The Girl Who Smiled Beads

Clemantine Wamariya & Elizabeth Weil team up to tell Clemantine's story of flight from the Rwandan genocide.

Clemantine Wamariya & Elizabeth Weil

Clemantine Wamariya was six years old when her mother and father began to speak in whispers, when neighbours 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 wandering through seven African countries, searching for safety — perpetually hungry, imprisoned and abused, enduring and escaping refugee camps, finding unexpected kindness and witnessing inhuman cruelty. They did not know whether their parents were dead or alive. 

When Clemantine was 12, 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.

The Girl Who Smiled Beads captures the true costs and aftershocks of war: what is forever destroyed; what can be repaired; the fragility of memory; the disorientation that comes of other people seeing you only as broken — thinking you need, and want, to be saved. But it is about more than the brutality of war. It is about owning your experiences, about the life we create, intricately detailed, painful, beautiful — a work in progress. (From Doubleday)

Author interviews

Clemantine Wamariya was just 6 years old in 1994 when she and her older sister fled their Rwandan home to escape genocide. As many as a million people were slaughtered; two million were displaced. Clemantine’s story is one of fear, deprivation and horror, but also of ingenuity, resilience and ultimately, of survival.