Sunday, May 20, 2018

Memoir Worth Reading: The Girl Who Smiled Beads, by Clemantine Wamariya and Elizabeth Weil

There are so many interesting things to consider with THE GIRL WHO SMILED BEADS. The subtitle is "A Story of War and What Comes After," a good description. Author Clemantine Wamariya and her sister Claire survived six dangerous years mostly on their own in seven African countries, when their family of origin was shattered and dispersed by the Rwandan genocide. A refugee program finally brought them to the United States. And then their scraped-together survival was turned upside down by an appearance on Oprah Winfrey's show Oprah, where the TV star gave the girl-turned-woman a stunning surprise: Oprah's team had located Clemantine's mother and surviving siblings and brought them to the show.

That's the center point of Wamariya's narrative in terms of time and change. But it's not the easy part and maybe not even the joyful part. Sorting out the horrors of the past, the damage of the present, and what to do within modern Western culture turn out to be both complicated and painful. PTSD? Sure. And more.

The narrative's management by distinguished co-author Elizabeth Weil -- a writer for the New York Times Magazine who's done this kind of co-authorship before -- turns what could have been a candy-sweet tale into a powerful exploration of culture, recovery, and determination. The book is an easy read in short chapters with abundant adventure, and solidly rewards the reader who follows the entire journey. It gave me a lot to think about, especially coupled with my spring plunge into Ta-Nehisi Coates, James Baldwin, and more. Hope you have a chance to add it to your stack.

And don't miss Wamariya's website, for a startling look at what she's now pursuing.

No comments: