Book Review – Still Me

You can’t read two books in a trilogy and not the third, so this next book was a search for closure for me. Jojo Moyes captivated me, like many others, with Me Before You. I gave it a 4.5 and was so excited when book two, After You, came out, but disappointed once I read it. It wasn’t going to get better than Me Before You, and I should have known that, but still, I needed to see Louisa Clark’s story out to the end, so I landed here for book 21.

You can’t read two books in a trilogy and not the third, so this next book was a search for closure for me. Jojo Moyes captivated me, like many others, with Me Before You. I gave it a 4.5 and was so excited when book two, After You, came out, but disappointed once I read it. It wasn’t going to get better than Me Before You, and I should have known that, but still, I needed to see Louisa Clark’s story out to the end, so I landed here for book 21.

Book 21:
Still Me
by Jojo Moyes

Genre:
Romance, Domestic Fiction, Rom Com

Published:
January 2018

Synopsis According to Mandi:
Without spoilers, Still Me is the third book in the Me Before You trilogy. Lousia’s taken a job in New York City and determined to find adventure and find herself, making the most out of each experience that comes her way. Along the way, she’s faced with choices, challenges and changes to her plans that force her to explore who she is and what she wants out of life even more than she’d anticipated.

Favorite Quote(s):

“Books are what teach you about life. Books teach you empathy. But you can’t buy books if you barely got enough to make rent. So that library is a vital resource! You shut a library, Louisa, you don’t just shut down a building, you shut down hope.” 

-Jojo Moyes, Still Me

Awards (based upon my brief research):
None yet.

Pages:
390

My Overall Rating:
3 – What I loved about this book was the closure it brought to Louisa’s story. I felt she didn’t have to compromise who she was to live the life she wanted to live, and I think that’s an excellent message to send to readers (though I question whether other characters were compromising who they were to live the life they live). However, as a whole, I didn’t think this book was any more spectacular than the average rom com/chick lit read. It’s worth the read, but it won’t blow your socks off. You probably won’t cry or hug the book at the end… Do other people do that?

Book Review – Calypso

This next one was my June Book of the Month choice and, fun fact, it was also my 100th book since I got married in September of 2014. (I celebrated by buying a book today.) I’m drawn to memoirs and needed a light read after the last couple of topics I was getting stuck on and this one delivered.

This next one was my June Book of the Month choice and, fun fact, it was also my 100th book since I got married in September of 2014. (I celebrated by buying a book today.) I’m drawn to memoirs and needed a light read after the last couple of topics I was getting stuck on and this one delivered.

Book 20:
Calypso
by David Sedaris

Genre:
Humour, Memoir

Published:
May 2018

Synopsis According to Mandi:
Without spoilers, Calypso is a collection of true stories about being middle aged, mortality, beach houses and the Sedaris family. David gives the reader a peak into the humor he finds in his every day life. He shares his story with great humility despite the very obvious wealth he’s found himself in.

Favorite Quote(s):

“‘What are you doing?’ Hugh moaned as I stepped out of the dressing room. ‘That’s three pairs of culottes you’ll own now.’ All I could say in my defense was ‘Maybe I have a busy life.’” 

-David Sedaris, Calypso

Awards (based upon my brief research):
None yet.

Pages:
259

My Overall Rating:
3.5 – As a memoir, I would give this a three. As a humor book, I would give it a 4. I literally laughed out loud in some parts. I really respect Sedaris for maintaining such humility even though he’s very clearly very wealthy. I enjoyed reading about his lifestyle both at his home in Sussex and at his vacation home in North Carolina. It was fun to dream of owning either home and to learn about how he uses his spaces.

This book won’t move mountains, but it is a perfect summer read.

