Author: Clemantine Wamariya
Book of The Month Synopsis: “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. In 1994, she and her fifteen-year-old sister, Claire, fled the Rwandan massacre and spent the next six years migrating 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; there, in Chicago, their lives diverged. Though their bond remained unbreakable, Claire, who had for so long protected and provided for Clemantine, was a single mother struggling to make ends meet, while Clemantine was taken in by a family who raised her as their own. She seemed to live the American dream: attending private school, taking up cheerleading, and, 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.”
Review: I don’t normally like Memoirs, they always seem either dry or the writing style just isn’t what I want. In short, I never feel like I’m emotionally invested in Memoirs (except for The Testament of Youth). But The Girl Who Smiled Beads did in fact have me emotionally invested. In fact, I was in awe not only by the courage of both Clemantine and Claire but the way in which Clemantine put herself out there for all of us to read. We were able to see the good, the bad and how even when everything should be good you might still not feel completely at ease. While not many can say they have gone through the struggles of Clemantine and her family, they can take solace in the fact that you just have to keep trying. What I loved so much about this story wasn’t just that it was about the strength and endurance these young girls faced when migrating but what came after. How they had to try to pick themselves up again, learn who they were in a different country and find a way to accept and cope with what happened to them. I definitely recommend this one.
Overall Rating: 4/5 stars
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