Download The Girl Who Smiled Beads: A Story of War and What Comes After Audiobook

The Girl Who Smiled Beads: A Story of War and What Comes After Audiobook, by Elizabeth Weil Extended Sample Click for printable size audiobook cover
Author: Elizabeth Weil, Clemantine Wamariya Narrator: Robin Miles Publisher: Penguin Random House Format: Unabridged Audiobook Delivery: Instant Download Audio Length: Release Date: April 2018 ISBN: 9780525526292
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“The plot provided by the universe was filled with starvation, war, and rape. I would not—could not—live in that tale.”

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.

When Clemantine was twelve, she and her sister were granted refugee status in the United States; there, in Chicago, their lives diverged. Though their bond remained unbreakable, Claire, who had for so long protected and provided for Clemantine, was a single mother struggling to make ends meet, while Clemantine was taken in by a family who raised her as their own. She seemed to live the American dream: attending private school, taking up cheerleading, and, ultimately, graduating from Yale. Yet the years of being treated as less than human, of going hungry and seeing death, could not be erased. She felt at the same time six years old and one hundred years old.

In The Girl Who Smiled Beads, Clemantine provokes us to look beyond the label of “victim” and recognize the power of the imagination to transcend even the most profound injuries and aftershocks. Devastating yet beautiful, and bracingly original, it is a powerful testament to her commitment to constructing a life on her own terms.

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Quotes & Awards

  • “This true of story of survival is told in a tender and aching style by narrator Robin Miles. She captures the wonder, pain, and confusion of two sisters…Her honest, bracing tone captures the disillusionment of childhood tragedy and the magnitude of loss. We are swept back and forth from the past to the present—the violence in Kigali jangles with the scene of the sisters being welcomed on the Oprah show. Miles shows her artistry as a performer by handling these contrasts with precision. Listen to this with a box of tissues nearby—you’ll need them.”


  • Unforgettable. People
  • Wamariya’s memoir proves how the human spirit can triumph. It truly floored me. Glamour
  • “Sharp, moving…Wamariya tells her own story with feeling, in vivid prose. She has remade herself, as she explains was necessary to do, on her own terms.”

    New York Times Book Review
  • The Girl Who Smiled Beads is at once terrifying and life-affirming…[as[ it painstakingly describes the human cost of war.

    Washington Post
  • Remarkable... Wamariya and the journalist Elizabeth Weil set out to sabotage facile uplift.... The fractured form of her own narrative—deftling toggling between her African and American odysseys—gives troubled memory its dark due. Atlantic
  • Wamariya (along with Outside contributor Elizabeth Weil) tells... her story—which, yes, is often extremely tough—with brilliance. Outside
  • “A powerful coming-of-age story in which a girl explores her identity in the wake of a brutal war that destroyed her family and home…Her story is unforgettable.

    Publishers Weekly (starred review)
  • “This beautifully written and touching account goes beyond the horror of war to recall the lived experience of a child trying to make sense of violence and strife…A must-read.”

    Library Journal (starred review)
  • In her prose as in her life, Wamariya is brave, intelligent, and generous. Sliding easily between past and present, this memoir is a soulful, searing story about how families survive.
  • A powerful record of the refugee experience... [with] moments of potent self-reckoning. Kirkus Reviews
  • In this eloquent and engaging memoir, Clemantine Wamariya recalls a childhood spent as a refugee on the run from war, violence, and terror, and a womanhood shaped by those experiences. Affecting and utterly eye-opening, The Girl Who Smiled Beads is a powerful reminder of just how strong and indomitable the human spirit can be. Bustle
  • Lyrical and hauntingly beautiful. The Girl Who Smiled Beads will inspire you. Chanrithy Him, author of When Broken Glass Floats
  • “Extraordinary and heart-rending. Wamariya is as fiercely talented as she is courageous.”

    Junot Díaz, Pulitzer Prize–winning author

  • A LibraryReads Pick for April
  • New York Times bestseller

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About the Narrator

Robin Miles, named a Golden Voice by AudioFile magazine, has twice won the prestigious Audie Award for Best Narration, an Audie Award for directing, and many Earphones Awards. Her film and television acting credits include The Last Days of Disco, Primary Colors, Law & Order: Criminal Intent, Law & Order, New York Undercover, National Geographic’s Tales from the Wild, All My Children, and One Life to Live. She regularly gives seminars to members of SAG and AFTRA actors’ unions, and in 2005 she started Narration Arts Workshop in New York City, offering audiobook recording classes and coaching. She holds a BA degree in theater studies from Yale University, an MFA in acting from the Yale School of Drama, and a certificate from the British American Drama Academy in England.