering my thoughts on them, but I have not been through anything remotely similar to what Clemantine has been through.I have never lived through war. I was never a refugee. I am not black. I don’t know what it’s like to live estranged from my mom. I don’t know what it’s like not to have a home. I thought I did. When my family and I came to Canada, we stayed at our cousins’ house for a month, and I didn’t feel welcome. But that’s NOTHING compared to what Clemantine has been through.So I cannot comment upon her lived experiences, because I know that would be wrong. I have no right to do that. I have no right to tell her she should have done this or that differently, or offer my opinion on the war that ravaged her life when I don’t know enough about it to do so. But what I can do is tell you what this book has taught me. It has taught me that our educational system is flawed, because never has a high school History teacher told me that colonization is life-shattering. I learned that later on. Now, I don’t know if that’s because my History high school teachers were mainly men and white or maybe they weren’t allowed to use such strong and seemingly subjective terms, but I remember feeling very detached from and unconcerned about the concept of colonization. It has also taught me that the human species can get used to anything, and can also overcome anything. Just look at Claire, Clemantine’s sister. She started a dozen businesses, trying to survive, in a world where women are commodities—possessed, disrespected, raped. She never let herself believe that she is scum, even if many people gladly told her so. She persisted. She fought.In this memoir, Clemantine is sharing so much with us. Some of it is gruesome, some of it is nightmarish, and some of it is inspiring and beautiful.I have consumed this book. I have swallowed every word. I didn’t analyze, because the author does that for us, but I did consider and think and try to imagine. It was hard. It SHOULD be hard. If trying to imagine a child growing up in the midst of a war, and feeling the effects of it every second of the day, were easy, then we’d all be doomed. We SHOULD feel shocked, and sad, and impressed by these two sisters and welcome them in our hearts. I welcome them in mine. Blog | Youtube | Twitter | Instagram | Google+ | Bloglovin’
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  • Debbie
    January 1, 1970
    Socks officially knocked off!Best book I’ve read this year, hands down, and it goes on my all-time favorites list. Intense, upsetting, sobering, this story got under my skin in a big way. I can’t stop thinking about, I can’t stop talking about it.One day Clementine is playing happily with her siblings in the yard of her comfy and loving home in Rwanda, the next day she and her 15-year-old sister Claire are running for their lives. Chapter 1 opens with this: “When I was a regular child, I lived i Socks officially knocked off!Best book I’ve read this year, hands down, and it goes on my all-time favorites list. Intense, upsetting, sobering, this story got under my skin in a big way. I can’t stop thinking about, I can’t stop talking about it.One day Clementine is playing happily with her siblings in the yard of her comfy and loving home in Rwanda, the next day she and her 15-year-old sister Claire are running for their lives. Chapter 1 opens with this: “When I was a regular child, I lived in Kigali, Rwanda, and I was a precocious snoop.” A few pages later she says: “My days were filled with the indignations of being young and spoiled.”And then the war started. Her parents started whispering, and they snapped at the kids. Their happy faces now showed only worry. Her brother told Clementine that the gunfire was thunder, and she had no reason not to believe him. But she did know her life was changing: “You know those little pellets you drop in water that expand into huge sponges? My life was the opposite. Everything shrunk.”Once she and her sister started their escape, she said: “My thoughts and senses became jumbled. Time felt hot. Silence was dizzying. My fear was bright blue.” Stats: Their search for safety spanned six years and seven African countries. Just mind-boggling that they wandered so long and so far. They didn’t walk the whole way; they went by bus and by boat sometimes. At the beginning of the book, there’s a map. I must have stared at that thing 20 times. Yes, I became pretty obsessed with trying to imagine their journey, and I was incredulous that they had traveled so far. (I knew virtually nothing about which countries were where in Africa. Now I feel like I could not only name the countries in southeast Africa, but I could also put them on a map. This from a person who pretty much hates maps and confesses to being directionally impaired.) I kept trying to put myself in her shoes—walking a gazillion miles in the heat, fighting for food so she wouldn’t starve, living in deplorable refugee camps, surviving illness, seeing dead bodies and hearing the wounded moan. And she did all of this without the help and love of her parents or brother, whom she dearly missed. How does a kid survive such a thing? One of the images that sticks in my mind is Clementine pulling out bugs that had taken up residence in her feet. And there are many, many more images that made me shudder.The beauty of this book is that the author makes you see her journey through the eyes of her six-year-old naïve self. Clementine wasn’t able to comprehend exactly what was going on, and she didn’t understand death. When she saw dead bodies in the water, she thought they were people sleeping. All she understood was that for some awful reason she had to run away from her family, and she was hungry, tired, scared, and homeless.Eventually she and her sister ended up in an alien universe: America. Imagine the culture shock! Not only did she end up in outer space, she ended up on the Oprah show! Kind, rich white people took her in and sent her to good schools. She was so blown away about her experience, so traumatized, she didn’t know how to act. She said, “I was whoever anybody wanted me to be.” Her relationships with her family and friends are tough. She has two scars on her legs, which embarrass her. I’m sure she has plenty of scars on her psyche. I’m beyond impressed that she never acted like the victim, only like a survivor. Clementine is incredibly self-aware and is great at describing her psychology, which gets big points from me.This isn’t just a journalist’s report full of facts; Clementine infuses her story with lots of emotion. Every sentence grabbed me; I felt like I was right there. Every emotion was loud and real. This story ends well. Clementine graduated from Yale, she became a successful activist, she has a good, rich life. But still, her scary life as a young girl running away from her war-torn country will always be a huge part of her. She can never shake it off.The book alternates between her journey in America and her harrowing journey in Africa; I liked the format. For those who hate gore, don’t worry—there isn’t any. Although what she went through is way worse than depressing, her story of survival is uplifting.One of those fun woo-woo moments: I had just added Austerlitz to my To-Reads when I ran across Clementine talking about the book, which had a profound effect on her. Love these universe synchs!Here is how this book seeped into my soul and took up residence. Look at what this book did to me!-Didn’t want to break the spell by reading another book.-Not enjoying my new book; seems so frivolous in comparison.-Still thinking about the book, LOTS.-Peddling the book to everyone I know.-Had a nightmare, where there was a chemical cloud approaching and I was trying to prepare myself to die. (I hardly ever have nightmares, especially not end-of-the-world nightmares.) Look at what this book made me do!It made me go all multi-media! Colors, music, videos, and my hands on a drum. (Consider this the multi-media room in the Joy Jar): -Put a picture of colorful Rwanda baskets into my photo library.-Checked out Airbnb in Rwanda just to see houses. I wanted to imagine her life there.-Checked out images of Rwanda’s beauteous hilly landscapes. (Defies my assumptions of how Africa looks.) -Urgently plan to watch “Hotel Rwanda” again.-Memorized the map of southeast Africa. -Still referring to the map showing Clementine’s route (wonder when I will stop, lol).-Watched the Oprah video three times; shared it twice. Probably not done the repeat.-Listened to African drum music.-Added Paul Simon’s song “Diamonds on the Soles of Her Shoes” to my playlist for the car.-Watched Paul Simon’s “Under African Skies” video.-Played my conga drum (hadn’t touched it in years).-Am writing lists like this.“Diamonds on the Soles of Her Shoes,” by Paul Simon, is currently my favorite song ever. It’s on the album called Graceland that he created in the 1980s along with other songs with an Africa focus and rhythm. The album was made a good ten years before the genocide and it’s all happy and bright. I couldn’t help thinking that the girl with the diamond shoes could have been Clementine before the war--rich, happy, sassy. But instead of wearing those shiny, expensive shoes, in reality she had only bugs on the soles of her feet—and they were feasting on her skin. Anyway, the song got under my skin and ended up being stuck in my head. I guess you could say that the book took the same route.I’ve gone on way too long, but I just can’t stop myself. This book made me think not just about her story, but about genocide. More than 800,000 people were killed in that massacre. How is it possible that human beings could do this to each other? Incomprehensible.I’m in awe of this writer in every way possible. Not only is her journey phenomenal, her writing is beautiful. Kudos to her co-writer as well.Thanks to NetGalley for the advance copy.
