The Girl Who Smiled Beads is a beautifully written, heart-wrenching story of Clementine’s life. Living in war-torn Rwanda, she is sent away at the age of 6 with her sister Claire, 9 years her senior, destined to spend years as refugees. Even when she and Claire are brought to America to start their life over, she has trouble acclimating to the way of life. She wants to still be a child in a place that expects her to grow up. Her scars of the past run deep and her years as a refugee has hardened her, closed her off from true human interaction.
She cannot fit in, so she tries desperately to emulate those around her. To be the person people expect her to be, rather than finding a sense of self. But her sense of self is rooted in tragedy, and people are growing weary of her way of expressing it. She spends so many years trying to reconcile her feelings about the mass genocide, of why no one stepped in.
While she is eventually reunited with her parents after 12 years of separation, it is stilted. No one wants to talk about the past, they want to keep it buried. Clementine cannot fathom why they do not want to compare stories, to talk about the years they were separated. She cannot connect with her parents, with these siblings she does not know. So she distances herself, furthers her education to be the best person she can.
Her story is honest, heart-breaking, yet beautiful. She has come so far in life, she writes eloquently, and The Girl Who Smiled Beads is a must read.