Written by Clemantine Wamariya
and Elizabeth Weil
Published by Crown Publishing Group
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.
Primary ISBN: 9780451495327
Available As: Hardcover, Paperback, eBook
Nonfiction, Age 14 or older
Community Represented: Rwandan/Rwandan American
Themes: Discrimination: Cultural, Engagement Tool: Discussion, Family Relationship: Siblings, Own Voices/Lived Experience, Recommended: "Cartography" Companion Reads, Refugee Journey, Refugee: Persecution, Refugee: Undocumented, Refugee: War/Conflict
Setting: Rwanda, United States
Character’s New Arrival/New American Status: Refugee
Book Creator(s) Connection to the Community Represented: Own Voices/Lived Experience
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