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  • JanB
    January 1, 1970
    5++ starsI had plans for today but first I decided to sit and read for an hour. Many hours later, I closed the last page of this book. I simply could not put it down until I had read every word of this powerful memoir.Clemantine was born into a comfortable middle-class family in Rwanda. At age 6 she and her older sister were forced to flee the ethnic killings. She spent the next 6 years moving from country to country, from refugee camp to refugee camp. Life in the camps was living in filth, infe 5++ starsI had plans for today but first I decided to sit and read for an hour. Many hours later, I closed the last page of this book. I simply could not put it down until I had read every word of this powerful memoir.Clemantine was born into a comfortable middle-class family in Rwanda. At age 6 she and her older sister were forced to flee the ethnic killings. She spent the next 6 years moving from country to country, from refugee camp to refugee camp. Life in the camps was living in filth, infestations with lice and burrowing larva, dysentery, constant hunger, lack of sanitation and proper nutrition….living a horror we cannot even begin to imagine.At the age of 12, due to her sister’s resourcefulness, she immigrated to the U.S., living a life she could never have imagined. She ultimately graduated Yale University, has been a guest on the Oprah Winfrey show and now speaks and advocates for refugees and women around the world. But inside she remains broken, trying in her words “to string all the beads in the right order, situate them in the right light – I can create a narrative of my life that looks beautiful to me and makes sense.”This book is her struggle to come to terms with all she endured: the separation from her parents at such a tender age, the loss of everything, the constant fear and hunger, the abysmal conditions in the refugee camps, and her struggle to integrate her experiences with her life in the U.S. I read an interview where she says her overriding mission is to share the idea that every single person on the planet has equal humanity. She herself has gone from feeling worthless, living in abject poverty, to living a life of privilege, but inside nothing about her has changed. She says she is every one of those people and so are we. After reading her book, I have to say she has succeeded in her mission. Nothing I can say could possibly do the book justice but I’ll end this review with her thoughts on a couple of subjects that made me stop and take note (please remember this is from an uncorrected proof):Her thoughts on the word “genocide”: “I resent and revile it…the word is tidy and efficient. It holds no true emotion…it cannot do justice – it is not meant to do justice – to the thing it describes. It cannot describe how she felt knowing someone wanted her dead at an age when she didn’t even understand death. It can’t explain a child playing dead in a pool of his father’s blood. The experience of a mother forever wailing on her knees. It cannot explain the never-ending pain, even if you live. You cannot bear witness with a single word”.On forgiveness: The world said “never again” after WWII yet turned their backs during the Rwandan atrocities. To those who say forgive and forget, she has poignant words on why that is impossible. “It’s not enough – plans must be made on how to never repeat these crimes in the future. Our minds can be poisoned – poisoned so gradually that we don’t even realize we’ve become sick.” I learned a lot about the root causes of the Rwandan killings and they are chillingly similar to the tactics of Nazi Germany. The author herself read and re-read Elie Wiesel's book, Night, which helped her begin to open up and speak.Publication date is April 24, 2018. Buy it, borrow it...whatever you do, read it! How can we even begin to understand if we don't expose ourselves to books such as these?** edited to add: the story is not a linear one and the author changes time periods abruptly with no warning. This has bothered some reviewers, but for me, I found the story so strong and compelling I was willing to overlook it. **I received a digital copy of the book from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.
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  • Diane S ☔
    January 1, 1970
    4.5 The genocide in Rawanda, another subject that I knew little about. I knew it happened, knew it was a terrible atrocity, saw bits and pieces on the news, but that's about the extent of my knowledge. Now after reading this memoir about a young girl who experienced this herself, I know more. Clemantine was only six when she and her older sister, Claire were told to run. They did and for a long six years they went from place to place, camp to camp, faced starvation, horrible and unsanitary camp 4.5 The genocide in Rawanda, another subject that I knew little about. I knew it happened, knew it was a terrible atrocity, saw bits and pieces on the news, but that's about the extent of my knowledge. Now after reading this memoir about a young girl who experienced this herself, I know more. Clemantine was only six when she and her older sister, Claire were told to run. They did and for a long six years they went from place to place, camp to camp, faced starvation, horrible and unsanitary camp conditions. Always fearing that her sister who refused to give up would leave her, finding her too much of a burden, but Claire never did. Not even when she marrys an aid eorker and has children of her own.After those long six years, both sisters, with husband and children in tow were given permission to enter the US. A land they had heard marvelous things about, but the Clemantine who was, is now a completely different person, her experiences have hardened her. She feels alone, not seen, not understood. And indeed how can those who have not suffered as she understand? "This---Rwanda, my life---is a different, specific, personal tragedy, just as each of those horrors was a different, specific tragedy, and inside all those tidily labeled boxes are 6 million, or 1.7 million or 100,000 lives destroyed.You cannot line up atrocities, like a matching set.You cannot bear witness with a single word."This was said in a response to people making the comparisons of Rwanda to the Holocaust, the killing fields of Cambodia or the ethnic cleansing in Bosnia. It is true, we can be empathetic, we can try to understand but can we really, when we only read words, watch the movies? We can't, we can't feel what it is like to live through something like this, to feel the disconnection between a new life and what one has suffered. She makes her struggles perfectly clear, but she does move on though always questioning, always anslyzing how she feels, how she thinks. She and her sister forge different paths, their will be some victories, quests, steps taken, personal losses but she never stops trying.A moving, powerful story, a story about resilence and survival,but also about the toll taken on the human pysche after living through such horrific times.ARC from Edelweiss.
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  • Elyse
    January 1, 1970
    “The word genocide cannot articulate the one-person experience—the real experience of each of the millions it purports to describe. The experience with a child playing dead in a pool of his father’s blood. The experience of a mother foreverwailing on her knees”. “The word genocide cannot explain the never-ending pain, even if you live”. Clementine Wamariya shared personal stories of when she lived in Rwanda during the civil war from when she was five years old....stories with her sister Claire. “The word genocide cannot articulate the one-person experience—the real experience of each of the millions it purports to describe. The experience with a child playing dead in a pool of his father’s blood. The experience of a mother foreverwailing on her knees”. “The word genocide cannot explain the never-ending pain, even if you live”. Clementine Wamariya shared personal stories of when she lived in Rwanda during the civil war from when she was five years old....stories with her sister Claire.....the time they spent with their grandmother...the years of fleeing and the horrific conditions of the refugee camps—having lost their parents in the process. At age 12...Clementine and Claire 21, pregnant, and her children, were all granted asylum in the United States....this story begins with a story about Oprah reuniting Clementine & Claire and their parents.All these stories — piercing in your gut —the war -the American adjustment - and Clementine returning to her home wanting to give back and the challenges she faces right away of mistrust are important stories to read - This is a true story — written from a very caring and courageous girl - with amazing resilience and clear purpose of what her life is about.Having read “What is The What” by Dave Eggers years ago ....a story about a “Lost Boy” ....a victim of the Sundance war...and his life as an immigrant in America— this wasn’t the first time I’ve felt the horrendous tragedy mixing children with war.....ANOTHER BOOK I HIGHLY RECOMMEND.....But the difference for me in ‘this’ book ....my one critique—I felt the storytelling/ writing was too jarring. The chapters flipped back and forth between the American and African stories too quickly for a short book - it was a disruptive flow of taking in the past and present experiences. It’s still a somewhat pet peeve of mine....the often new style of writing we see so often — POV— and flipping stories back and forth. I ‘prefer’ the story to blend and flow as one story. I’m trying to get use to it - as so many books today are written in this fashion.....but it’s never my favorite.5 stars for Clementine and the story that needed to be told. 3 stars for the writing...4 stars overall. Thank You Jennifer. As soon as I read your wonderful review, I started reading the book less than an hour after. Thank you!
