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The Girl Who Smiled Beads: A Story of War and What Comes After

4.19  ·  Rating details ·  17,495 ratings  ·  2,207 reviews
A riveting story of dislocation, survival, and the power of the imagination to 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." It was 1994, and in 100 days more than 800,000 people would be murdered in Rwanda and
Hardcover, 275 pages
Published April 24th 2018 by Doubleday Canada
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Teresa I felt like she kept her personal experiences to herself. She depicted a life of hunger, resilience, and obstacles yet remained true to knowing she wa…moreI felt like she kept her personal experiences to herself. She depicted a life of hunger, resilience, and obstacles yet remained true to knowing she was important and not defined entirely by her journey. A journey more of self discovery and love for her country, Rwanda, and family while finding a new life in the USA. A good read. I especially liked her pov about Belgium occupation and how it influenced the country after their departure. (less)
Yaaresse I'm going to disagree with the others, but with some caveats.

The language in the book is written at a level that should not cause a problem. The even…more
I'm going to disagree with the others, but with some caveats.

The language in the book is written at a level that should not cause a problem. The events are horrific, yes, but the author does not go into such graphic description that they shouldn't be able to cope with it. Most video games and movies they've seen show more with far less reason. Yes, the story is difficult, but it is difficult for adults, too. I hope they never become "easy" to grasp for anyone of any age.

There is no magic age where a young person suddenly has "enough" maturity and experience to "handle" difficult concepts, and there is no minimum age to start learning empathy. Maturity and the ability to process difficult information comes from grappling with challenging material and situations, preferably with the safety net of adult guidance and peer assistance. Most teenagers, unless they have been particularly sheltered from the world outside their parents' bubble or taught not to attempt anything they are not sure to achieve, are quite capable and often eager to grapple with difficult material. They may not understand colonialism or be able to find Rwanda on a map, but most are fully aware of prejudice, being scared, and trying to adapt to new situations. They already know violence exists, more than most of us adults would ever suspect.

Not allowing young readers the freedom to tackle challenging material makes for lazy readers and narrow thinkers. You're more likely to have more trouble from the bubblewrap parents than from the teens when it comes to reading material suitability.

If it were me, I'd present both the YA version and the adult version and let them decide which to read. It might even be that some what to read one and some the other. Since it's the same story, the differences between the two might end up being the main talking point for them. (less)

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Average rating 4.19  · 
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Angela M
Apr 14, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
4.5 stars .

I read very few memoirs, but felt I should read this one after recently reading a novel about the Rwanda genocide which made me realize of how little I knew of it. In this book, we are exposed to it head on, with excruciating honesty . So many people killed but what about those who escaped? This book focuses on the story of one family, about how two young girls ran from the murderers and endured horrible conditions in refugee camps. Clementine at six years old is sent by her parents
Socks officially knocked off!

Best book I’ve read this year, hands down, and it goes on my all-time favorites list. Intense, upsetting, sobering, this story got under my skin in a big way. I can’t stop thinking about, I can’t stop talking about it.

One day Clementine is playing happily with her siblings in the yard of her comfy and loving home in Rwanda, the next day she and her 15-year-old sister Claire are running for their lives.

Chapter 1 opens with this:

“When I was a regular child, I lived i
Apr 21, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: netgalley
5++ stars

I had plans for today but first I decided to sit and read for an hour. Many hours later, I closed the last page of this book. I simply could not put it down until I had read every word of this powerful memoir.

Clemantine was born into a comfortable middle-class family in Rwanda. At age 6 she and her older sister were forced to flee the ethnic killings. She spent the next 6 years moving from country to country, from refugee camp to refugee camp. Life in the camps was living in filth, infe
Sep 20, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: netgalley, memoir
This is the third book I’ve read this year based around the Rwandan genocide in 1994. Each book has been haunting, heartbreaking and tragic - this book is no different. I didn’t want to be reminded about that period again but it is compelling and inspirational to see how humanity can survive those atrocities. The scars are permanent and it is with great sadness that we listen to a real story and the impact hatred and destitution has on another human life. While the book is a memoir,
Oct 14, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: africa
So hard to write a review on a memoir especially of one where a girl has survived a brutal
Genocide in Rwanda.
Even when she arrives in the U.S as a refugee, the years of trauma unravel even once she has landed in a war free zone. The fears still remain- the difficulty trusting, the inability to forget, the fear of being abandoned. For years Clementine and her sister travelled to 7 countries to escape the death.
Now this is her story of the aftermath of survival. The darkness that continues to inv
Diane S ☔
Apr 29, 2018 rated it really liked it
4.5 The genocide in Rawanda, another subject that I knew little about. I knew it happened, knew it was a terrible atrocity, saw bits and pieces on the news, but that's about the extent of my knowledge. Now after reading this memoir about a young girl who experienced this herself, I know more. Clemantine was only six when she and her older sister, Claire were told to run. They did and for a long six years they went from place to place, camp to camp, faced starvation, horrible and unsanitary camp ...more
Elyse  Walters
Apr 30, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
“The word genocide cannot articulate the one-person experience—the real experience of each of the millions it purports to describe. The experience with a child playing dead in a pool of his father’s blood. The experience of a mother forever
wailing on her knees”.
“The word genocide cannot explain the never-ending pain, even if you live”.

