The Girl Who Smiled Beads: A Story of War and What Comes After (Hardcover)
At age six, Clemantine fled the Rwanda massacres with her 15-yr-old sister. Separated from their family, the two of them wandered for six years through seven countries, only to end up in America on television, where Oprah reunites them with their family. A graduate of Yale, her remarkable story is stunning.— From Robin's Picks
May 2018 Indie Next List
“The Girl Who Smiled Beads is a beautiful and heartbreaking look into the life of a woman who survived the genocide in Rwanda. I was so moved by Clemantine's story of her escape and time as a child refugee, and equally moved by her struggle to come to terms with her experiences after moving to the U.S. Looking at what happened through the story of someone who escaped as a child makes the horrors even more viscerally felt by the reader. I am humbled and grateful to have been able to read this important account.”
— Hillary Smith, Copperfield's Books, Sebastopol, CA
A NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER
“The plot provided by the universe was filled with starvation, war and rape. I would not—could not—live in that tale.”
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.
About the Author
Clemantine Wamariya is a storyteller and human rights advocate. Born in Kigali, Rwanda, displaced by conflict, Clemantine migrated throughout seven African countries as a child. At age twelve, she was granted refugee status in the United States and went on to receive a BA in Comparative Literature from Yale University. She lives in San Francisco.
Elizabeth Weil is a writer-at-large for The New York Times Magazine, a contributing editor to Outside magazine, and writes frequently for Vogue and other publications. She is the recipient of a New York Press Club Award for her feature reporting, a Lowell Thomas Award for her travel writing, and a GLAAD Award for her coverage of LGBT issues. In addition, her work has been a finalist for a National Magazine Award, a James Beard Award, and a Dart Award for coverage of trauma. She lives in San Francisco with her husband and two daughters.
“Sharp, moving... Wamariya and her co-author, Elizabeth Weil... describe Wamariya’s idyllic early childhood in the Rwandan capital, Kigali, and the madness that followed with an analytic eye and, at times, a lyrical honesty.... Wamariya is piercing about her alienation in America and her effort to combat the perception that she is an exotic figure, to be pitied or dismissed.... 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.”
—Alexis Okeowo, New York Times Book Review
"Like Ishmael Beah’s A Long Way Gone, on being a boy soldier in Sierra Leone, or Joseph Kim’s Under the Same Sky, on escaping North Korea, The Girl Who Smiled Beads is at once terrifying and life-affirming. And like those memoirs, it painstakingly describes the human cost of war."
“Remarkable... Wamariya and the journalist Elizabeth Weil set out to sabotage facile uplift.... The fractured form of her own narrative—deftling toggling between her African and American odysseys—gives troubled memory its dark due.”
—Ann Hulbert, The Atlantic
"Wamariya’s memoir proves how the human spirit can triumph. It truly floored me."
—Elisabeth Egan, Glamour
"Gripping.... It is our human tragedy that there will always be war, and that there will always be displaced people. Memoirs that show exactly what that means, exactly what the toll is, are vital."
—The Minneapolis Star Tribune
“Wamariya (along with Outside contributor Elizabeth Weil) tells... her story—which, yes, is often extremely tough—with brilliance.”
“In the aftermath of the Holocaust, witnesses and survivors shared reflections that changed our moral understanding of good and evil and all that lies between. In The Girl Who Smiled Beads, Clemantine Wamariya has written a defining, luminescent memoir that shines a sharp light on the dark forces that roil our age. If you read this book—and once you read the first page, you will not put it down—you will never think about political violence, displacement, or the privileges and responsibilities of citizenship the same way again. Wamariya tells the story of her discombobulating resettlement in the United States as a teenager, following her harrowing experiences in the Rwandan genocide and as a refugee roaming the African continent in search of a home. Wamariya is unsparing in her criticisms of Western indifference and moral presumptuousness, and she subjects her own judgments and values to the same withering scrutiny, revealing a young woman that figures out how to survive but struggles to learn how to live. 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": America and the Age of Genocide; Anna Lindh Professor of the Practice of Global Leadership and Public Policy, Harvard Kennedy School
“This book is not a conventional story about war and its aftermath; it’s a powerful coming-of-age story in which a girl explores her identity in the wake of a brutal war that destroyed her family and home. Wamariya is an exceptional narrator and her story is unforgettable.”