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  • Jennifer ~ TarHeelReader
    January 1, 1970
    5 brave, bold stars to The Girl Who Smiled Beads! 🌟 🌟 🌟 🌟 🌟 The Girl Who Smiled Beads has been the memoir I’ve most anticipated reading this year, and when I finally got to it, it was just after reading a fictional account of the genocide in Rwanda, In the Shadow of 10,000 Hills by Jennifer Haupt, which is definitely a favorite of mine. The Girl Who Smiled Beads was a fitting complement to In the Shadow, and I experienced on a more visceral, individual level the pain, fear, sacrifice, and absolu 5 brave, bold stars to The Girl Who Smiled Beads! 🌟 🌟 🌟 🌟 🌟 The Girl Who Smiled Beads has been the memoir I’ve most anticipated reading this year, and when I finally got to it, it was just after reading a fictional account of the genocide in Rwanda, In the Shadow of 10,000 Hills by Jennifer Haupt, which is definitely a favorite of mine. The Girl Who Smiled Beads was a fitting complement to In the Shadow, and I experienced on a more visceral, individual level the pain, fear, sacrifice, and absolute terror experienced by Clemantine and her family. This book is easy to read due to the exceptional writing, and I found it hard to put down; however, at times, I had to in order to absorb the abject torment suffered by Clemantine and her sister, Claire, from fleeing practically barefoot across multiple African countries to digging bugs out of the soles of their feet. This is Clemantine’s story, how she shares her anguish, horror, loss, and despair, and in turn, how she claims her individuality and begins to heal. This book is important, urgently so given what is happening in our world right this very minute, and raw and stunning at the same time. Highly recommended for fans of nonfiction, memoirs, cross-cultural works, and profoundly emotional writing. Thank you to Clemantine Wamariya, Crown Publishing, and Netgalley for the ARC. The Girl Who Smiled Beads is available now!
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  • Cheri
    January 1, 1970
    ”Often, still, my own life story feels fragmented, like beads unstrung. Each time I scoop up my memories, the assortment is slightly different. I worry, at times, that I’ll always be lost inside.” Even at the tender age of four, Clementine was precocious, demanding the truth of things that the adults in her life felt were beyond her years. ”Daily, maybe hourly, I begged Mukamana to tell me stories to help me make sense of the world, like that the gods shook out the ocean like a rug to make wav ”Often, still, my own life story feels fragmented, like beads unstrung. Each time I scoop up my memories, the assortment is slightly different. I worry, at times, that I’ll always be lost inside.” Even at the tender age of four, Clementine was precocious, demanding the truth of things that the adults in her life felt were beyond her years. ”Daily, maybe hourly, I begged Mukamana to tell me stories to help me make sense of the world, like that the gods shook out the ocean like a rug to make waves. My favorite was that there was a beautiful, magical girl who roamed the earth, smiling beads. When Mukamana told me this story, she said, ‘What do you think happened next?’ and whatever I said, whatever future I imagined, Mukamana would make come true.” ”Growing up, I wanted to be like her, I wanted to tell stories and dance for others like she would do for me.” And then her world changed. Life changed, although she didn’t know why, didn’t understand what the changes meant. Family, friends stopped coming over, her family stopped going out. The electricity stopped working, and next the water stopped working.At six years old, she and her older sister Claire are sent to their grandmother’s home, her parents wanting them to be further away from the need to be silent, the need to avoid being found. Eventually, even that proves not to be safe enough to prevent them from being found. Their grandmother tells them to crawl on their bellies through the fields, until they were far enough away to run. ”A man told us he knew the way to safety. We followed him to the Burundi border, to the Akanyaru River. There were bodies floating in it. I still didn’t understand what killing was. To me, the people in the river were sleeping. People in water sleeping and sleeping. That’s all I knew.” In part, this is the story, her story, of the beginning of the Rwandan Genocide, the story of how she and her sister managed to survive in this horrific time. Walking, endlessly walking, countless days, living in camps now and then, and more walking, more searching for their family, for a life that included more than barely existing – eventually, they found a way to another life. And they head to America. And, yes, their life improves compared to what they endured, but they still struggle.This wanders back and forth in time, which may make it more difficult to follow, but I appreciated this – I couldn’t imagine reading the story of their time when they were running, fearing for their lives without some respite, a glimpse of their future. Hope. Having said that, it does interrupt the flow, but, for me, that didn’t disrupt my interest in this story.A heartbreaking, inspiring and beautifully shared personal, real-life story.Highly recommended. Many thanks to the Public Library system, and the many Librarians that manage, organize and keep it running, for the loan of this book!
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  • Esil
    January 1, 1970
    The Girl Who Smiled Beads tells the extraordinary story of Clementine Wamariya. At age 7, she and her older sister were seperated from their parents in Rwanda. They made their own way through a series of refugee camps and ultimately moved to the US as refugees. At the time, Clementine was 12 years old. Wamariya, now a young woman, tells her own story, moving back and forth between her childhood and her early years in the US. Throughout, she reflects on what it took for her to survive and on the The Girl Who Smiled Beads tells the extraordinary story of Clementine Wamariya. At age 7, she and her older sister were seperated from their parents in Rwanda. They made their own way through a series of refugee camps and ultimately moved to the US as refugees. At the time, Clementine was 12 years old. Wamariya, now a young woman, tells her own story, moving back and forth between her childhood and her early years in the US. Throughout, she reflects on what it took for her to survive and on the relationships she developed with people who helped her. Without being ungrateful, she expresses real scepticism about the motivations and effects of charity. Giving and receiving create a complicated power dynamic, and Wamariya personalizes its effects. Wamariya’s story is fascinating. There are lots of hard parts, but it’s not hard to read. There’s also a lot of food for thought at this particular time in history.I listened to the audio, which works very well. Wamariya is not the narrator, except for the very last section. Her voice and cadence give a lot of dimension to her story and personality.