Clementine Wamariya shared personal stories of when she lived in Rwanda during the civil war from when she was five years old....stories with her sister Claire.
Jennifer ~ TarHeelReader
5 brave, bold stars to The Girl Who Smiled Beads! 🌟 🌟 🌟 🌟 🌟

The Girl Who Smiled Beads has been the memoir I’ve most anticipated reading this year, and when I finally got to it, it was just after reading a fictional account of the genocide in Rwanda, In the Shadow of 10,000 Hills by Jennifer Haupt, which is definitely a favorite of mine. The Girl Who Smiled Beads was a fitting complement to In the Shadow, and I experienced on a more visceral, individual level the pain, fear, sacrifice, and absolu
Susanne  Strong
5 Astounding Stars.

The Girl Who Smiled Beads is the story of tragedy, war, violence and ultimately of survival.

Six year old Clemantine Wamariya was torn from her home along with her older sister Claire, when the War broke out in Rwanda. Fleeing everything they had ever known, they were left to their own devices, running from the massacre. Both sisters spent six years on the run, through six different countries in Africa searching for safety, never finding it. Clemantine had to learn to fend f
May 18, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: war
An interesting story that gives the readers a young girls views and thoughts on her experiences of War and Genocide and what it means to try to rebuild a life again and the feeling of never belonging.

Firstly I listened to this one on audio and while the narrator was adequate the book was difficult to follow and this was due to the structure of the novel, The story is told in two time frames and while I normally enjoy this style of writing, there seemed to be way too much toing and froing and jus
Jul 03, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: audiobook
The Girl Who Smiled Beads tells the extraordinary story of Clementine Wamariya. At age 7, she and her older sister were seperated from their parents in Rwanda. They made their own way through a series of refugee camps and ultimately moved to the US as refugees. At the time, Clementine was 12 years old. Wamariya, now a young woman, tells her own story, moving back and forth between her childhood and her early years in the US. Throughout, she reflects on what it took for her to survive and on the ...more

”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.”

Even at the tender age of four, Clementine was precocious, demanding the truth of things that the adults in her life felt were beyond her years.

”Daily, maybe hourly, I begged Mukamana to tell me stories to help me make sense of the world, like that the gods shook out the ocean like a rug to make
Apr 02, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Thanks to NetGalley for an advanced ebook in exchange for an honest review.

If I had a hard copy of this book, I would send it to each and everyone of you. Books like this resonate once again how powerful the written word can be and how a raw and deeply moving narrative can reach not only our hearts, but leave imprints on our soul.

I did not understand the point of the word genocide then. I resent it and revile it now. The word is tidy and efficient. It holds no true emotion. It is impersonal w
Jan 02, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction, memoir
The Girl Who Smiled Beads is a shocking, heartbreaking true story of a six year old girl who survived the Rwandan genocide. Almost 1 million people were slaughtered in the genocide that little Clemantine managed to escape, fleeing the country together with her older sister but with no parents. Thus began their refugee journey, an unforgiving and brutal fight for survival which lasted six long years until the older sister was no longer a child and the younger sister was not either.

"Adults in Rwan
Marialyce (absltmom, yaya)
May 19, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: library
You can find my reviews at: https://yayareadslotsofbooks.wordpres...

This was truly a harrowing tale of survival against the most oppressive of odds. Inhumanity is not confined to a country, a person, an idea. It is endemic to what is human, that need to dominate, to feel in control, in power. The powerful prey on the week and the cycle continues as each level preys on the level considered to be weaker than they.

The book is a portrayal of life on the run, a portrayal for struggling through a minu
Jennifer Blankfein
May 03, 2018 rated it it was amazing
The Nobel Peace Prize winning author and Holocaust survivor, Elie Weisel, appeared on the Oprah Winfrey Show in 2006 where Oprah played clips from an interview they had done on site at Auschwitz. In addition, on the same episode, Oprah was recognizing fifty winners of a high school essay contest who had written about Elie Weisel’s Night and its’ current day relevance. Clemantine Wamariya was one of the winners and was called up on stage to talk with Oprah. Clemantine was a Rwandan refugee who, a ...more
Dec 17, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: memoir-biography
Image result for rwandan refugee camp
(A Rwandan refugee camp in east Zaire.)

"The place that is supposed to want you has pushed you out. No other place takes you in. You are unwanted, by everyone. You are a refugee."

Try as I might, I cannot imagine what it feels like to be a refugee. To have to flee your homeland, the place you grew up, the only place you've ever known. To be without a home or country for years. To live in a refugee camp. To not know if your family is alive or dead. To not know if and when danger will find you.
Katie B
Clemantine Wamariya was six years old when her life changed forever. In 1994, she and her fifteen-year-old sister, Claire, were forced to leave their family behind and flee their home country as the Rwanda massacre raged on. They spent the next six years as refugees in multiple African countries until they were able to come to America. Clemantine was given a home with an affluent white family and she attended a private school, got involved in extra curricular activities and eventually went on to ...more
Brenda ~Traveling Sisters Book Reviews
I don’t normally read autobiographies and seems to shy away from them but with all the high rating and reviews from my Traveling Sisters and Friends I finally along with Susanne dived into this one. I am really glad I did.

