The Girl Who Smiled Beads

A Story of War and What Comes After
Narrated by: Robin Miles
Length: 9 hrs
4.5 out of 5 stars (454 ratings)

$14.95/month after 30 days. Cancel anytime.

OR
In Cart

Publisher's Summary

"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 15-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 12, 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 100 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.

©2018 Clemantine Wamariya, Elizabeth Weil (P)2018 Random House Audio

Critic Reviews

"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." (Washington Post

“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

  • Winner of the 2019 ALA/YALSA Alex Award
  • A Washington Post Notable Nonfiction Book of 2018
  • A Glamour Best Book of 2018
  • A Kirkus Reviews Best Book of 2018
  • A Real Simple Best Book of 2018
What members say
Average Customer Ratings
Overall
  • 4.5 out of 5 stars
  • 5 Stars
    275
  • 4 Stars
    118
  • 3 Stars
    47
  • 2 Stars
    9
  • 1 Stars
    5
Performance
  • 4.5 out of 5 stars
  • 5 Stars
    258
  • 4 Stars
    93
  • 3 Stars
    36
  • 2 Stars
    6
  • 1 Stars
    7
Story
  • 4.5 out of 5 stars
  • 5 Stars
    253
  • 4 Stars
    95
  • 3 Stars
    37
  • 2 Stars
    9
  • 1 Stars
    5

Reviews - Please select the tabs below to change the source of reviews.

Sort by:
Filter by:
  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

Great Book

Loved it, touched every emotion. One of the best books I have listened to in a long time. Shows how there should be more love and understanding of each other.

We are all created equal.

4 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

Heartbreakingly honest

Clementine, Thank you for sharing your story, your journey through the horrible atrocities of your childhood. God bless all those who showed each other kindness and generosity in the face of extreme adversity.

5 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    1 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars

Narrator detracts from story

The best part of this audio book was the end when Clemantine herself speaks. Although halting, it is warm, human, emotional. This narrator was so mechanical, so robotic, so devoid of emotion that I found myself comparing her to a computer reading a text. The result was a coldness and lack of emotion....not an easy feat given the story she was telling. It is too bad. I loved the story, loved learning what I did, but my compassion for Clemantine really only came at the end when she herself was talking.

4 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

Gripping, humbling, heart-rending

One does not always know what one does not know. I knew I knew little of refugee life, but this book while enlightening me with details of things that occurred, also enlightened me to the knowledge that I cannot grasp the enormity of the trauma involved in the life that came about out of absolute necessity. While trying to understand, I also know that I cannot. What I do know is that I am grateful that Clementine was willing to tell her story with such honesty and transparency. I can only say thank you.

1 person found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

Completely Captivating

It has been a long time since I found a book so completely captivating that I couldn’t push “stop”. Her accounts of her experiences, how she continually overcomes, simply beautiful. I even started it over and had my 3 daughters listen, too.
5+ STARS!!!

1 person found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

Beautiful story

This a a great story. Clementine is such a strong, wonderful person who has gone on a scary, incredible journey. This story helped me learn about history and reflect on my own world. And I would like to learn more about Rwanda and the genocide that happened there.

1 person found this helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars

Bazinga

This book popped up on my book club and wow what an amazing story. What the family overcame is inspirational. The narrator did a good job as well. Based on this story I read Night by Elie Wiesel. Clementine mentions she read it numerous times so I gave it a try. It was phenomenal.

Disclaimer: I've been listening at 2x speed for so long anything else sounds like slow motion. My enjoyment of the narrator is based on my listening speed. I only leave 5 stars for books I've listened to multiple times.

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

A Heartbreakingly Beautiful Story

I listened to this audiobook in preparation for a trip to Rwanda.

Clemantine Wamariya’s memoir of her happy childhood in Rwanda which abruptly in 1994 during the 100 days of Genocide. The author’s tale of being torn from her parents and surviving the refugee camps with her sister is powerful and brutally honest.

This audiobook is definitely heavy subject matter, but the authenticity and humanity in this story resonates beyond Africa. There are lessons here that all listeners will take away.

I was in tears when I finished.

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars

3.5 stars rounded up.

Ms. Wamariya wrote a beautiful memoir that shows her strength, her intelligence and most of all her resilience. This book made me smile. It made me cry. It made me think about my own children and about what could have been. I am lucky. We are a working class American family and often struggle. I often worry. But this book reminded me how lucky I am to live in a war-free, comfortable home with running water, electricity, food and so much more. This woman was a little girl surviving a brutal war with only an older sister and her infant. They traveled hundreds of miles over the course of many years before they were given the chance to come to America as refugees. I will be looking to watch her TED talk very soon.

  • Overall
    2 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    1 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    2 out of 5 stars

reader was childlike and spoke in silly voice. <br />

the main character was not likeable. not sympathetic enough. a complainer. story jumped around too much