Clemantine Wamariya and her fifteen-year-old sister fled the Rwandan massacre in 1994. In the years that follow they seek refuge across seven African countries. Their struggle for safety, happiness and identity beyond suffering is documented in this epic story of human resilience.
The book opens in 2006 as she and her sister, Claire are due to appear on the Oprah Winfrey show and meet their parents for the first time since fleeing Rwanda. The story then goes back to 1994, Kigali and her comfortable family life. When the war starts Clemantine is six years old and she must flee with her sister.
Over the rest of the book we go on the journey of their escape, the journey through African refugees camps where they encounter appalling conditions before they are granted asylum in the US.
I found the story of Clemantine’s life in the US the most intriguing and enlightening. She struggles to come to terms with life there, whether that be the excesses when upon opening an over size, packed fridge she thinks “this is my life but this is not my life. I deserve this now because I suffered“. Or in the classrooms when they study genocide, war and its impact to revisiting Rwanda or on a trip to Kenya. Her writing about the meaning of genocide is powerful.
This is a riveting tale of dislocation, survival, and the power of stories to break or save us. I would urge everyone with a view on the current refugee situation to read it, anyone with a view on closing our borders to read it and most importantly people who are of the belief that refugees are a drain our society to read it.
It’s difficult to find enough words to describe the impact of the story had on me and will have on readers, except to say, read it.