The Girl Who Smiled Beads

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 24 Jul 2018

Member Reviews

I daresay this is one of the most important books from 2018. As seen by the news, it has become too easy to dehumanize immigrants and refugees. Each person is exactly that, a person, and should be treated as such.

The Girl Who Smiled Beads shares Clemantine's journey from her childhood during the Rwandan genocide to all that came after as a refugee. She shares what it is like when you no longer have a place in the world, no  longer know where you can call home. What it is like when you have to keep moving and losing all that you have in order to escape the horror that lies behind for the search of something better ahead. It is a thought-provoking story full of hope and should be required reading for all. 

We can do better and we need stories like this to guide us.  This is a must-read 2018 release.
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very personal story that really engages readers. Really resonates with the global conversations that are important to be having these days. While I thought the writing wasn’t the strongest at points the story and emotional appeal is what makes this book a must read.
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Wow, as I read this novel, I was exhausted.  Clemantine had lived quite an extensive life, a life which seemed to be always on the go, a life where she couldn’t get too comfortable because they would soon be moving on.

I felt a bit overwhelmed as Clemantine moved around in this novel.  She moved with her sister and soon-to-be her sister’s family as they ran to safety countless times, throughout the novel.  I was glad that Clemantine had her older sister Claire with her, although at times they didn’t always agree, for she was family and she felt safe with her.  I think Claire tried her best to provide for them and she really tried.  

I loved Claire’s personality, her relentless attitude for trying to succeed and to make a better life for herself and her family.  Her motivation was a positive note in this novel as I read.  The way that she popped out of every situation, the way she kept one set of clothes for dressing up, the way she spoke which was sometimes different than she normally spoke; these all said something about the way she wanted to be seen in the world and the way she wanted to be treated.  I respected that.  Claire treated her children and her husband according to how her culture expected her to treat them.  

Clemantine was young and she tried to find her way in the cruel world that she was living in.  I was surprised how mature she was in handling the situations that she was faced with.  She didn’t become emotional, like some children might, but she clung onto what she knew she had for support.

I liked what her mother told her about sharing. How everyone needed to share what they had, no matter how small it is.  How when people isolate themselves, the world becomes dull and cruel. But to share of yourself, that is when you will have equality amongst everyone. 

This was a book I found hard to follow sometimes, as the book goes forwards and back in time and I had to stop and find my place a few times before continuing.  It’s sad to read a story about this topic but it’s a blessing to read about individuals who come into the lives of these victims and open up their hearts and homes to help them.  The destruction was personal, physical and emotional, one that will never be completely healed.  I appreciate the author sharing her story.  4.5 stars

I received a copy of this novel from NetGalley and Crown Publishing in exchange for an honest review.
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What a beautiful memoir. I absolutely loved it. I heard great things and always have reservations about reading books everyone raves about in case it doesn't live up to the hype but this definitely did
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I don’t normally read biographies and seems to shy away from them but with all the high rating and reviews from my Traveling Sisters and Friends I finally along with Susanne dived into this one. I am really glad I did.

I went into this one not knowing much about the Rwandan genocide and Clemantine Wamariya really opened my eyes up to the reality of these horrific events and what it was like escaping those events. The story goes back and forth in time and at times I found it confusing and I struggled a bit with following the story. A good part of the story is Clementine and her sister’s journey, struggles and how they adapted from one environment to other. I could feel their struggles to stay alive, fight to stay clean and healthy and never giving up on that even when she was so tired of it all. 

I really appreciated how open and honest the story was written and I could feel Clementine's anger and bitterness as she tried to escape her past never looking for sympathy but just wanting to find her place and feel and be treated like a human after witnessing such inhuman cruelty and conditions. 

I highly recommend this very emotionally and honest story of two sisters struggling to find their way through such horrible conditions from refugee camp to another and finally come to be reunited with their parents.

Thank you to NetGalley and Crown Publishing for a copy to read and review
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An incredibly powerful read. I read this as background for featuring it on BookBrowse. We will continue to talk up the book whenever we can, both in hardcover and paperback.
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This book is moving and educational. I learned a lot, I cried. It humanized an experience that I knew almost nothing about.
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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.
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The aftershocks and effects of war on sisters Clemantine and Claire are horrifically detailed in this sensitive novel. Displaced and wandering Africa for 6 years after the Rwanda brutalities, the sisters end up in asylum in the US. Well written.
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Heartwreching and authentic.  I could not put this book down.  You get a real life look into how the Rwandan wars affect the life of two sisters split up from their family, running for their life to a refugee camp that is not much safer.  The author was very open with her relationship with her sister which was strained by the hardships they went through and with her parents and siblings which was distant.  She also had a hard time relating to her American classmates and their “problems” went compared to what she went through.  A great book makes you see what it is like to be in someone else’s shoes and this book did this and much more.  

I gave this 5 stars on Goodreads and Amazon.  

I received an advanced copy of this book from NetGalley for review consideration.
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I loved the back and forth of this memoir. the writing was amazing. What an amazing journey she went through
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I was expecting a much a deeper connection with such a powerful topic and a personal story!

Though I enjoyed the story in general it was hard for me to fully connect with it.

3.5-star

What to expect? 

-	Powerful relevant topics
-	Interesting facts
-	Impeccable writing 

However, also expect ...