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  • Erin
    January 1, 1970
    Thanks to NetGalley for an advanced ebook in exchange for an honest review. If I had a hard copy of this book, I would send it to each and everyone of you. Books like this resonate once again how powerful the written word can be and how a raw and deeply moving narrative can reach not only our hearts, but leave imprints on our soul. I did not understand the point of the word genocide then. I resent it and revile it now. The word is tidy and efficient. It holds no true emotion. It is impersonal w Thanks to NetGalley for an advanced ebook in exchange for an honest review. If I had a hard copy of this book, I would send it to each and everyone of you. Books like this resonate once again how powerful the written word can be and how a raw and deeply moving narrative can reach not only our hearts, but leave imprints on our soul. I did not understand the point of the word genocide then. I resent it and revile it now. The word is tidy and efficient. It holds no true emotion. It is impersonal when it needs to be intimate;cool and sterile when it needs to be gruesome. The word is hollow, true but disingenuous, a performance, the worst kind of lie. It cannot do justice--- it is not meant to do justice--- to the thing it describes. The word genocide cannot tell you, cannot make you feel, the way I felt in Rwanda. The way I felt in Burundi. The way I wished to be invisible because someone wanted me dead at a point in my life when I did not yet understand what death was. This is a deeply moving account of one Rwandan family torn apart by that countries genocide. It is told to us through the eyes of many different emotions; all felt through the writing of Clemantine who relives her flight as a refugee throughout the African continent and as a young woman in the United States. My eyes have never cried so hard and so long. I have read many memoirs, but this one stands our for me the most because of its powerful attention to not shy away from the fact that for those of us in the West , we have not a [email protected]$%& clue what it really feels like for Clemantine. I felt that wake-up call, that earth shaking challenge that I needed to receive this lesson. To be a refugee was to be a victim--it was tautological. And not just a victim due to external forces like politics or war. You were a victim due to some inherent, irrevocable weakness in you. You were a victim because you were less worthy, less good, and less strong than all the non-victims of the world. Wow! Like a slap in the face or a hammer to the head, right? As an educator, I teach and have taught many students that have been suffered from trauma but never had it explained quite like Clemantine does in her book. So much of Rwanda---so much of the world struggled with this. When you're traumatised, your sense of self, your individuality, is beaten up.Your skin color, your background,your pain, your hope, your gender, your faith is all defiled. Those essential pieces of yourself are stolen. You, as a person, are emptied and flattened, and that violence, that theft,keeps you from embodying a life that feels like your own. I really want others to read this book, it's so beautiful and heartfelt and honest! It's also difficult to get through because it is so painful and I felt anger and sadness and despair and then Clemantine said We need to find a way to tolerate an intolerable truth. We need to acknowledge facts that are incompatible with a stable faith in humanity, incompatible even with any sane definition of God.Clemantine, you are a beautiful soul and courageous to put into words your very personal journey. The challenges that you, your sister, parents, and other family members have faced and continue to face. You're a true teacher. I shall certainly be adding this to my classroom library.
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  • Dem
    January 1, 1970
    An interesting story that gives the readers a young girls views and thoughts on her experiences of War and Genocide and what it means to try to rebuild a life again and the feeling of never belonging.Firstly I listened to this one on audio and while the narrator was adequate the book was difficult to follow and this was due to the structure of the novel, The story is told in two time frames and while I normally enjoy this style of writing, there seemed to be way too much toing and froing and jus An interesting story that gives the readers a young girls views and thoughts on her experiences of War and Genocide and what it means to try to rebuild a life again and the feeling of never belonging.Firstly I listened to this one on audio and while the narrator was adequate the book was difficult to follow and this was due to the structure of the novel, The story is told in two time frames and while I normally enjoy this style of writing, there seemed to be way too much toing and froing and just when I felt I was connecting with the characters and their story, the time frame switched way too quickly and the connection was lost again.Clementine's experiences as a child fleeing the civil war in Rwanda are harrowing and terrifying and yet I should have felt much more emotion than I did from this story and again perhaps this is down to the audio version. I also needed a little more background to the war in order to understand what occurred at this time in Rwanda and maps of their journey would have been helpful as I spend a lot of time trying to trace their journey.and the book didn't deliver on this either for me.While I had the above concerns I still recommend this book and think it would work really well for book clubs as there is lots to discuss but probably best to purchase a paperback edition. I may read this one again sometime in the future if it came up as a group read as I feel reading and discussing this book would be way more interesting and informative.
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  • Marialyce
    January 1, 1970
    You can find my reviews at: https://yayareadslotsofbooks.wordpres...This was truly a harrowing tale of survival against the most oppressive of odds. Inhumanity is not confined to a country, a person, an idea. It is endemic to what is human, that need to dominate, to feel in control, in power. The powerful prey on the week and the cycle continues as each level preys on the level considered to be weaker than they.The book is a portrayal of life on the run, a portrayal for struggling through a minu You can find my reviews at: https://yayareadslotsofbooks.wordpres...This was truly a harrowing tale of survival against the most oppressive of odds. Inhumanity is not confined to a country, a person, an idea. It is endemic to what is human, that need to dominate, to feel in control, in power. The powerful prey on the week and the cycle continues as each level preys on the level considered to be weaker than they.The book is a portrayal of life on the run, a portrayal for struggling through a minute, an hour, a day when you have nothing, not food, not water, and not the love and care of a parent to guide and protect you. No one cares whether you live or die, whether you take another breath, whether you survive another day, or even have a morsel to feed your body. The only thing that bothered me was the way in which the story was told. It flipped back and forth and for me it took away the story. I am one who likes a story, tragic as it may be, to be linear. However, this was a story that could rip out your heart and make you pause as you look to your life and all his fortunate moments that made you happy, all those people who cared for you, so happy to be alive and treasured even if it be by only one person.
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  • Jennifer Blankfein
    January 1, 1970
    The Nobel Peace Prize winning author and Holocaust survivor, Elie Weisel, appeared on the Oprah Winfrey Show in 2006 where Oprah played clips from an interview they had done on site at Auschwitz. In addition, on the same episode, Oprah was recognizing fifty winners of a high school essay contest who had written about Elie Weisel’s Night and its’ current day relevance. Clemantine Wamariya was one of the winners and was called up on stage to talk with Oprah. Clemantine was a Rwandan refugee who, a The Nobel Peace Prize winning author and Holocaust survivor, Elie Weisel, appeared on the Oprah Winfrey Show in 2006 where Oprah played clips from an interview they had done on site at Auschwitz. In addition, on the same episode, Oprah was recognizing fifty winners of a high school essay contest who had written about Elie Weisel’s Night and its’ current day relevance. Clemantine Wamariya was one of the winners and was called up on stage to talk with Oprah. Clemantine was a Rwandan refugee who, along with her older sister, was separated from her parents and feared they were dead. For many grueling years the girls trekked through Africa during the genocide, escaping murderers and rapists, living in refugee camps and unsafe places, battling lice, starving and sleeping outside, and ultimately, after being granted asylum, ending up in the Chicago area and started new lives. Clemantine has said that “Night was the door that opened up the world for me. It made me feel not alone. Wiesel had words to express experiences I couldn’t articulate. He shared thoughts and feelings that I was too ashamed to name.” Thinking she was on the show for her essay, she was in the front row and Oprah started asking her some questions about her family. Clemantine and her sister had not seen their parents since 1994, and in 2005, one year prior to this Oprah Winfrey Show episode, had learned they were still alive. On this day, as a surprise, Oprah brought Clemantine’s parents and younger siblings from Africa to Chicago and as a colossal surprise in an emotionally charged moment, she reunited them on stage. Go to Book Nation by Jen to see the video on my blog post.The visceral joy we see in the video is the joy of a six year old girl being returned to her parents, yet the relationships of the family members had become much more complex due to everyone’s traumatic experiences of the past 12 years.The Girl Who Smiled Beads is Clemantine’s personal story; a six year old’s journey in war torn Africa, and coming of age as a teenager in the United States living with the demons of the past while searching for self worth and purpose in a country with unlimited opportunities and excess. Clemantine’s story is just one of many who survived the genocide in Africa in the 1990s – so heartbreaking and also deeply hopeful. I am a huge fan of Clemantine’s, her strength and will to honor her experiences, create and stand up for her own identity, and her commitment to finding joy. This is a must read!Follow me on Book Nation by Jen Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/BookNationby... and blog https://booknationbyjen.wordpress.com for all things books!
