incredible-- one of the best memoirs I've read.
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. Everywhere, and especially at both extremes, you can find monsters. It’s at the extremes that people are most scared.
Clemantine Wamariya fled Kigali in the early years of the Rwandan genocide. She was six years old. Over the next six years, Clemantine migrated through seven different African countries with her older sister Claire. They survived off little besides dirty water, bugs, and tough grain. In 1994, at age twelve, Clementine was granted refugee status in the United States (800,000 people died in Rwanda that year// some counts have this number as closer to 1 million). Separated from her parents and most of her siblings, she moved in with a white couple, attended New Trier High School, Hotchkiss, then Yale. Some of the most thoughtful parts of this book describe Clemantine’s transition to these elite PWIs. Reading about her experience at Hotchkiss and Yale made me want to rip my skin off (I’m not sure what I mean by that–or if that’s even okay to say–but that’s how I felt).
In 2004, Clemantine entered and won a high school writing contest. Her prize was an opportunity to appear on Oprah and discuss the Rwandan genocide in front of hundreds of thousands of American viewers. At the end of the (live/televised) episode, Oprah announced that Clemantine’s family was actually backstage, waiting to see her for the first time in a decade! In her memoir, Clemantine offers an honest depiction of the panic she felt at this moment. With all of America watching, she was forced to perform as if this was the greatest moment of her life. In reality, Clemantine barely recognized these people. She hadn’t even met the youngest two siblings and did not want this moment to be for public consumption. There’s so much more to the story than you see in this 90 second clip from Oprah.