-	LOTSA of telling
-	Events told in a somehow dispassionate and emotionless way
-	Uneven pacing due to Dual timeline that 

Even though I totally understood Clemantine’s emotions the writing and the voice came out too angry and choppy and it was hard for me to connect with Clemantine and her story. Also there is a lot of irrelevant stories, telling and very few dialogues and the dual timeline disrupted the pace and flow making it hard for me to remain interested.
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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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My Thoughts: Wow! The Girl Who Smiled Beads is everything at once: a heartbreaking, terrifying story of war and genocide and an inspirational story of a girl fulfilling her destiny. Clemantine Wamariya’s memoir smoothly alternates chapters between the six years she and her sister, Claire, wandered Africa in search of safety and a place to call home, and the years after they gained refugee status in the United States. This dual timeline kept both parts of her story in balance.

At only six years old, Clemantine and her 15-year old sister fled their home, their country to escape the war and massacres that were ravaging Rwanda. Clemantine was too young to truly understand, but she was not too young to feel terror and grief at losing the only life she had known.

“I never learned the right words in Kinyarwanda. I hope they don’t exist, but without words my mind had no way to define or understand the awful sounds. Nowhere to store them in my brain. It was cold and green and wet and then bushes and my legs were shaking. And, eyes. So many eyes. My thoughts and senses became jumbled.”

I found both Clemantine and her sister Claire to be remarkable. Claire wasn’t the mother substitute that young Clemantine longed for, but she was a powerhouse at keeping the two of them alive. Every country they fled to, every new camp they made a home in, Claire found a way to make money. They never had much, but Claire kept them alive and moving toward safety. Along the way, Claire picked up a husband that she wished she hadn’t, and gave birth to two children also falling under the wing of her protection. It was Claire who got them to America, where Clemantine thrived and Claire struggled.

In The Girl Who Smiled Beads Clemantine Wamariya laid bare the lifelong wounds of war and how little most of us will ever truly understand them. It’s easy to know of wars happening on the other side of the world, but it’s much more difficult to truly open our eyes and see the human side of the horrors. With sadness, anger, humor and hope Clemantine Wamariya has managed to shine a light on war and on its survival. I highly recommend, The Girl Who Smiled Beads.
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This is the powerful and poignant memoir of a young girl as refugee and survivor of the Rwandan massacre. This is not a graphic horror story, but a thoughtful exploration of how this young girl evolves into a young woman in the U.S. White privilege, body image, soul searching and Oprah Winfrey factor in so that there is connection on many levels. The narration changes as Clemantine matures, evolving as she does from random child like observations to philosophy of Sebald. A wonderful book that has my mind and sense of soul whirring. There is much to offer many readers.

Copy provided by the Publisher and NetGalley
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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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The Girl Who Smiled Beads: A Story of War and What Comes After is destined to become a modern classic. It is that powerful. It is that important.

The book is beautifully written, raw, stark and haunting. It tells a young girl's insider view of the Rwandan genocide and her experiences as a refugee before coming to the USA. Wamariya does an excellent job of absorbing the reader, taking us with her as she learns about the many different cultures of the 7 African countries she journeyed through on her way to settling in the US. Seeing America through her eyes and her pain, is equally riveting. 

Wamariya is full of questions, anger, bitterness, and fear. How can anyone who has lived her life not be? No one who has not lived through the types of experiences described in The Girl Who Smiled Beads can ever hope to come close to understanding the horror of her experiences. I think the mind tends to protect and deceive itself in some ways. Even grasping the sheer numbers of the genocide is hard to fathom. But this young girl, who hates to be called brave or courageous, (because she feels accepting accolades diminishes the ones who died and the fact that she could've died just as well as lived at many points) IS brave and IS courageous in bringing her story into the light and letting us realize how insulated we are from the horrors which have happened, and which continue to occur all over the world.

READ THIS BOOK!! Let me say that again - READ THIS BOOK! As a human on the planet, you owe it to those who have suffered and are suffering, in the hopes that acknowledging what is happening, and working together we might be able to help stop it, or at least help those affected by it.

Many thanks to NetGalley and Crown Publishing for allowing me to read this amazing book. I shall never view life in the same way.
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When Clemantine was a young girl, the war in Rwanda broke out forcing her and her teenage sister, Claire, on a perilous escape across several African countries.  They faced hunger, abuse, poverty and frightening refugee camps in order to stay alive.  Ultimately, they ended up in the United States and after reconnecting with their family, on Oprah, Clemantine is forced to come to terms with the who she is and what she has survived.  This book excels at presenting the "after."  Her thoughts and feelings while dealing with seemingly well-intentioned Americans prove that no one can really understand what a war refugee is going through internally.  I received a digital ARC of this book through NetGalley.
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5++ stars

I 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. 

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?

**I received a digital copy of the book from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.
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THE GIRL WHO SMILED BEADS by Clemantine Wamariya is one of the best memoirs I’ve read recently. It is about the author’s experience living as a young refugee following the Rwandan genocide. These incredibly harsh memories are interspersed with the “after” — several years later when she is living in relative privilege in America. The stark difference between her life as a refugee and her life as a scholarship winning, Oprah mentee is obviously a huge source of discomfort for Wamariya. And really it should be for all of us. Definitely recommended!
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