Book Review – Sing, Unburied, Sing

Sing, Unburied, Sing is about the struggle to navigate rites of passage amidst varying family and racial dynamics. Jojo, age 13, is becoming a man as his black grandfather helps raise him, his white father is released from prison, his white grandfather refuses to acknowledge his existence and the spirits of important deceased men pay him visits. Meanwhile, his black mom can’t seem to put her children above her drug addiction, his black grandmother is dying of cancer and he’s forced to take care of his little sister, Kayla. It’s a story of generational poverty wrapped up in a time when racial tensions still ran strong in Mississippi.

This next book was nabbed at a library used book sale for $1. Why it was being sold, I will never understand, for it’s won countless awards and praises have been highly sung for it. When sifting through used books, I generally look for books I’ve heard of and books that were published either recently or would be considered classics. I suspect this one, which was published recently, will one day be considered a classic as well. 

Book 19:
Sing, Unburied, Sing
by Jesmyn Ward

Genre:
Road Fiction, Thriller, Suspense, Coming-of-Age Fiction, Literary fiction

Published:
September 2017

Synopsis According to Mandi:
Without spoilers, Sing, Unburied, Sing is about the struggle to navigate rites of passage amidst varying family and racial dynamics. Jojo, age 13, is becoming a man as his black grandfather helps raise him, his white father is released from prison, his white grandfather refuses to acknowledge his existence and the spirits of important deceased men pay him visits. Meanwhile, his black mom can’t seem to put her children above her drug addiction, his black grandmother is dying of cancer and he’s forced to take care of his little sister, Kayla. It’s a story of generational poverty wrapped up in a time when racial tensions still ran strong in Mississippi.

Favorite Quote(s):

Sometimes the world don’t give you what you need, no matter how hard you look. Sometimes it withholds.” 

-Jesmyn Ward, Sing, Unburied, Sing

Awards (based upon my brief research):
National Book Award for Fiction
A TIME magazine Best Novel of the Year
New York Times top 10 of 2017
Finalist for the Kirkus Prize
Finalist for the Andrew Carnegie Medal
Finalist for the Aspen Words Literary Prize
Publishers Weekly Top 10 of 2017
Finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award
One of President Obama’s best books read of 2017
Finalist for the NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Literary Work, Fiction
Finalist for the Goodreads Choice Awards Best Fiction
Finalist for the PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction

Pages:
285

My Overall Rating:
3 – I wanted to like this book more, but I can also see why it’s won so many awards. The story very well demonstrates themes of generational poverty and racial tension, but it took me so long to get into the meat of the story that I struggled to want to read it. I really liked that the white male character was the one who was incarcerated. I think that was a strong sign of equality amidst a story of perceived inequality. Otherwise, I would give the first half of the book a 2 and the second half of the book a 4, hence the 3.

Book Review – Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption

Just Mercy opened my eyes to the massive injustices within the criminal justice system. It made me mad, frustrated and sad that we live in a world where it’s better to be guilty and wealthy than innocent and poor. I highly recommend reading this book.

I didn’t intend to pick two books in a row related to the criminal justice system, but I did intend to go on two road trips with my husband and, therefore, had to land on a few audio books we could both enjoy during our time in the car. This 18th book was my first choice of audio book because it was also our June selection for book club. Plus, I picked it up at a Little Free Library and I generally prefer to have read all of the books on my bookshelf. In other words, book 18 killed three birds with one stone.

Book 18:
Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption
by Bryan Stevenson

Genre:
Autobiography

Published:
October, 2014

Synopsis According to Mandi:
Without spoilers, Just Mercy is about attorney, Bryan Stevenson’s, work as founder of the Equal Justice Initiative (EJI). Per their description, “The Equal Justice Initiative is committed to ending mass incarceration and excessive punishment in the United States, to challenging racial and economic injustice, and to protecting basic human rights for the most vulnerable people in American society.” The book details numerous cases, focusing much of its text on the story of Walter McMillian, a man sentenced to die for a murder he didn’t commit.