—Publishers Weekly (starred review)
“At once heart-breaking and hopeful, [Wamariya's] story is about power and helplessness, loneliness and identity, and the strange juxtaposition of poverty and privilege.... This beautifully written and touching account goes beyond the horror of war to recall the lived experience of a child trying to make sense of violence and strife. Intimate and lyrical, the narrative flows from Wamariya’s early experience to her life in the United States with equal grace. A must-read.”
—Library Journal (starred review)
"In this eloquent and engaging memoir, Clemantine Wamariya recalls a childhood spent as a refugee on the run from war, violence, and terror, and a womanhood shaped by those experiences. Affecting and utterly eye-opening, The Girl Who Smiled Beads is a powerful reminder of just how strong and indomitable the human spirit can be."
"Lyrical and hauntingly beautiful. The Girl Who Smiled Beads will inspire you."
—Chanrithy Him, author of When Broken Glass Floats
“A powerful record of the refugee experience... [with] moments of potent self-reckoning.”
“In her prose as in her life, Wamariya is brave, intelligent, and generous. Sliding easily between past and present, this memoir is a soulful, searing story about how families survive.”
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Bring Home Memories of Southwest Michigan with these Local Interest and History Books!
These local books are only available by calling the store at 269-982-1110 or by email at email@example.com. Shipping services available.
View 366: A Year-long Visual Story of the St. Joseph Lighthouses is a journey into the changing days and seasons in the shadow of the century-old pair of iconic lighthouses situated in southwestern Michigan. This unique photographic story, chronicled by photographer and writer Laura Kraklau, documents 366 consecutive days of the St. Joseph lighthouses from August 26, 2011, through August 25, 2012.
Greetings from St Joseph by Robert C. Myers is a pictorial history of the city dating back to 1679. This book’s lively narrative spans the Colonial Era to the 21st century and includes chapters on St. Joseph’s domestic architecture, downtown, industries, transportation, schools, churches, and cultural organizations. Filled with photographs, maps, and drawings. 8 ½” X 11”, 323 p.p., softcover with bibliography and index.
Greetings from Benton Harbor by Robert Myers. Founded on a ship canal in 1860, Benton Harbor became an economic and cultural center in southwest Michigan. The book spans Benton Harbor's history from the early 1800 to the 21st century. This volume of Historic Photobooks brings together a lively narrative and hundreds of vintage photographs from public institutions and private collections. 81/2 x 11", 390pps, softcover with bibliography and index.
Historical Sketches of Berrien County; by Robert C. Myers features a collection of 152 colorful tales about the history of this southwest Michigan county. Learn about a priest’s opposition to teddy bears, the four flags of Niles, Three Oaks’ campaign against the world, and much more. 7 X 8-1/2”, softcover, 275 p.p., bibliography, index, photos, and illustrations.
Locomotives Along the Lakeshore: Railroads of Berrien County, Michigan by curator Robert Myers, relates the history of each railroad line that operated in Berrien County. The 174-page book includes hundreds of photographs of railroad locomotives, depots and train crews, plus endnotes, a bibliography and index. Photographs in the book, most of which have never been published before, come from the History Center’s own collections and those of area museums and libraries, as well as many private collections.
THE GREAT AMERICAN READ is an eight-part series on PBS that explores and celebrates the power of reading, told through the prism of America’s 100 best-loved novels (as chosen in a national survey). It investigates how and why writers create their fictional worlds, how we as readers are affected by these stories, and what these 100 different books have to say about our diverse nation and our shared human experience. There will be a nationwide vote to choose America's most beloved book. Find the 100 book selections here and read and place your vote by clicking on image to the left!