Genres: Memoir & Autobiography
Publication Date: April 24, 2018 by Crown Publishing Group
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A riveting story 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 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 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 asylum in the United States, where she embarked on another journey--to excavate her past and, after years of being made to feel less than human, claim her individuality.
Raw, urgent, and bracingly original, The Girl Who Smiled Beads captures the true costs and aftershocks of war: what is forever destroyed; what can be repaired; the fragility of memory; the disorientation that comes of other people seeing you only as broken--thinking you need, and want, to be saved. But it is about more than the brutality of war. It is about owning your experiences, about the life we create: intricately detailed, painful, beautiful, a work in progress.
I received this book for free in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
I have been on a roll with all the memoirs I’ve read this year. This is the third one that’s made it to my favorite books of 2018!
“Often, still, my own life story feels fragmented, like beads unstrung. Each time I scoop up my memories, the assortment is slightly different. I worry, at times, that I’ll always be lost inside. I worry that I’ll forever be confused.”
I’d heard so much hype about The Girl Who Smiles Beads for a while, and since I’ve been in the mood to read memoirs recently, I couldn’t wait to pick this one up.
This memoir is so emotional. It’s about a young woman, Clemantine Wamariya, who escaped Rwanda as a child with her older sister during the Rwandan Genocide. Each chapter switches between Claire and Clementine moving from refugee camp to refugee camp, and throughout the years after the sisters moved to America.
Like the summary sounds, it was a heartbreaking memoir that I think showed a perspective we don’t get to see too often. And like most memoirs it had some parts that were uplifting, but you can feel Clemantine’s anger throughout the book. She’s angry that this happened to her home, she’s angry that no one else in the world seemed to care about what happened, she’s angry that people can be so oblivious to what’s going on in the world around them.
“I did not understand the point of the word genocide then. I resent and revile it now. The word is tidy and efficient. It holds no true emotion. It is impersonal when it needs to be intimate; cool and sterile when it needs to be gruesome. The word is hollow, true but disingenuous, a performance, the worst kind of lie.”
The writing in this memoir is phenomenal. I have so many sticky tabs and underlined sentences spread throughout the book. The writing seems almost lyrical at times, and is very personal, sharing exactly what she thinks and what she went through without holding back.
I don’t think anything I write in this review will do the book justice. It is a phenomenal memoir and I recommend everyone pick it up and read it when they get the chance.