Favorite Quote(s):

“Proximity has taught me some basic and humbling truths, including this vital lesson: Each of us is more than the worst thing we’ve ever done. My work with the poor and the incarcerated has persuaded me that the opposite of poverty is not wealth; the opposite of poverty is justice. Finally, I’ve come to believe that the true measure of our commitment to justice, the character of our society, our commitment to the rule of law, fairness, and equality cannot be measured by how we treat the rich, the powerful, the privileged, and the respected among us. The true measure of our character is how we treat the poor, the disfavored, the accused, the incarcerated, and the condemned.”

-Bryan Stevenson, Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption

Awards (based upon my brief research):
NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Literary Work, Nonfiction

Pages:
314

My Overall Rating:
4.5 – This book opened my eyes to the massive injustices within the criminal justice system. It made me mad, frustrated and sad that we live in a world where it’s better to be guilty and wealthy than innocent and poor. After reading Orange is the New Black, Just Mercy further confirmed my feelings that our criminal justice system is not only unideal, but it’s unfair, inappropriate, and ultimately messed up. I highly recommend reading this book. I didn’t place it at a 5 because you have to be ready to read some heavy content and be willing to learn. There were times we had to pause and look things up. Had I not been prepared for that, going into it, I don’t think I would have enjoyed it as much as I did.

My Husband’s Overall Rating:
4.5 – My husband, too, gave the book a 4.5. He agreed it was a phenomenal book and we learned so much from it. He, too, said there isn’t really anything keeping him from giving it a 5, but for some reason, we both stuck to our 4.5s.

Book Review – Orange is the New Black

After committing a felony in 1993, Kerman was convicted of money-laundering charges five years later and sentenced to 15 months in prison five years after conviction. Having already dramatically turned her life around, she pleaded guilty and served 13 months in the minimum security prison for female inmates. Her memoir details her time in prison from her relationships with new and old friends to the basics of what prison life is like. 

This next one was my chronic back-burner book for a solid year. I nabbed it at a Little Free Library and had every intention of reading it right away. It was always my “next book”, but between book club, Book of the Month, and other books I’ve been picking up here and there, I struggled to get around to it. I finally committed to it, but, confession: I listened to the audio book on a road trip with my husband. This is the first time I’ve ever listened to an audio book. It is not the same experience. I questioned whether I should even review it, but I won’t be going back and actually sitting down with the book so, the review…

Book 17:
Orange is the New Black: My Year in a Women’s Prison
by Piper Kerman

Genre:
Memoir

Published:
March, 2011

Synopsis According to Mandi:
Without spoilers, Orange is the New Black: My Year in a Women’s Prison is about Piper Kerman’s time in the Federal Correctional Institution in Danbury, CT. After committing a felony in 1993, Kerman was convicted of money-laundering charges five years later and sentenced to 15 months in prison five years after conviction. Having already dramatically turned her life around, she pleaded guilty and served 13 months in the minimum security prison for female inmates. Her memoir details her time in prison from her relationships with new and old friends to the basics of what prison life is like. 

Favorite Quote(s):

“Every human being makes mistakes and does things they’re not proud of. They can be everyday, or they can be catastrophic. And the unfortunate truth of being human is that we all have moments of indifference to other people’s suffering. To me, that’s the central thing that allows crime to happen: indifference to other people’s suffering. If you’re stealing from someone, if you’re hurting them physically, if you’re selling them a product that you know will hurt them—the thing that allows a person to do that is that they somehow convince themselves that that’s not relevant to them. We all do things that we’re not proud of, even though they might not have as terrible consequences.”

-Piper Kerman, Orange is the New Black: My Year in a Women’s Prison

Awards (based upon my brief research):
#1 New York Times Bestseller

Pages:
295

My Overall Rating:
3.5 – I really enjoyed learning about prison life from the outside. My greatest emotion when reading this story was frustration for both good and bad reasons. For good, Piper unveiled the truth that inmates are not treated well and not well-prepared for re-infiltration into society (though she, herself, went into prison as a well-educated, young, engaged-to-be-married, white woman with a maximum 15 month sentence which, I imagine, was advantageous for her). This bothers me. What good are correctional facilities if they’re not actually correcting? Second, I felt Piper wrote off the magnitude of her crime. She committed a felony and often speaks of it as if she’s rolling her eyes while telling fellow inmates she’s been incarcerated for a 10 year old offense. 

