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Clemantine Wamariya

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The Girl Who Smiled Beads By Clemantine Wamariya and Elizabeth Weil. This book is 265 pages long with acknowledgments at the end.  This was a Book of the Month. (April 2018)

“A Story of War and What Comes After.”

This story is non-fiction and so very heartbreaking. To think that anyone in the world could have a story such as this one truly is devasting. While reading this book I wanted to find the way to end wars and save all the children. No child should have to go through what this woman, her sister, her family, and her community went through.

I would still recommend this book to almost everyone I know. It is important that we learn about the history of other countries and continents. It is important we continue to learn every day. It’s hard to find the right words to describe this book. It’s so beautiful and sad at the same time. It will fill you with rage if you have compassion for your fellow human. This book will make you feel a roller coaster of emotions and half of those emotions you won’t even be able to explain to yourself.

She puts you right there next to her as she goes on this journey. This was not a journey she wanted, it’s not a glorified beautiful adventure either. She went to hell, walked through its woods and pits. She was beaten down to the lowest form for years. Not hours, not even days, but years. Finally one day, she got the chance to leave the war zone and come to America.

The story is about a family overall. Mainly about the two sisters who traveled through most of Africa when war broke out. The author describes her family and her upbringing before the war started. She slowly transitioned into the beginning of the war and how nothing made sense to her and no one would explain anything to her. As most adults do they kept information from the children for safety and security.  The author explains how she had so many questions as everything changed.

The author takes you with her on the journey through refugee camps and farms. The book doesn’t end when the war does. She jumps back and forth throughout her experience between then and now. She explains how they made it to America as refugees and how their lives changed once again from that journey. She was adopted while her sister found work to support her children and herself. They no longer shared a journey and life became different from one another.

At the beginning of the book, they describe being on the Oprah Winfrey show and being reunited with their parents, and new siblings. They learned they lost a brother during the wartime. After the show ended they got to spend a little bit of time with their family before the family was sent back to Africa and they stayed in America. Towards the end of the book, the rest of the family moves to America and into the older sisters apartment.

I could write all night about different parts of this book but I can’t do it justice. This is one of those books you need to read. It is also one of those books you should be warned about before you just jump in. It can be very sad and heartbreaking. It made me feel so weak and powerless. I can’t even begin to comprehend what these two women went through as they were still growing up. I think back to my childhood and I begin to feel bad for all the things I said and felt.

You truly don’t understand your place in this world until you look through the eyes of someone else and hear them tell their story. I am an empathetic person but this is one of those situations where I know that I couldn’t even feel 1/4 of what they felt throughout those years. I wanted more than anything to go back in time and try to make this situation right for the people of that community. That is a childish dream for about a dozen reasons. We can’t change the history of the world no matter how dark and awful certain times were. We can’t undo the damage either. What we can do is read about history, learn about personal experiences during that time.

By putting a name with a face and a character with a story, we make that whole situation real to the whole world. You hear the story of someone who was there and that period of time is no longer just a story but a fact. She was a child when this all started and was practically a woman when she was finally safe from a war zone. My heart still hurts. Please read this book, it is so heartbreaking and beautiful.

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