I went into this one not knowing much about the Rwandan genocide and Clemantine Wamariya really opened my eyes up to the reality of these horrific events and what it was like escaping those events. The story goes back and forth in time and at times I found it confusing and I st
Lisa  (not getting friends updates) Vegan
I was enthusiastic about reading this book, even though I expected it to be a painful read. I was right. I’m so glad that my book club chose this for our October 2019 book because chances are good it would have languished on my shelf otherwise, and I’m so glad that I read it. It’s very tough but very good.

I always admire people who can take their pain and do something positive with it. So I greatly admire the author.

I had downloaded an audio edition thinking I’d listen to it as I read the hard
Jun 08, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction, 2018
I am trying to read more non fiction now I’m older to actually educate myself about the world and other people - and my god this one took me on a journey.

Clemantine details her journey through the Rwandan genocide, her childhood in refugee camps and her life in America; alongside her internal struggle to find herself and piece her history back together with her new life.

It was heartbreaking reading this, but I felt like I had been told truths that no one else would tell me. Truths only Clemantin
This is a book about Clemantine Wamariya ’s experiences during the Rwandan and Burundi Genocides. Starting in April 1994 and for 100 days, ethnic Hutu extremists slaughtered 800,000 of the minority Tutsi community and other political opponents regardless of their ethnicity. The fight between the two was not new and it has continued for years. The Belgians colonized Rwanda after their invasion of German East Africa in 1916 during World War One. They sowed the belief in racial differences between ...more
Sonja Arlow

I have read about the Rwanda genocide before and because of that I was hesitant to pick up this memoir. In fact, one of the books I could not even finish it was so brutal.

This is not just a book about the Rwanda genocide, nor about a refugee coming to America, or rising from adversity. Its about losing your family, your culture, your country and your identity at the age of 6 and how this had a ripple effect in Clemantine’s life for many years to come.

Before reading this, I watched the video ins
Jul 20, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: best-of-2018
I have a tough time reviewing memoirs. It makes me feel like I am judging the memoirist's life story, which is creepy and weird. So let me just say, this is an incredible journey. It's hard to believe Wamariya and her family survived the Rawandan genocide and the aftermath, bouncing through countless dangerous refugee camps before fleeing to the United States. Wamariya comes through her ordeal and ends up a Yale graduate with a successful speaking career, but carries permanent psychological scar ...more
Ali Edwards
Apr 13, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Back in 2014 I heard Clemantine speak in Washington DC at a summit on girls + women in Africa which was sponsored by the ONE Campaign and Google. The event itself and the stories presented were profoundly moving and educational. When I was offered an opportunity to receive an advance copy of this book I jumped at the chance to get to go deeper into Clemantine's story and I think this book is a must read. It's a hard, raw read and one that is super important for all of us as human beings. It's a ...more
Resh (The Book Satchel)
Feb 16, 2018 rated it really liked it
I'd recommend this book in a heart beat. ...more
Julie Christine
Having so recently read Jennifer Haupt's novel In the Shadow of 10,000 Hills, I went in search of real-life survivor accounts of the 1994 Rwandan genocide and immediately landed on Clemantine Wamariya's extraordinary story.

This is not a recounting of the killing fields — the 100 days of horror when neighbor turned against neighbor in wholesale slaughter. Wamariya's experiences are of a child who escaped just as civil war began. But surviving the massacres launched Clemantine and her older siste
Clemantine Wamariya was six when she fled Rwanda with her fifteen year old sister, Claire. Their journey, which took them across much of Africa, was fraught with deprivations, hunger, hardship and dangers. That they survived to tell is a bit of a miracle in itself. But Clemantine shares more than the experiences in the war and refugee camps, she shares the difficulties that followed her long after she was safely ensconced in an American household and had become an American citizen.

It is difficu
Jul 10, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
LIFE - as soon as I think about it, I feel a tremor down my spine. How innocuous a child seems to be, how contrary the adult becomes! If it were upto me, this world would have been bereft of human lives. After all, even if one person is suffering, the world is a living and breathing hell for them but this world, for which we struggle with so hard, has all of us -- all of us for whom life becomes unbearable even if it is for an instant. They say, live in this moment and stop worrying about what i ...more
Jul 14, 2018 rated it really liked it
I lost track of who I was. I’d become a negative, a receptacle of need. I was hungry, I was thirsty, I needed a bathroom, I needed a place to sleep.

How would you cope if you were a happy six-year-old, but then one day your entire world is turned upside down when everyone in your country starts killing each other? Without much warning you are left without a home, family and no country. For the next six years you are an exile, a sub-human, just trying to survive by fulfilling your most basic need
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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.

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