My Husband’s Overall Rating:
3.5 – While he was interested in the story, his only complaint was there wasn’t a ton of action. He then acknowledged that because it was a true story, he was impressed her prison sentence went so well for her and was that anti-climactic.

Book Review – Night

In The Girl Who Smiled Beads, Clemantine mentions Elie Wiesel’s Night, and speaks of the power it held for her, the first time she could truly relate to someone. I was incredibly impacted by Clemantine’s story, so in order to better understand it, I wanted to go back and read Elie’s story. I quickly understood why this short, memoir style account of a Jew in Nazi Germany is so often required reading in high school curriculum.

In The Girl Who Smiled Beads, Clemantine mentions Elie Wiesel’s Night, and speaks of the power it held for her, the first time she could truly relate to someone. I was incredibly impacted by Clemantine’s story, so in order to better understand it, I wanted to go back and read Elie’s story. I quickly understood why this short, memoir style account of a Jew in Nazi Germany is so often required reading in high school curriculum.

Book 16:
Night
by Elie Wiesel

Genre:
Memoir

Published:
1956

Synopsis According to Mandi:
Without spoilers, Night is Elie Wiesel’s record of his time as a Jew in the reign of Nazi Germany from the moment he and his family were taken from their home to the moment he was liberated from the captivity and inhumane torture of concentrations camps. Having lost his family and his innocence, he dives into the deeper matters of life like what it takes for a man to mentally and physically survive one of the most terrifying times of a race in history and how his Jewish faith played into his journey.

Favorite Quote(s):

“Poor Akiba Drumer, if only he could have kept his faith in God, if only he could have considered this suffering a divine test, he would not have been swept away by the selection. But as soon as he felt the first chinks in his faith, he lost all incentive to fight and opened the door to death.”

―Elie Wiesel, Night

“We were the masters of nature, the masters of the world. We had transcended everything – death, fatigue, our natural needs. We were stronger than cold and hunger, stronger than the guns and the desire to die, doomed and rootless, nothing but numbers, we were the only men on earth.”

―Elie Wiesel, Night

Awards (based upon my brief research):
Oprah’s Book Club
New York Time’s Bestseller
Elie Wiesel – Winner of the Nobel Peace Prize

Pages:
120

My Overall Rating:
4 – This is a powerful read. While the cruelties of concentration camps is not new to most of us, it’s still hard to read and to realize thousands of real people went through these things. Elie does a phenomenal job of packing his story into a small book. There were many details left out, and many time frames where the story was scant – I both wish he had filled in those times and am grateful to not have had to be reminded once again of the cruelty mankind can bestow upon mankind. 

I greatly appreciated Elie’s sharing of the depths of his faith during this time. He was pushed to the place where he had to rely on God, to the place where he questioned God, and to the place where not many people go – of believing whole-heartedly God had turned his back on the Jewish people. Still, he remained faithful to the end of his life. He is an inspiration.

Book Review – Small Country

This is the story of a child living in beautiful Burundi, pre-civil war, innocent, happy and culturally content. And then it’s the story of a child forced to grow up to soon – forced to protect his family and neighborhood, to witness violence and war, to flee and to find peace in his identity and his relationship with his country.

I don’t know why Book of the Month offered a second book revolving around the Rwandan genocide the month after The Girl Who Smiled Beads was offered, but thank you. I was so impacted by Clemantine’s true story in The Girl Who Smiled Beads, that it left me craving more. A genocide happened in my lifetime and I knew very little about it, let alone the personal stories of any survivors. These two books pair together so well, a female’s true story of her fleeing, and then a male’s novel based on the true story of his fleeing. One focused on the fleeing, the other on his life leading up to the fleeing. Together, they gave me a new perspective on life in Rwanda/Burundi before, during and after the genocide and the effects of war on a child, a country and a culture. I only wish I could have read Small Country first.

