Journal of the Campus Read


I have never totally found myself in stories of the mountains, nor are stories of Philippine beaches familiar to me. There is no blueprint for someone like me, a half-Filipina woman raised in rural West Virginia. Instead, I find my identity in pieces, in scraps of others’ lives that make sense. When I read The Girl Who Smiled Beads—of Clemantine’s difficulty pinning down any place as “home,” of her strained relationship with an older sister who would do anything it took to survive, of her own difficulties understanding herself and her place in the world—I grappled heavily with how, if anywhere felt like home, it was the ideas of this book. I worried, in trying to understand myself, was I twisting the words and messages of other marginalized people?

This preoccupation led me to join Clemantine Wamariya’s webinar on building community during WVU’s Festival of Ideas. There, Wamariya spoke of the gesture of sharing tea with strangers. Tea, like art, is both universal and culturally specific. Its sameness draws us together, but each blend exalts different ingredients, different preparation. There is no auteur of tea; we build upon each other’s creations and honor the opportunities they have made for us. In the same way, Wamariya asserted that “you cannot be a storyteller alone.” Through The Girl Who Smiled Beads’s complex narrative of her lived experience and the storytellers who shared their language so that she might find her own, Wamariya invites us to join the lineage of stories that exist in all time, all places, and all things.



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