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  • Chrissie
    January 1, 1970
    This is a book about Clemantine Wamariya ’s experiences during the Rwandan and Burundi Genocides. Starting in April 1994 and for 100 days, ethnic Hutu extremists slaughtered 800,000 of the minority Tutsi community and other political opponents regardless of their ethnicity. The fight between the two was not new and it has continued for years. The Belgians colonized Rwanda after their invasion of German East Africa in 1916 during World War One. They sowed the belief in racial differences between This is a book about Clemantine Wamariya ’s experiences during the Rwandan and Burundi Genocides. Starting in April 1994 and for 100 days, ethnic Hutu extremists slaughtered 800,000 of the minority Tutsi community and other political opponents regardless of their ethnicity. The fight between the two was not new and it has continued for years. The Belgians colonized Rwanda after their invasion of German East Africa in 1916 during World War One. They sowed the belief in racial differences between the Hutu, Tutsi and Twa. They supported a pro-Tutsi rule, although only 15% of the population were Tutsi, with 84% Hutu and 1% Twa. In 1959 the Hutu revolted. The clash between the groups has unsettled the entire region causing mass movement of people, countless refugee camps, the disintegration of families, starvation, illness and death. In 1994 Clemantine, six years old, and her sister Claire of fifteen, began a six-year long trek without parents moving from camp to camp--living in Rwanda, Burundi, Zaire (present day Democratic Republic of Congo) Tanzania, Zambia, Malawi and South Africa before they were finally given asylum in America. Claire, then married but abused by her husband, had become a mother of three. The book does not stop with the sisters’ arrival in America. Please glance at the book’s title and note the last three words--The Girl Who Smiled Beads: A Story of War and What Comes After. What does come after? The experiences in Africa were horrendous, but the assimilation process in America and learning how to live with such a past were extremely difficult too. Although side by side during their African journey, Clementine’s and Claire’s experiences were not the same. Neither were they so in America. Clemantine came to a wealthy, privileged family in a well-to-do neighborhood outside Chicago (Kenilworth). Claire lived in a nearby suburb of Chicago (Edgewater) with her kids. When the sisters did finally meet up with their parents, was it even possible to rebuild a sense of family? Surviving the six years without a home, without a country, without a single possession to call one’s own was just the beginning of Clemantine’s path toward healing and self-discovery. What could she grab on to? Early memories. Memories of her mother and how they had been raised. Memories of the fables her nanny told her. The first five words of the title relate to Clementine’s favorite fable when she was four. Throughout the telling, Clementine returns to this fable.Clemantine’s journey is engaging and well told. You can read facts in a history book, but here we see how it is to live and experience them. The telling flips back and forth between the African journey and Clemantine’s “journey” in America. Both threads move chronologically forward in time. I did not find this hard to follow because every chapter is given a date, the year in which the events of the chapter take place. However, I do not see the merit or the need to flip back and forth between the two threads.I myself lived near the community where Clemantine came to live. I went to the same high school she went to. The author has extremely well captured life in the community and at the high school. Inherent expectations, obligations and way of being are shown. What is demanded, what is expected and existing hypocrisies too.The audiobook is extremely well narrated by Robin Miles. Both the events in Africa and those in the States are equally well intoned. She captures the voice of the the characters well. I have given the narration five stars. The final chapter is read by Clemantine. She reads very slowly and emotively. She is harder to understand, but this gives a good touch to the end of the book. She speaks of what her life experiences have taught her. She advises others to appreciate all that our five senses can give us. She returns to the fable told to her by her nanny. She explains what this fable teaches. It is very simple, but very good—it is up to each of us to make something of our lives. What each of us chooses to make of our life is up to us, but we must cherish this opportunity and use it well. I think this is what she is saying.This book has two authors--Clemantine Wamariya and Elizabeth Weil. It is not explained who wrote what. It flashed through my mind that perhaps the latter is the ghostwriter? I wish this had been explained.Two other books about the Rwandan and Burundi genocides are We Wish to Inform You That Tomorrow We Will Be Killed with Our Families and Strength in What Remains: A Journey of Remembrance and Forgiveness. Both I gave four stars. Both are very good. More detailed historical information is provided in these than what is provided in Clemantine’s book. A quick, concise summary is given in chapter 6, and that is enough. The aim of this book is different. This is a book about Clemantine’s personal experiences, how she came to deal with these experiences and what she has learned from the ordeal.
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  • Katie B
    January 1, 1970
    Clemantine Wamariya was six years old when her life changed forever. In 1994, she and her fifteen-year-old sister, Claire, were forced to leave their family behind and flee their home country as the Rwanda massacre raged on. They spent the next six years as refugees in multiple African countries until they were able to come to America. Clemantine was given a home with an affluent white family and she attended a private school, got involved in extra curricular activities and eventually went on to Clemantine Wamariya was six years old when her life changed forever. In 1994, she and her fifteen-year-old sister, Claire, were forced to leave their family behind and flee their home country as the Rwanda massacre raged on. They spent the next six years as refugees in multiple African countries until they were able to come to America. Clemantine was given a home with an affluent white family and she attended a private school, got involved in extra curricular activities and eventually went on to study at Yale. Meanwhile her sister worked long and hard to provide for her three children. This is the heartbreaking but remarkable story of two young girls forced to figure out how to survive on their own.I am so glad the author chose to share her story with the world as the Rwanda genocide is not something that should ever be forgotten. The book is raw and honest and incredibly manages to be tragic and uplifting at the same time. The courage of both Clemantine and Claire is amazing as they constantly were facing life and death situations. I highly recommend this book to anyone who enjoys nonfiction books or who are interested in learning more about the Rwanda genocide and the devastating effects it had on innocent lives.Thank you to First to Read for the opportunity to read an advance copy! I was under no obligation to post a review and all views expressed are my honest opinion.
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  • Katie.dorny
    January 1, 1970
    I am trying to read more non fiction now I’m older to actually educate myself about the world and other people - and my god this one took me on a journey.Clemantine details her journey through the Rwandan genocide, her childhood in refugee camps and her life in America; alongside her internal struggle to find herself and piece her history back together with her new life.It was heartbreaking reading this, but I felt like I had been told truths that no one else would tell me. Truths only Clemantin I am trying to read more non fiction now I’m older to actually educate myself about the world and other people - and my god this one took me on a journey.Clemantine details her journey through the Rwandan genocide, her childhood in refugee camps and her life in America; alongside her internal struggle to find herself and piece her history back together with her new life.It was heartbreaking reading this, but I felt like I had been told truths that no one else would tell me. Truths only Clemantine could tell. It was deeply personal and I highly recommend this book to everyone that comes across it.
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  • Resh (The Book Satchel)
    January 1, 1970
    I'd recommend this book in a heart beat.
