The girl who smiled beads A story of war and what comes after

Clemantine Wamariya

Book - 2018

"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. It was 1994, and in 100 days more than 800,000 people would be murdered in Rwanda and millions more displaced. Clemantine and her fifteen-year-old sister, Claire, ran and spent the next six years wandering through seven African countries searching for safety. They did not know whether their pa...rents were alive. At age twelve, Clemantine and Claire were granted asylum in the United States. Raw, urgent, yet disarmingly beautiful, this book captures the true costs and aftershocks of war: what is forever lost, what can be repaired, the fragility and importance of memory. A riveting story of dislocation, survival."--

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Subjects
Genres
Autobiographies
Published
New York : Crown Publishing [2018]
Edition
First edition
Language
English
Physical Description
274 pages : illustration ; 21 cm
ISBN
9780451495327
0451495322
9780451495334
0451495330
Main Author
Clemantine Wamariya (author)
Other Authors
Elizabeth Weil, 1969- (author)
Review by Booklist Reviews

Wamariya was only six years old in 1994, when massacres obliterated her home life in Rwanda. With her older sister, Claire, Wamariya escaped and became a perpetual refugee. The sisters spent the next six years moving around Africa, Claire always making sure that they never got too comfortable in their transient circumstances. After living in seven different countries, the girls were granted asylum to the U.S. When they arrived in Chicago, they had no idea whether their parents were alive or slaughtered. Eventually, they adjusted to their American lives; Wamariya excelled in school, and Claire reared her small children. In 2006, the sisters were featured on the Oprah show, wherein their parents were brought onstage as a Winfrey-style surprise. The book, coauthored with journalist Weil, demystifies life during and after the Rwandan Civil War and explores the difficult reality of such an epic familial reunion. In her prose as in her life, Wamariya is brave, intelligent, and generous. Sliding easily between past and present, this memoir is a soulful, searing story about how families survive. Copyright 2018 Booklist Reviews.

Review by Library Journal Reviews

In 1994, six-year-old Wamariya fled genocidal violence in Rwanda with her older sister, Claire, and spent the next six years moving through seven African countries before landing in America. This raw-to-the-bone memoir grew out of an Association of Magazine Media Ellie Award finalist posted on the blog Medium, and Wamariya is known to Oprah watchers. Copyright 2017 Library Journal.

Review by Library Journal Reviews

When Wamariya was six years old, she fled the Rwandan massacre, guided by her 15-year-old sister, Claire. At once heartbreaking and hopeful, her story is about power and helplessness, loneliness and identity, and the strange juxtaposition of poverty and privilege. Wamariya navigates the two sides of her life: that of a child struggling to survive with a sister barely older than herself during the Rwandan genocide, and that of a refugee in America, attending the best schools, cared for by an adoptive family, and learning to find herself in the aftermath of hate and horror. She pays special attention to the experience of being a child in war: the sense of displacement; the yearning for home, comfort, family; the end of childhood. These themes run throughout this memoir like the beads the author returns to when describing her journey. VERDICT This beautifully written and touching account goes beyond the horror of war to recall the lived experience of a child trying to make sense of violence and strife. Intimate and lyrical, the narrative flows from Wamariya's early experience to her life in the United States with equal grace. A must-read.—Gricel Dominguez, Florida International Univ. Lib., Miami Copyright 2018 Library Journal.

Review by PW Annex Reviews

Wamariya, a human rights advocate, and Weil, a contributing writer to the New York Times Magazine, tell the powerful story of Wamariya's experience fleeing Rwanda after the genocide against the Tutsi ethnic group began in 1994. While visiting her grandmother at age six, Wamariya and her older sister, Claire, were told to sneak out of the house after they heard a knock on the front door. For the next six years Wamariya and Claire crossed through at least seven countries, separated from their parents and living in refugee camps; when Wamariya was 12, they were granted asylum in the U.S. and landed in a safe home in Chicago. Wamariya was an ambitious student and even became interested in cheerleading. After graduating high school, she attended Yale, where she came to terms with the horrors she endured and read the works of Audre Lorde and W.G. Sebald (who taught her that "we live in all times and places at once"). At last, the sisters were reunited with their parents in 2006. This book is not a conventional story about war and its aftermath; it's a powerful coming-of-age story in which a girl explores her identity in the wake of a brutal war that destroyed her family and home. Wamariya is an exceptional narrator and her story is unforgettable. (Apr.) Copyright 2018 Publishers Weekly Annex.

Review by Publisher Summary 1

"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. It was 1994, and in 100 days more than 800,000 peoplewould be murdered in Rwanda and millions more displaced. Clemantine and her fifteen-year-old sister, Claire, ran and spent the next six years wandering through seven African countries searching for safety. They did not know whether their parents were alive. At age twelve, Clemantine and Claire were granted asylum in the United States. Raw, urgent, yet disarmingly beautiful, this book captures the true costs and aftershocks of war: what is forever lost, what can be repaired, the fragility and importance of memory. A riveting story of dislocation, survival."--

Review by Publisher Summary 2

Traces the author's harrowing experiences as a young child during the Rwanda massacres and displacements, which separated her from her parents and forced the author and her older sister to endure six years as refugees in seven countries, foraging for survival and encountering unexpected acts of cruelty and kindness before she was granted asylum in a profoundly different America.

Review by Publisher Summary 3

Traces the author's experiences as a young child during the Rwanda massacres and displacements, which separated her from her parents and forced the author and her older sister to endure six years as refugees in seven countries before she was granted asylum in the United States.

Review by Publisher Summary 4

A NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER“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.