The Girl Who Smiled Beads

The Girl Who Smiled Beads

A Story of War and What Comes After

Book - 2018
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"A riveting story of dislocation, survival and the power of the imagination to 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." 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--hiding under beds, foraging for food, surviving and fleeing refugee camps, finding unexpected kindness, witnessing unimaginable cruelty. They did not know whether their parents were alive. At age twelve, Clemantine, along with Claire, was granted asylum in the United States--a chance to build a new life. Chicago was disorienting, filled with neon lights, antiseptic smells, endless concrete. Clemantine spoke five languages but almost no English, and had barely gone to school. Many people wanted to help--a family in the North Shore suburbs invited Clemantine to live with them as their daughter. Others saw her only as broken. They thought she needed, and wanted, to be saved. Meanwhile Claire, who had for so long protected and provided for Clemantine, found herself on a very different path, cleaning hotel rooms to support her three children. Raw, urgent, yet disarmingly beautiful, The Girl Who Smiled Beads captures the true costs and aftershocks of war: what is forever lost, what can be repaired, the fragility and importance of memory, the faith that one can learn, again, to love oneself, even with deep scars."--
Publisher: Toronto :, Doubleday Canada,, [2018]
Copyright Date: ©2018
ISBN: 9780385687003
Branch Call Number: 967.571043109 WAM
Additional Contributors: Weil, Elizabeth 1969-


From Library Staff

BPLpicks Jan 21, 2019

Clemantine was just six when she and her 15-year old sister were forced to flee the massacre in Rwanda; they were displaced throughout Africa for six years until they attained refugee status in the USA. Clemantine's story is harrowing, perhaps more so because we see these experiences through the ... Read More »

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Mar 05, 2019

Author writes memoir of her and her sister’s experience during the Rwandan Civil War of the 1990s. She is a young girl; her sister a teenager. After years as refugees in Africa, they come to Chicago to re-start their lives.

The intriguing book title pulled me in; it comes from a folktale. Both girls are fierce survivors, admirable. Their American lives are such contrasts, hard for me to reconcile. Will be thinking about Claire and Clemantine for a long time.

BPLpicks Jan 21, 2019

Clemantine was just six when she and her 15-year old sister were forced to flee the massacre in Rwanda; they were displaced throughout Africa for six years until they attained refugee status in the USA. Clemantine's story is harrowing, perhaps more so because we see these experiences through the eyes of a child who does not fully understand the events she is caught in. I found this book hard to put down; I was invested in Clemantine’s journey and its effects on her life in the USA and admired her honesty, strength and insight.

ArapahoeKati Dec 26, 2018

Devastating. Beautiful. Heartbreaking. Unputdownable. Must read if you like memoirs.

Dec 02, 2018

I loved getting to know Clemantine Wamariya through her autobiograpical book. Through this heart wrenching depiction of her life story Wamariya leaves herself vulnerable by sharing her true self with the world. This book is a gift.

At the same time there are no words to describe how saddened I am at the horrific childhood this woman had. One of so, so many people are subject to this experience. How could this be someone's true story? How can the world become a better place for everyone?

Nov 02, 2018

Rec'd by Alicia

Oct 30, 2018

It’s not an easy subject to write and review about. What can you really say about it when it’s filled with tragedy, mass displacement, and human suffering. It’s definitely an eye opener and if you’re wanting a book to read and discuss this would be an ideal one.

What is prevalent all throughout the novel is Clemantine’s feeling of displacement and how she’s not really entire ‘whole’ or she’s never really had a place to call ‘home’ considering all she’s been through. She’s gone through various countries through Africa only to be displaced time after time. It’s emotionally jarring and to even think that Clemantine was only a child during this period would be traumatizing to any child exposed to this world.

I find the book interesting and shows how her behavior is like once she moves to the US. Clemantine constantly seeks new opportunities but it feels as if she’s doing so to learn more about herself or to constantly fill herself so she can feel wholesome. Every time she accomplishes something, she goes out to do more. It’s never ending. It’s an admirable trait if you look from another perspective but if you don’t know her real background, you would assume she’s a normal, overachieving teenager.

Claire’s strength is admirable throughout the story. Despite all the chaos going around her, she is constantly trying to improve so she can get out with Clemantine. The sad part is, because of what was happening around them, they didn’t really have the chance to be actual sisters. Claire looked out for everyone, Clemantine stayed home and held the fort.

No matter how hard you try you can’t really put yourself in their perspective. You can’t really know how it is until you’re actually there experiencing it too (and no one wants that obviously) you can only wish Clemantine and her family will continue to lead on successful and fulfilling lives like they rightly deserve just like everyone else.

Sep 30, 2018

Excellent read. A horrific story without all the horrible details. It sure gives you an appreciation of her/their story.

Sep 23, 2018

The author's method of alternating timelines by chapter was very effective in rendering this heartbreaking account of a young girl's escape from the Rwanda genocide. The memoir also recounts the author's eventual arrival in America, her life as a foster adolescent, her success in high school and at Yale U., and her accolades as a human rights activist and author. And she leaves us with the reminder that she may never rid herself of the demons from her turbulent past which continue to haunt her despite her achievements.

Aug 23, 2018

I did not mean to, but I read this book in one sitting during one of the days of unbreathable air. I could not put it down. It's been about a week since I finished it, but I'm loathe to return it: I'll have to get my own copy.

Too often in memoirs of this type, it feels like the author is struggling to make meaning, to tie things up in a bow, as if the narrative needs a tidy conclusion where God/friends/family let them "recover" or something and the journey has a definite ending. This book does not pretend anything is so simple. Much of the time is spent in what I suppose could be called "after", if you like, when immediate physical danger is over, but this is just another step in trying to figure out how to make sense of the extremes, how to live in this world as it is, live with humans as they are. At one point she speaks about reading memoirs from others who have suffered through different but still extreme circumstances, searching for (paraphrased) "How did you do it? How did you survive?" That was one of the times I had to put the book down and go for a little (interior) walk.

It is not a complete timeline. Still, I am impressed she could find words for this book. This sort of naming is elusive.

May 23, 2018

Loved this book, but couldn't get a strong connection with the author at times. Wish it would go into more detail about the countries they fled too as it felt a lot was left out.

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Dec 02, 2018

toni_brinsfield thinks this title is suitable for 14 years and over

May 23, 2018

Mya614 thinks this title is suitable for 15 years and over


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