Book Review: The Girl Who Smiled Beads: A Story of War and What Comes After by C. Wamariya & E. Weil
Updated: Aug 29, 2018
Highly Recommended: A must-read tale of a young refugee's perseverance
What a brave story to write. The telling of this tale was raw and honest, Clemantine’s frustration and anger exposing how little the public understands or can help those who have suffered genocide and were forced to flee their home countries.
The loss of country, family and even belongings (like the precious ceramic mug she is forced to leave behind) she and her sister face is the backdrop to the heroics and ingenuity of an older sister dragging her little sister all across Africa and finally to the US to escape the atrocities of war in Rwanda. The relationship between siblings, parents and foster parents evolves into a heart-wrenching story while we cheer for the twist of fate that changed Clemantine's life and allows her to bring her story to light.
The writing is clear and concise, swiftly moving the story along while building tension in the young protagonist as she tries to understand war and displacement through a child’s eyes. The characters are well-developed and relatable, both the relatives, loving as well as impartial, and the other refugees who helped bolster Clemantine’s spirit along the way.
Clementine’s anger and cynicism comes through strongly and often as she continually pushes others away, feeling they can’t understand her struggle to process the hunger, imprisonment, abuse and inhuman cruelty she has experienced. This hardness and stubbornness carries over into the later stages of her life when we, the readers, are rooting for her to heal and find peace and are not rewarded. While this theme may have been too redundant and off-putting in a fictional work, this is the reality for Clemantine and thus the reader must accept it, uncomfortable or not. And maybe that was her intention all along.