Saturday, March 17, 2018

THE GIRL WHO SMILED BEADS by Clemantine Wamariya
























5.5
Crown Publishing
Available April 24, 2018
Rwandan Literature
Memoir





Clemantine Wamariya
 ".....other speaking invitations followed and my talks where magic. At the end of each one people were in tears. But they understood nothing-least of all, that I wasn't special. There were so many of me, thousands, millions. I just happen to be the one standing in the room. Don't cry for me, I wanted to say. Cry for them, it will take you a hundred lifetimes to cry for all of them..."


About 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. 
 
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.


My view



Clemantine and her sister Claire

Oh, I have such a difficult time reviewing Clemantine Wamariya's memoir, should one be much older than 28 to write a memoir? Clemantine at 28 lived a life time, yet as she tells her readers "what is next". The title THE GIRL WHO SMILED BEADS has it's origins from a fairytale without ending, urging a child to ask what is next... Next arrived when Clemantine age 4 and her sister Claire age 15 escaped into a sweet potato field, away from family and friends, away from Rwanda and the most horrific genocide in modern times...traveling on foot from refugee camps to refugee camps, places of hunger, diseases, death. Death of body, death of spirit, death of self. Many years passed before Clemantine and Claire found refuge in the United States. Clemantine expresses with deep clarity the stigma attached to the status 'refugee' which affected her in years to come. 

".....other speaking invitations followed and my talks where magic. At the end of each one people were in tears. But they understood nothing-least of all, that I wasn't special. There were so many of me, thousands, millions. I just happen to be the one standing in the room. Don't cry for me, I wanted to say. Cry for them, it will take you a hundred lifetimes to cry for all of them..."





Clemantine and her sister Claire's resilience is beyond human understanding...as is the resilience of so many human beings who's life is up turned by war..... I have read novels regarding the Rwandan genocide, well researched books. THE GIRL WHO SMILED BEADS Is a first hand account which should be part of every school curriculum. 

Thank you NetGalley for this advance copy