Review of The Girl Who Smiled Beads

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Rating

9

Qualities

  • Eloquent
  • Engaging
  • Insider's Take

Review

Clemantine Wamariya was an inquisitive, rambunctious child who loved playing in the yard with her older brother and pestering her older sister Claire. Then one day, the schools closed, and her life changed forever. She and Claire were forced to flee as war, murder, betrayal and madness exploded around them. Writing with journalist Elizabeth Weil, Wamariya tells the story of the struggles she endured to survive the Rwandan genocide. She offers a deeply personal memoir about human nature amid the pressures of war, poverty and homelessness. Given the grimness of the tale, her often lyrical language and penetrating insights provide a surprisingly humane and generous narrative. Her deeply felt, articulate and singular saga will appeal to anyone who cares about the growing global refugee crisis, contemporary African history, immigration policies and the human determination to keep the soul alive in the midst of horror. Clemantine Wamariya gives refugee statistics an unforgettable human face and meaning.

About the Authors

Human rights advocate and public speaker Clemantine Wamariya uses storytelling to bring communities together. Elizabeth Weil is a writer-at-large for The New York Times Magazine and an award-winning journalist.

 

The End of Childhood

Clemantine Wamariya begins her book with the writing contest she won in 2006  with an essay she based on Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel’s autobiographical story Night. As a result, Oprah Winfrey’s staff invited her and her sister Claire to appear on Winfrey’s talk show. They were refugees of the Rwandan genocide, and Winfrey dramatically reunited them with their family on her show. They hadn’t been together since 1994, when the Rwandan civil war broke out.

Wamariya recounts growing up in Rwanda in a middle-class household. She played with her older brother Pudi and older sister, Claire, who was wise beyond her 14 years. Clemantine’s beloved nanny, Mukamana, spun stories that encouraged the child’s inquisitive mind. One day, Mukamana disappeared. Clemantine’s parents told her she could no longer play with her best friend. She stopped going to kindergarten or even going outside. The “conflict” had come to Rwanda. Clemantine was six.


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