This year I plan to read a book by an author from every country across Africa. That’s 54 countries. I’ll blog and tweet about it under the hashtag #ReadAfricanWriters. You can also follow my progress on this map.
And here’s my first entry for the year, a memoir by an author from Rwanda!
The Girl Who Smiled Beads: A Story of War and What Comes After, by Clemantine Wamariya and Elizabeth Weil.
Here’s my quick take:
Wow. Clemantine Wamariya was just six when the Rwandan genocide took place. Separated from the rest of her middle class family, she and her teenage sister Claire traverse several countries, in and out of refugee camps. Eventually they make it to the USA. The book gives a devastating portrait of how conflict and being a refugee can affect a child, and how a young woman seeks to make sense of her experience, including through literature, from Elie Wiesel to W.G. Sebald. Beautiful and gripping and thoughtful. Highly recommended.
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 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.
The book also made it onto the Washington Post’s list of notable books for 2018.