  • Sonja Arlow
    January 1, 1970
    I have read about the Rwanda genocide before and because of that I was hesitant to pick up this memoir. In fact, one of the books I could not even finish it was so brutal. This is not just a book about the Rwanda genocide, nor about a refugee coming to America, or rising from adversity. Its about losing your family, your culture, your country and your identity at the age of 6 and how this had a ripple effect in Clemantine’s life for many years to come.Before reading this, I watched the video ins I have read about the Rwanda genocide before and because of that I was hesitant to pick up this memoir. In fact, one of the books I could not even finish it was so brutal. This is not just a book about the Rwanda genocide, nor about a refugee coming to America, or rising from adversity. Its about losing your family, your culture, your country and your identity at the age of 6 and how this had a ripple effect in Clemantine’s life for many years to come.Before reading this, I watched the video insert where Clemantine and her sister Claire was reunited with their family on the Opera show. Its impossible to watch that and not feel anything.https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kiWDY... It took Clemantine a very long time to find the words to describe what she went through. And when she finally found the words they were often times filled with rage.”The word genocide cannot articulate the one-person experience – the real experience of each of the millions it purports to describe. The experience of the child playing dead in a pool of his father’s blood. The experience of a mother forever wailing on her knees”The story also shows how dehumanizing it is to be labelled, and live as, a refugeeI found so much of the book insightful, the experiences the sisters had in different African countries, the shock of coming to America, the land of noise and plenty and the way each dealt with their trauma.Their mother held on to her faith and lived every day in gratitude for the smallest things. Their father shut down. Claire, the industrious planner and hustler dealt with her trauma by DOING. And Clemantine? Well, on the outside she looks like the most successful in life as she became the Oprah girl and the posterchild for Western refugee efforts, but she struggled the most as she internalized too much. I think she struggles still. Sometimes the narrative felt a little incomplete, especially the last 1/3. Its as if Clemantine wanted to convey the feeling or essence of an event rather than explain the whole event. This is not a deal breaker in reading or rating this book highly, but it was noticeable.This book gives insight into human suffering you never ever want to experience yourself. Absolutely worth the read.ARC Netgalley
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  • Ali Edwards
    January 1, 1970
    Back in 2014 I heard Clemantine speak in Washington DC at a summit on girls + women in Africa which was sponsored by the ONE Campaign and Google. The event itself and the stories presented were profoundly moving and educational. When I was offered an opportunity to receive an advance copy of this book I jumped at the chance to get to go deeper into Clemantine's story and I think this book is a must read. It's a hard, raw read and one that is super important for all of us as human beings. It's a Back in 2014 I heard Clemantine speak in Washington DC at a summit on girls + women in Africa which was sponsored by the ONE Campaign and Google. The event itself and the stories presented were profoundly moving and educational. When I was offered an opportunity to receive an advance copy of this book I jumped at the chance to get to go deeper into Clemantine's story and I think this book is a must read. It's a hard, raw read and one that is super important for all of us as human beings. It's a complex story of her escape from the Rwandan massage as a child and eventual arrival in the United States as a refuge. It is also so much more than that story - she intimately shares the impact of that entire experience on the way she thinks about herself, the way she views the world, and the ways she has attempted to own her own story. It is a book about becoming. Highly recommended.
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  • Julie Christine
    January 1, 1970
    Having so recently read Jennifer Haupt's novel In the Shadow of 10,000 Hills, I went in search of real-life survivor accounts of the 1994 Rwandan genocide and immediately landed on Clemantine Wamariya's extraordinary story. This is not a recounting of the killing fields — the 100 days of horror when neighbor turned against neighbor in wholesale slaughter. Wamariya's experiences are of a child who escaped just as civil war began. But surviving the massacres launched Clemantine and her older siste Having so recently read Jennifer Haupt's novel In the Shadow of 10,000 Hills, I went in search of real-life survivor accounts of the 1994 Rwandan genocide and immediately landed on Clemantine Wamariya's extraordinary story. This is not a recounting of the killing fields — the 100 days of horror when neighbor turned against neighbor in wholesale slaughter. Wamariya's experiences are of a child who escaped just as civil war began. But surviving the massacres launched Clemantine and her older sister, Claire, into a different kind of horror. They spent seven years traversing eastern Africa, seeking shelter in refugee camps, most of which were little more than fenced-in sloughs of despair. There were days when Clemantine repeated her name over and over, to make certain she wouldn't forget who she was, to hold onto one last shred of her pre-flight humanity. Everything else has been taken from her. The sisters' experiences fleeing from camp to camp, with brief respites of stability in Zaire and South Africa, alternate with Clemantine's post-rescue life in the United States and the alienation she experiences as a exotic creature with a disturbing story. In an unexpected twist, she becomes a celebrity, winning a high school essay contest that puts her on the Oprah show, sharing the stage with her hero, Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel. She and Claire are reintroduced to a family they have not seen in twelve years, since the girls fled Kigali, leaving their parents behind. Yet there is no fairy-tale ending here. Reunion with her family and a welcome into the open arms of strangers in the U.S. cannot erase the years of suffering endured as a wandering, homeless, trapped girl. This is a memoir of visceral emotions, of a young woman tortured by anger and fear and trying to make sense of all the she endured and how she survived. It moves from the fable-like impressions of a little girl leaving behind the idyll of a life in Kigali before the terror to an endless march through a forest, not understanding the bodies she sees floating in the river are not sleeping, to the more concrete details of a young woman carrying for Claire's babies in city slums, while her sister seeks the means to provide for her family and escape the hand of an abusive husband. Only when she is out of crisis, safe and cared for, does Clemantine have the time and space to look at the woman she is becoming. It is so hard, and so important, to read her withdrawal and anger, the way she turns herself inside out, revealing the thorns covering her soul to the rest of the world, a world which can't possibly understand what she has endured. In an undergraduate ethics seminar at Yale, the professor poses the perennial dilemma: who should be saved or sacrificed in a sinking ship, the old and infirm or the baby? Clemantine explodes in class, shouting that she has lived this dilemma, on in lake in Zaire, fleeing for her life in a too-crowded boat, wondering who would be deemed the sacrificial lamb. Her anger spills over at last, as she realizes how profound the chasm between herself and her fellow students. The chasm is narrowed as Clemantine continues to tell her story on stage and in her writing. Healing continues, and this hardworking, articulate, brilliant woman uses her art to reveal the possibility of our greatest humanity. As we bear witness to the horror happening on our southern borders — children being torn from their families, families degraded by the inhumanity of the wealthiest, most privileged nation on earth — we must remember that every one of these children is a Clemantine. Each has her story, each deserves the opportunity to live a life free from fear and conflict, each deserves to share their experiences, so that we all become the better for having listened and learned.
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  • Heather
    January 1, 1970
    **I received this book in a Goodreads First Reads giveaway.**This book is amazing. I can't even imagine going through what this young woman has gone through. (Side note: I had a lot of really smart and eloquent things in my head to say about this book when I finished reading it last night, but I fell asleep, and they went away. I'll edit if I remember.)
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  • Laurie
    January 1, 1970
    The title of the book is based on a story that Clementine's nanny, Mukamana, would tell her. It was about a beautiful, magical girl who roamed the earth, smiling beads, and it was her favorite story. How ironic that Clementine ended up roaming the world.The references to different books throughout the memoir is interesting. Clementine read many she could relate to: Night by Ellie Weisel, Sula by Toni Morrison, Infidel by Ayana Hirsi Ali, The Natural History of Destruction and Austerlitz by W.G. The title of the book is based on a story that Clementine's nanny, Mukamana, would tell her. It was about a beautiful, magical girl who roamed the earth, smiling beads, and it was her favorite story. How ironic that Clementine ended up roaming the world.The references to different books throughout the memoir is interesting. Clementine read many she could relate to: Night by Ellie Weisel, Sula by Toni Morrison, Infidel by Ayana Hirsi Ali, The Natural History of Destruction and Austerlitz by W.G. Sebald. Each of these books helped Clementine to feel she wasn't alone in her thoughts and heartaches. So many times as we read a book we can relate to the characters or the situation and feel a little bit better about ourselves and life. It is a comfort to know we are not alone and Clemantine felt the same. Someone finally understood.One of the most moving passages in the book is found on pages 94-95. It begins "The word genocide cannot tell you how I felt…" Such a moving and heartbreaking excerpt. Her description has remained with me. (The passage was too long to write here.)I found this book extremely hard to read. The descriptions of Claire's and Clementine's living conditions are beyond my ability to comprehend or even imagine. No human being should be subjected to the circumstances these two girls lived through. This is a book that should be required reading in high school so we never forget what happened and it is never repeated. A 5 star book.Each stanza of the poem by Maya Angelou, "Still I Rise" was a mantra to Clementine. It is beautiful and fitting. Here is a portion that appears on page 213.Did you want to see me broken?Bowed head and lowered eyes?You may kill me with your hatefulness, But still, like air, I'll rise.
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  • Dianne
    January 1, 1970
    I have a tough time reviewing memoirs. It makes me feel like I am judging the memoirist's life story, which is creepy and weird. So let me just say, this is an incredible journey. It's hard to believe Wamariya and her family survived the Rawandan genocide and the aftermath, bouncing through countless dangerous refugee camps before fleeing to the United States. Wamariya comes through her ordeal and ends up a Yale graduate with a successful speaking career, but carries permanent psychological scar I have a tough time reviewing memoirs. It makes me feel like I am judging the memoirist's life story, which is creepy and weird. So let me just say, this is an incredible journey. It's hard to believe Wamariya and her family survived the Rawandan genocide and the aftermath, bouncing through countless dangerous refugee camps before fleeing to the United States. Wamariya comes through her ordeal and ends up a Yale graduate with a successful speaking career, but carries permanent psychological scars and struggles with making sense of all that has happened to her.....puzzling out "who" and "how" she should be.There's something about the way the book is written that blunted its emotional impact for me. I don't think that the alternating chapters of "Clemantine, the traumatized child in Africa" and "Clemantine, the young teenager/adult in America" helped the narrative flow or helped to build an emotional bond with Wamariya. "Clemantine, the teenager/adult" has an enormous chip on her shoulder and is full of rage - it's jarring to jump back and forth between her differently aged personas, rather than see her develop into who she is chronologically. I know this was done to emphasize the difference between her past life and current life, but it was a little unwieldy.This is just my opinion on the structure of the memoir - not the content. Her story is amazing and horrifying. I hope she can find some way of coming to terms with her past that will allow her heart, mind and family to heal.
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  • Barbara (The Bibliophage)
    January 1, 1970
    This is the moving memoir of a Rwandan refugee. In truth, it’s the story of Wamariya, her sister Claire, and a variety of other family members. But it’s told by Wamariya, who was displaced from her home by conflict at just six years old.If you have a six or seven-year old in your life, like I do, think about them being alone with just an older sibling. This is what happened to Clemantine and Claire. My granddaughters are their age. I can’t even begin to imagine them landing on their feet after s This is the moving memoir of a Rwandan refugee. In truth, it’s the story of Wamariya, her sister Claire, and a variety of other family members. But it’s told by Wamariya, who was displaced from her home by conflict at just six years old.If you have a six or seven-year old in your life, like I do, think about them being alone with just an older sibling. This is what happened to Clemantine and Claire. My granddaughters are their age. I can’t even begin to imagine them landing on their feet after so much struggle.Wamariya has a unique voice, combining eloquence with reserve. Even when she tells about harrowing emotional experiences, Clemantine seems comfortable with her inner landscape. It wasn’t always that way, and she tells about that journey as well. It’s amazing to be invited inside her story.Full review available at TheBibliophage.com.
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  • Sue
    January 1, 1970
    How can you give a rating to a memoir? It is what it is - one person’s story, unique to her, and told with a truly distinctive voice. This is Clemantine’s recollections of events that led her to leave her home in Rwanda and seek a place of safety, her understanding of the effect her experiences as a refugee in Africa and as an immigrant to the US have had on her. It is a story of courage, honesty and self-awareness. That she has felt able to tell it at all means 5 stars from me.As for the struct How can you give a rating to a memoir? It is what it is - one person’s story, unique to her, and told with a truly distinctive voice. This is Clemantine’s recollections of events that led her to leave her home in Rwanda and seek a place of safety, her understanding of the effect her experiences as a refugee in Africa and as an immigrant to the US have had on her. It is a story of courage, honesty and self-awareness. That she has felt able to tell it at all means 5 stars from me.As for the structure of the book and the quality of the writing, 5 stars again. We have chapters describing the years 1994-2000 in Africa interspersed with post-2000 in America. I think this works better than a straight chronological account as the American experience has had a huge impact on Clemantine and the way she looks back at her early years. There is little here about Rwanda’s emergence from catastrophe - Clemantine didn’t go back there for many years and was busy building a new life. Towards the end, though, people she meets fill in a few of the gaps. Her writing is vital and engaging, and I was swept up in her story from beginning to end. I felt involved, too, in her analysis of her relationships with her sister, her family and those people who helped her along the way.A couple of passages struck me particularly.‘I did not feel lost, as “lost” implies that there’s a place where you will feel found and that, for me, did not exist. I was just a feather, molted and mangled, drifting through space.’‘When you’re traumatised, your sense of self, your individuality, is beaten up. Your skin color, your background, your pain, your hope, your gender, your faith, it’s all defiled. Those essential pieces of yourself are stolen. You, as a person, are emptied and flattened, and that violence, that theft, keeps you from embodying a life that feels like your own. To continue to exist, as a whole person, you need to recreate, for yourself, an identity untouched by everything that’s been used against you. You need to imagine and build a self out of elements that are not tainted. You need to remake yourself on your own terms.’With thanks to Random House Cornerstone via NetGalley for the opportunity to read an ARC.
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  • Tania
    January 1, 1970
    I lost track of who I was. I’d become a negative, a receptacle of need. I was hungry, I was thirsty, I needed a bathroom, I needed a place to sleep. How would you cope if you were a happy six-year-old, but then one day your entire world is turned upside down when everyone in your country starts killing each other? Without much warning you are left without a home, family and no country. For the next six years you are an exile, a sub-human, just trying to survive by fulfilling your most basic need I lost track of who I was. I’d become a negative, a receptacle of need. I was hungry, I was thirsty, I needed a bathroom, I needed a place to sleep. How would you cope if you were a happy six-year-old, but then one day your entire world is turned upside down when everyone in your country starts killing each other? Without much warning you are left without a home, family and no country. For the next six years you are an exile, a sub-human, just trying to survive by fulfilling your most basic needs. This is Clementine’s story – but as she constantly reminds us throughout the book, not only hers but thousands and thousands of other refugees as well. By sharing her story, as well as her sister Clare’s, we can also see, as with everything in life, people react very differently to the same situation. A reminder that every refugee is a unique individual and wants to be seen and treated as such.I admire people who can share their lives while allowing us to see their insecurities, vulnerabilities and doubts about themselves and their relationships. I don’t think that I could be that brave. Thinking of all the millions of children who has never had a childhood, safety, care or the opportunity to just be seen as a unique human being, and the effect this will have on them as an adult, is deeply distressing.This is a deeply personal account of a young girl who is trying to make peace with all she has lost and can never regain, trying to braid her different lives into one narrative. The Girl Who Smiled Beads is also a timely reminder that these devastating events – war/genocide – happens to individuals and not to a country.
