Everything Is Yours, Everything is Not Yours
July 1, 2015 11:13 AM   Subscribe

Clemantine Wamariya:
"At age six, I ran away with my sister to escape the Rwandan massacre. We spent seven years as refugees. What do you want me to do about it? Cry?"
posted by purpleclover (13 comments total) 38 users marked this as a favorite
Good lord, the Oprah intro is fucking weird.
posted by Nevin at 11:20 AM on July 1, 2015 [2 favorites]

The Ones Who Walk Away From Oprah....

There's a Le Guin story for you.
posted by y2karl at 11:23 AM on July 1, 2015 [10 favorites]

It seems like there's always a war, somewhere.
posted by domo at 11:56 AM on July 1, 2015

Her story, weirdly, reminded me of Doris Lessing's novel Mara and Dann and of Margaret Atwood's novel The Year of the Flood, where things go so bad so protractedly that the sentences don't even make sense together. "All my toenails fell off. We lived on fruit" - it's like an ominous spoken word piece unless you already know something about that narrative.

It seems so insane that some people can live the kind of life I do, where we are basically safe and fed, and we think of Mara and Dann as this strange, intense story that is too schematic somehow to be true - and then at the same time other people are living lives that make that story look simple and easy. You want to say "how can this be allowed to continue" - it feels like it's so crazy that the world works this way and there must be some mistake somewhere.

The worldness of the world is so shocking. Here she is, and she always travels because she gets restless in one place, and how she is, that's what history has made her. It's like when I met my students who had been at Tiananmen Square and it seemed - the thisness of the world, that of course, something so terrible and life altering happens, and if you survive it you go on doing ordinary person things but you go on doing them with all these memories and experiences.
posted by Frowner at 12:06 PM on July 1, 2015 [23 favorites]

Terrific, terrifying, heartening.
posted by Gin and Broadband at 12:14 PM on July 1, 2015

This was beautiful and powerful. The bit where she's with a bunch of rich students sit around and discuss "who would you throw overboard when the ship is sinking?" when she has actually lived that experience, is like the ultimate privilege illustration. Theoretical ethics for them = lived trauma for her.

The part where her sister has to cast aside any show of empathy for her because helping her survive is all she can manage.

The hilarious/terrible moment when her sister takes the UN-donated pasta boxes to the local grocer and sells them to him is like a parable about the way we give cheap food instead of the kind of aid (money, safety, a future) that people actually need.
posted by emjaybee at 1:21 PM on July 1, 2015 [11 favorites]

If it were not for the photographs, I would have read the Oprah section and assumed it was just the author spinning out a fantasy sequence, and I would have thought "ha, wow, what a spot-on satire of Oprah's exploitative nonsense."

posted by We put our faith in Blast Hardcheese at 1:59 PM on July 1, 2015 [3 favorites]

This was wonderful and humbling.
posted by jillithd at 2:11 PM on July 1, 2015

It's an great story, but I think I found the glimpses we got of Claire through it even more fascinating. Not just how good she was at surviving, there are a lot of people who do that (not that it isn't a remarkable strength), but in retaining the ability to look ahead. Both in terms of leaving temporarily comfortable circumstances because they were likely to turn sour, and in terrible circumstances retaining the critical bits that would allow her access to future opportunities. That is some seriously hard shit to do.
posted by tavella at 2:31 PM on July 1, 2015 [5 favorites]

This is astonishingly true, and ... something. Not brave. Honest. Clear and forthright and humble at the same time.
posted by suelac at 3:20 PM on July 1, 2015

This piece was quite the coup for medium.com. While reading I couldn't stop noting that this was one of the best articles I've ever read on the Internet, at least Web circles I frequent.
posted by deathmaven at 4:43 PM on July 1, 2015 [3 favorites]

Powerful. I hope we see more writing from Clemantine, she has an incredible eye for detail and meaning. That Oprah bit... jesus. America in a nut shell.

I also share tavella's fascination with Claire. For a teenager to get her younger sister and later, her children through that is incredible. Her following the man to find out where he got the goat meat. Selling the pasta. Somehow getting them both visas to the US. I can't even imagine the kind of will, acuity, and resilience it all took.
posted by Solon and Thanks at 6:25 PM on July 1, 2015 [1 favorite]

I agree, the writing is incredible. Her sister sounds amazing and unbelievably strong.
posted by Dip Flash at 8:09 PM on July 1, 2015

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