The Girl Who Smiled Beads
by Clemantine Wamariya; Elizabeth Weil
Pub Date 26 Apr 2018
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‘Sharp, moving memoir . . . Wamariya tells her own story with feeling, in vivid prose. She has remade herself, as she explains was necessary to do, on her own terms.’ New York Times
A riveting tale of dislocation, survival, and the power of stories to break or save us
Clemantine Wamariya was six years old when her mother and father began to speak in whispers, when neighbours 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 wandering 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, where she embarked on another journey, 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.
'Extraordinary and heartrending. Wamariya is as fiercely talented as she is courageous' - Junot Díaz, author of The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao
'Clemantine Wamariya has written a defining, luminescent memoir that shines a sharp light on the dark forces that roil our age . . . Her gripping and brutally honest reflections inspire us to count our blessings and summon us to follow her fierce and unrelenting example to try to help build the world we wish to see' - Samantha Power, author of A Problem from Hell