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  • Cheryl
    January 1, 1970
    Thank you Goodreads and Crown (Penguin-Random House) for choosing me as a winner of this ARC!12 years after being separated from their parents during the war in Rwanda, Clementine and her older sister, Claire are invited to appear on the Oprah show. Clementine had written an essay in response to Elie Wiesel’s book “Night” on surviving the Holocaust, and was to receive recognition for such. They had no idea they were to be reunited with their parents, younger sibling and recent addition. Both had Thank you Goodreads and Crown (Penguin-Random House) for choosing me as a winner of this ARC!12 years after being separated from their parents during the war in Rwanda, Clementine and her older sister, Claire are invited to appear on the Oprah show. Clementine had written an essay in response to Elie Wiesel’s book “Night” on surviving the Holocaust, and was to receive recognition for such. They had no idea they were to be reunited with their parents, younger sibling and recent addition. Both had new lives in America. It was an awkward and short meeting. It was the start to the end of their story. The war that brought them here. They grew up, 9 years apart, in what could be deemed an upper middle class life. Somewhat privileged and doted upon. Claire, curious beyond politeness, would not take the easy answer for life’s questions. Her nanny would placate her with symbolic stories and songs. These moments would later help her through the too many devastations of her life. Things start to change. Like “little pellets you drop in water that expand into huge sponges." she laments “My life was the opposite. Everything shrunk.” They sequester away in their home. School is stopped, the market no longer visited, days are cut short and boarded up inside. The noise outside increased, no stories could calm the unease culminating daily. Tense whispers of “them” coming unsettled Clementine. Guests had always been looked forward to. At 6, so much did not make sense. Then they fled. First, the girls were sent to their grandmother’s home, but soon fled there, as well. Thus the exodus began. From pampered to refugee, malnourished, exposed, forsaken. Always on the run. 6 countries and years later, they arrive in America. Claire, now married with 2 children of her own, and Clementine. A host family welcomes them all. A new life awaits them. But that’s not before life in their first refugee camp. As dismal as you can imagine, Clementine tries to retain her identity when so much has been taken away. And the yoyo unwinds. From refugee camp day to day, to the fresh start, stateside. Chapters break the dread, one to the lesser other. The innocence of a child, surviving horrific circumstances to a savvy teen, creating her own. From one spot of solace chased into another. Learning as she went to allow nothing to give comfort, as tomorrow, it may be gone. As much a story of perseverance as a book of theology. Wonderful tidbits of wisdom worthy of a bumper sticker or journal cover. I could fill this entire page with the words of wisdom gleamed, but with it being an ARC, they may not be there when you read it, so I abstain. My qualm was it was all in snippets. Synopses. Chapters that never got finished. While, in its own way, it was probably for the better, but there were things I wanted more of. Did she give out all her bracelets? How was her trip to Oprah’s school? I wanted to feel more of her happiness. I wanted to know she was ok. The repetition of not knowing herself, hiding herself throughout life. Was she ever complete? A very evoking telling of the horrors suffered by a very little girl in a very big war. God Bless you, Clementine. May you find your inner happiness at last.
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  • Alena
    January 1, 1970
    My favorite memoirs are those that tell a very personal truth and story, but which also open up larger issues and worlds. Clemantine Wamariya does just that in this harrowing and beautiful book. Without ever immersing readers in the true horror of her life’s circumstances, she nonetheless lets us feel the despair, confusion and homelessness of her life in Rwanda and the 7 countries through which she travels before her placement in Chicago.I could actually feel her ache to “make sense” of what sh My favorite memoirs are those that tell a very personal truth and story, but which also open up larger issues and worlds. Clemantine Wamariya does just that in this harrowing and beautiful book. Without ever immersing readers in the true horror of her life’s circumstances, she nonetheless lets us feel the despair, confusion and homelessness of her life in Rwanda and the 7 countries through which she travels before her placement in Chicago.I could actually feel her ache to “make sense” of what she had survived, her chameleon-like ability to change her clothes, her smile, her behavior to suit her ever-changing environments. But she tells it all without self-pity. She is actively piecing together her story throughout the book while she details her experience.There’s a difference between story and experience. Experience is the whole mess, all that actually happened; a story is the pieces you string together, what you make of it, a guide to your own existence. Experience is the scars on my legs. My story is that they’re proof that I’m alive.Of course, Wamariya’s experience is one of millions like it, in my lifetime alone. That is not lost on her.I did not understand the word genocide then. I resent and revile it now. The word is tidy and efficient. It holds no true emotion. It is impersonal when it needs to be intimate, cool and sterile when it needs to be gruesome...The word genocide cannot tell you, cannot make you feel, the way I felt in Rwanda.The above quote opens some of the book’s most powerful pages as her anger brims over. I was blown away by the idea that the world’s attempts to group experiences into one political buzzword actually dehumanizes those very stories. Likewise, Clementine brings to the fore our (and I’ll include myself in this) desire to define refugees as victims, not just by circumstance, but somehow by their very nature. It’s a sobering thought, but not one without merit.Wamariya travels a great distance in this book -- geographically, intellectually and emotionally – and we are left knowing her journey is not finished, but reassured that she is a survivor.When traumatized, your sense of self, your individuality, is beaten up. Your skin color, your faith, it’s all defiled. Those essential pieces of yourself are stolen…To continue to exist, as a whole person, you need to re-create, for yourself, an identity that’s untouched by everything that’s been used against you. You need to imagine and build a self out of elements that are not tainted. You need to remake yourself on your own terms.
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  • Mark
    January 1, 1970
    Clemantine Wamariya was a six year old girl, living a good life in Rwanda, when in 1994, her life upended, as the Rwandan massacre began and she was forced to flee the country with her fifteen year old sister. They spent the next six years, wandering through many African countries, struggling to survive, in refugee camps, or in any shelter that was available. They had no idea if their parents, or other siblings, had survived the genocide.How the sisters found asylum in the United States, and wen Clemantine Wamariya was a six year old girl, living a good life in Rwanda, when in 1994, her life upended, as the Rwandan massacre began and she was forced to flee the country with her fifteen year old sister. They spent the next six years, wandering through many African countries, struggling to survive, in refugee camps, or in any shelter that was available. They had no idea if their parents, or other siblings, had survived the genocide.How the sisters found asylum in the United States, and went on to create new lives in America, is the rest of this amazing journey. This is a beautifully written memoir, by a very strong and courageous young woman. It gives the reader an insider's look at the consequences of a brutal war and the ensuing refugee crisis, which is a continuing plight for many dispossessed people. Highly recommended.
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  • Tanya
    January 1, 1970
    ⭐ ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐So many stars for this read...........I feel so emotionally invested in this family that i am going to have to stalk them on social media.As the mother of an 11 year old boy who plays way too much fortnite i am gobsmacked by what Clemantine was experiencing at the same age , the killing in her experience was real.Claire............ where do i start???????? Omfg, superhero.........she has a story to tell and i hope she does.Sadly in 1994, when the Rwandan genocide was taking p ⭐️ ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️So many stars for this read...........I feel so emotionally invested in this family that i am going to have to stalk them on social media.As the mother of an 11 year old boy who plays way too much fortnite i am gobsmacked by what Clemantine was experiencing at the same age , the killing in her experience was real.Claire............ where do i start???????? Omfg, superhero.........she has a story to tell and i hope she does.Sadly in 1994, when the Rwandan genocide was taking place i was oblivious, a student at Uni, living my very privileged life............ this should be compulsory reading in high school.To anyone who has already read this book........ Night by Elie Weisel is next on my list for obvious reasons.I googled Jigger bug removal........... won’t be unseeing that any time soon.Stop what you are doing and read this book.
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