Book 15:
Small Country
by Gaël Faye

Genre:
Coming-of-Age Fiction, Literary fiction

Published:
June 2018

Synopsis According to Mandi:
Without spoilers, Small Country is based on the true story of the author, Gaël Faye, born to a Rwandan mother and a French father, living in Burundi Africa until the age of 13 when his family fled the genocide to France in 1995. The main character, Gaby, opens up to the reader the world of a child living in beautiful Burundi, pre-civil war, innocent, happy and culturally content. And then it’s the story of a child forced to grow up to soon – forced to protect his family and neighborhood, to witness violence and war, to flee and to find peace in his identity and his relationship with his country.

Favorite Quote(s):

“Genocide is an oil slick: those who don’t drown in it are polluted for life.”

―Gaël Faye, Small Country

“The more I prayed, the more God abandoned us, and the more faith I had in his strength. God makes us undergo these ordeals so we can prove to him that we don’t doubt him. It’s as if he’s telling us that great love relies on trust. We shouldn’t doubt the beauty of things, not even under a torturing sky. If you aren’t surprised by the cockerel’s crow or the light above the mountain ridge, if you don’t believe in the goodness of your soul, then you’re not striving anymore, and it’s as if you were already dead.”

―Gaël Faye, Small Country

“Of course a book can change you. It can even change your life. It’s like falling in love. And you never know when such an encounter might happen. You should beware of books, they’re like sleeping genies.”

―Gaël Faye, Small Country

“When we leave somewhere, we take the time to say goodbye: to the people, the things, and the places that we’ve loved. I didn’t leave my country, I fled it. The door was wide open behind me as I walked away, without turning back.”

―Gaël Faye, Small Country

Awards (based upon my brief research – these were all awarded to the original, French translation in 2016):
Prix Goncourt des Lycéens
Goncourt List, Choice of the Orient
Goncourt List, Tunisia’s Choice
Goncourt List, Poland’s Choice
Goncourt List, Serbia’s Choice

Pages:
183

My Overall Rating:
4.5 – This is another one that just punched me in the gut. I realized, once again, that I could rate books on how likely I am to hug them when I finish them, because, again, I just wanted to give it a hug. I absolutely loved getting a glimpse into the “good” part of childhood in Burundi – childhood before the height of civil war in 1994. Then, Faye did an amazing job of stripping away the innocence of childhood in his main character, Gaby, and exposing, in him, the ways such a traumatic experience can change the very identity of a person.

I neglected to give that final .5 simply because I would have liked to know more details about the conclusion. Though I know this was not the point of the book, the actual fleeing part of the book was so short. I thought we might at least learn how it was set up or what the first moments in France were like. But regardless… 

Read. This. Book.

But here’s what I would truly recommend: read Small Country, then The Girl Who Smiled Beads and then Night by Elie Wiesel (review here). This combination has changed my life. I’m thoroughly convinced I’m a better person for having been exposed to these stories, having grappled with them and having allowed myself to think, change my mind, and think again.

Book Review – Emma in the Night

Thrillers… not my thing, but I have a confession: My problem with thrillers is that I love them too much. They pull me in. I have to know what happens. Like any story I read, I throw myself in and become a part of it, but thrillers are not stories I want to be a part of. So I avoid them until the Book Club girls choose one for our next book. Therefore, book 14…

Thrillers… not my thing, but I have a confession: My problem with thrillers is that I love them too much. They pull me in. I have to know what happens. Like any story I read, I throw myself in and become a part of it, but thrillers are not stories I want to be a part of. So I avoid them until the Book Club girls choose one for our next book. Therefore, book 14…

Book 14:
Emma in the Night
by Wendy Walker

Genre:
Mystery, Thriller, Fiction

Published:
August 2017

Synopsis According to Mandi:
Without spoilers, Emma in the Night is about two sisters, Cass and Emma, who go missing on the same night. After putting the search to rest, Cass returns three years later and shares her story of being kidnapped and brought to an island where the sisters were held captive to help the forensic team find Emma. As they work to crack the case, things fail to add up, the untold details of the sisters’ family history begin to seep in and the pressure reveals the truth of the crime.

