The Girl Who Smiled Beads by Clemantine Wamariya

girl who smiled beads

Originally published in: 2018

What it’s about: The author’s refugee experience escaping the Rwandan genocide and the years she spent traveling from one camp to another before immigrating to the US.

What made me pick it up: It was really well reviewed.

My favorite parts: Wamariya escapes at such a young age she almost doesn’t understand death and war and why they are walking and not stopping. She yearns her whole life to go back to her family, as it was, even as she reconnects with them. It is heartbreaking, both reading of the little girl who does not comprehend and as the adult who cannot stop grieving all that is lost. I so admire her indomitable spirit and the unbreakable will of her older sister who helped her survive through multiple countries and camps. Wamariya examines the many ways to move past trauma, especially that caused by civil war and genocide, with no easy answers only her personal truth and what she sees others attempting as well. If you are American you will feel shame for the atrocities we ignored in 1994 and the ongoing ones we continue to ignore worldwide. You will also be immensely grateful for all you have lucked into based on the geography of your birth. Mostly, you will want to help refugees any way you can.

Who it’s great for: Readers who want to learn more about the unending trauma of war.

Erica’s rating: four and a half shells

The Strength in What Remains by Tracy Kidder

strength

Originally published in: 2009

What it’s about: A man who survives the genocide in Burundi between Hutus and Tutsis (similar to the more publicized one in Rwanda) finds his way to America where he begins to make a new life.

What made me pick it up: After writing my review of Kidder’s most recent book, I realized I hadn’t read this one.

My favorite things: Like I’ve said before, Kidder has a strong ability to present his subjects as if you were at a dinner with them. It makes you feel included in the circle and that much more interested in their story.

Who it’s great for: Adults. Older teens. Anyone who has an interest in Africa and its recent history — especially Hotel Rwanda fans. Those with a strong stomach. People looking for a story that is ultimately about hope.

Erica’s rating: three-shells