Memoir, Nonfiction

Review: The Girl Who Smiled Beads: A Story of War and What Comes After by Clemantine Wamariya

A powerful memoir chronicling the author's experience with the Rwandan genocide.


Disclaimer: I received an eARC copy of this book from First to Read program in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.


I rarely ever read nonfiction books. But this one … well, it wasn’t one I could pass. An autobiography, the author explores her harrowing childhood journey in war-torn Rwanda.

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

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

by Clemantine Wamariya

Published March 24, 2018 by Doubleday Canada
ISBN: 0385687001

Data from Goodreads

Summary (Goodreads): 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 wandering 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 asylum in the United States, where she embarked on another journey–to excavate her past and, after years of being made to feel less than human, claim her individuality.

My Review

This book was extremely powerful and riveting, to say the least. For someone who doesn’t know a great deal about the Rwandan genocide, this memoir was an eye-opener.

The Pros: What worked for me

  • The book has alternating chapters, with one taking place in the past and the other taking place in the present, which allows the reader to piece together how Clemantine gets to her current point in life and how her struggles in the past shaped her into the person she is now.
  • Not only do we see Clemantine grow up and struggle, her thoughts and feelings change the reader’s own perspective. Her ideas and emotions really resonated with me and it made me rethink my own opinions on genocide, on politics, on humanitarian efforts, and how the world works.

I don’t want to say more without ruining anything, but this memoir is an impactful read and well worth the effort. It is powerful, it is thought-provoking, it is heart-wrenching. For those reasons, I’m giving it a 5/5 stars.

0 thoughts on “Review: The Girl Who Smiled Beads: A Story of War and What Comes After by Clemantine Wamariya

Leave a Reply