Favorite Quote:

“The hope is easy. I believe children do that to us. They make us have it because without it, my God, can you imagine? Looking at your child without hope for the future would be like feeling the sun on your face five billion years from now.”

―Wendy Walker, Emma in the Night

Awards (based upon my brief research):
Amazon Best Book of August 2017
Nominated for Book of the Year by Book of the Month Club
An August 2017 Indie Next selection
An August 2017 LibraryReads List selection
One of Barnes & Noble’s Best New Thrillers of August 2017
An Entertainment Weekly Must List selection

Pages:
308

My Overall Rating:
3.5 – This was, no doubt, a good book. It was an easy read – I read it in about four days. While it wasn’t predictable (I spent the bulk of the time trying to figure out what had happened, and I was genuinely surprised by the outcome), the predictable element was that things were not as they seemed. I immediately knew better than to read it for what it is, which, in a way, lessened the blow of the outcome for me. Had Walker not been up front about there potentially being a twist, I might have been more impressed, but regardless, I would love to see this as a movie, because I think it could be done very well.

Still, this is a very engaging story, and I feel I have to share I tolerated the “thriller” aspect of it very well… only one night of nightmares. (Haha!)

Book Review – My Lullaby of You

Amy, having just graduated high school, can’t wait to get out of town and get to Chicago where she’ll attend her dream college. Seth, one year away from finishing college, makes his way to that same town to tie up the lose ends of a relationship with his father and finally sort out his past. The two meet, interests are piqued, friendship quickly turns to love, but love turns to complications. Can Amy and Seth put the complications behind them and allow love to conquer while chasing the dreams of their future?

When it comes to books, two things automatically get me jazzed – debut novels and local authors. I just love the idea of someone tangible, someone who lives in the same state as me, setting their dream into motion, pushing their first baby out of the nest, because they tend to give that first one everything they’ve got. This next book was written by a friend of a friend, but I think if we didn’t live on opposite sides of the state she would just be a friend, because sometimes, through social media, it feels like we’re the same person. I was super excited that she allowed me to dive into an advanced reader copy to write this review.

Book 13:
My Lullaby of You
by Alia Rose

Genre:
Young Adult, Contemporary, Beach Read

Published:
June 2018

Synopsis According to Mandi:
Without spoilers, My Lullaby of You is about two young adults whose paths cross one summer in a small North Carolina beach town. Amy, having just graduated high school, can’t wait to get out of town and get to Chicago where she’ll attend her dream college. Seth, one year away from finishing college, makes his way to that same town to tie up the lose ends of a relationship with his father and finally sort out his past. The two meet, interests are piqued, friendship quickly turns to love, but love turns to complications. Can Amy and Seth put the complications behind them and allow love to conquer while chasing the dreams of their future?

Favorite Quote:

“This is your shot. If it doesn’t work out, you’ll always have your degree, your talent in jazz, and another chance at getting in an ensemble.”

―Alia Rose, My Lullaby of You

Awards (based upon my brief research):
None yet.

Pages:
287

My Overall Rating:
3.5 – I have to start by admitting beach reads are not generally my thing, but this one definitely had more to it than I expected. Love stories are cute and fun and a good shakeup from my usual book of choice, but I was genuinely surprised by the plot twists in this book, which continuously made me want to read more and more. That being said, I read this quickly as it is written for young adults. 

I felt like the author perfectly captured the thoughts and feelings of young adults in the situations they were faced with. I resonated with Amy – in the summer after her high school graduation, it was as if she was “over” her high school life, ready to move on and mature past her years. I was impressed the author could portray that type of personality so well.

