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The Girl Who Smiled Beads

A Story of War and What Comes After

by Clemantine Wamariya, Elizabeth Weil

The Girl Who Smiled Beads by Clemantine Wamariya, Elizabeth Weil X
The Girl Who Smiled Beads by Clemantine Wamariya, Elizabeth Weil
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  • Published:
    Apr 2018, 288 pages

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There are currently 27 reader reviews for The Girl Who Smiled Beads
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Cheryl P. (Lebanon, PA)

The Girl Who Smiled Beads
This was a very thought-provoking book that made you search for the good in this world. Opened my eyes to world events that I heard of, but didn't pay attention to. Because it wasn't here in my safe country. Horrors like this are hard to imagine. The story wove in and out of present time. This just added to the "traveling" and "searching" that the author was always needing to do to find peace, to remember, to feel secure.
Kate S. (Arvada, CO)

Lost Childhood and Stolen Identity
This was a difficult book to read. Not the writing, that was direct, straight forward, and sometimes poetic. The subject matter was "hell on earth". To read about the horrors that people can inflict on one another for no reason is insanity!
It gives one hope that refugees can find a better life, but as we saw with Clementine, even with the comforts of the United States, and a good education obtained, she still seeks for her basic identity. This book would be a great starting point for so many discussions and would be a great Book Club selection.
Patti P. (Phoenix, AZ)

How can one properly "rate" another's pain?
4.5...Wow!! What a magnificently, powerful and emotionally raw memoir. This greatly impacted my entire being--down to the most basic fiber. Additionally, I was surprised at how effectively it humbled me--making me aware of my ignorance and my sheltered experiences. I now realize that US refugee status does not necessarily aid in the healing of life's horror-filled transgressions--that perhaps, there is no correct formula for healing.
Vicki Hill

Loss and Endurance
Clemantine Wamariya’s memoir of loss and endurance is told across two time periods. Her period of living in the United States includes a 2006 Oprah appearance, Yale, and her success as an international spokesperson, where she is safe but profoundly alienated. Alternating chapters recount how her childhood was stolen and she survived as a refuge after the war in Rwanda started in 1994.
A captivating part of the book is her evocation of middle-class life in Kigali. She builds a complete picture of her family, food, raising babies, clothes, beatings from men who were “decimated inside”. These memories never leave her; at the end of the book, she is still trying to come to terms with her longing for the past. Her sister Claire almost steals the book – she is a hustler and survivor, always leading the way, sometimes into disaster. Claire does not try to ponder the meaning of it all as Clemantine does; she “existed in a never-ending present, not asking too many questions”.
An important part of the story are the books that Clemantine comes across, especially “Night” by Elie Wiesel. The writing of this book has started Clementine’s mission to find a cohesive life; it continues.
Carol F. (Lake Linden, MI)

You Had to Stay Invisible
There are some powerful phrases in this book that make you envision what these girls endured. "You had to hang onto your name though nobody cared about your name". As the author says the word genocide cannot fully explain the experience of living through it. A well written account of how a 6 year old survived the horrors of refugee camps and having no where to call home. I rated it good as I thought towards the later part of the book it started to repeat itself and got a bit muddled.
Yolanda M. (Boise, ID)

A Hammer
Searing. Unforgiving. Difficult. This story was like a javelin being thrown over and over ... striking the target without pause page after page. There are so many stories about war and its affects on the women and children - each with their own voice. Clementine's is pure righteous anger born out of terror. There was little room for me to react - I could only watch as she unfolded harsh realities and responded with pragmatic resilience without the requisite joy and hope so many others' stories have shared. That is real life. I can only hope that at some point she begins to feel safe and finds peace in the moment through her work.
Dotty S. (Bloomington, IN)

The Girl Who Smiled Beads by Clemantine Wamariya
This is the true story of two sisters who escape the Rwandan genocide and eventually reunited with their family in America on the Oprah show. The author, Clemantine Wamariya, reveals how she and her older sister, Claire traveled across the continent of Africa, facing horrors while living in multiple refugee camps.

Clementine begins the story when she was a young child. Her family fell apart and left her and Claire on their own. They both eventually end up in the U.S. Unfortunately the story jumps around in time and is often difficult to follow.

Clementine lives with American families, attends school, and eventually becomes a speaker while trying to come to terms with her history and life in the present.

I recommend this book of personal strength and struggle.
Power Reviewer
Freya H. (Towanda, PA)

The Girl Who Smiled Beads
This is a difficult book to read. Most of us cannot imagine what Clemantine and her sister endured as they searched for a safe place to escape the madness in Rwanda. That they survived was miraculous. After being granted asylum in the United States, the girls faced other challenges as well. An inspirational book of survival, it would be a good choice for Book Club discussions.

Beyond the Book:
  Rwanda Today

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