The one critique that bothered me was that I found myself rooting for the characters in the overarching theme of the story, but there were certain parts that felt unbelievable (i.e. Seth’s career path). While I do think young adult novels/beach reads should be dreamy, my realistic self had to role my eyes a bit when Seth talked of his plans and put his plans into motion. 

All-in-all, it’s a light, easy escape of a read with an engaging story. If that’s what you’re searching for, then I have to recommend this debut novel, and if you’re from Michigan, it’s a local author too!

Beach Read

Book Review – The Girl Who Smiled Beads

Clemantine’s honesty and commitment throughout the re-telling of her experiences in the Rwandan genocide and as a refugee are inspiring. She covers her story from every angle, making the reader really see and feel what she saw and felt in a time incomprehensible for those uninvolved.

Ah, my April Book of the Month selection. While I love fiction, I’m fascinated by the stories of people who go through something major and live to tell about it from a level-headed state of mind. The author Clemantine is, no doubt, forever changed by her experiences, but her sharing of them in this book is brave and enlightening. There were other decent April options over at Book of the Month, but I knew even before this one was in my hands this would be a good book.

Book 12:
The Girl Who Smiled Beads
by Clemantine Wamariya & Elizabeth Weil

Genre:
Biography/Autobiography

Published:
April 2018

Synopsis According to Mandi:
Without spoilers, The Girl Who Smiled Beads is the true story of Clemantine and her sister, Claire, as they fled the Rwandan genocide. Clemantine was 6 (Claire 15) in 1994 when the genocide began and her family urged the sisters to leave in order to save themselves. They migrated through seven African countries in six years, escaping war, seeking safety and growing up too soon. Clemantine shares her unique perspective on the journey as a child who’d experience so little before her world fell apart and her eyes were opened to the brutal violence and inhumanity of war. At age 12, she makes her way to the US where she finds safety, but she’s forever changed, having left her family behind, having lost out on a childhood and having seen too much. 

Favorite Quote:

Survival, true survival of the body and soul, requires creativity, freedom of thought, collaboration. You might have time and I might have lands. You might have ideas and I might have strength. You might have a tomato and I might have a knife. We need each other. We need to say: I honor the things that you respect and I value the things you cherish. I am not better than you. You are not better than me. Nobody is better than anybody else. Nobody is who you think they are at first glance. We need to see beyond the projections we cast onto each other. Each of us is so much grander, more nuanced, and more extraordinary than anybody things, including ourselves… I’ve seen enough to know that you can be a human with a mountain of resources and you can be a human with nothing, and you can be a monster either way…

―Clemantine Wamariya & Elizabeth Weil, The Girl Who Smiled Beads

Awards (based upon my brief research):
None noted yet – it’s brand new, but this is another one I guarantee will begin to bring in the awards soon.

Pages:
288

My Overall Rating:
5 – This is one of the greatest books I’ve ever read. Like, when I finished it, I just want to give it a lingering hug. Clemantine’s honesty and commitment throughout the re-telling of her experiences in the Rwandan genocide and as a refugee are inspiring. She covers her story from every angle, making the reader really see and feel what she saw and felt in a time incomprehensible for those uninvolved. This is the type of story-teller I aspire to be.

On top of how well written the book is, what struck me hard is this: While Clemantine was 6 and fleeing the Rwandan genocide, I was 4 and being American. When she was 12 and being infiltrated into American society, parentless and only really knowing a life of fleeing, I was 10 and surrounded by friends and family I’d grown up with my entire life, having only lived in one house and spending my time competing in gymnastics for fun. We graduated high school the same year, yet she went on to Yale and is changing lives by the re-telling of her story. I truly believe she survived the genocide to change lives.

I cannot recommend this book enough. It’s the first book in a long time that I took in so deeply and cherished so fiercely that it felt like I was eating or inhaling it.