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Summer Reading Assignment: Fall 2020

College does not teach you what to think, but rather gives you the tools to think clearly, critically and strategically.

Ponder that statement. What does it mean to you? As you prepare for this new chapter in your life, why did you choose to invest in higher education? What are your expectations? What kind of person do you hope to be after college?

WVU's Campus Read

Cover image for book "The Girl Who Smiled Beads."

Through the Honors College Summer Reading Assignment, you will think critically, consider all  options in order to make the best possible decision, and work toward becoming the best version of yourself. Active reflection, after all, is a huge piece of what college is all about, and what makes the college experience something that is invaluable and life changing.

The Girl Who Smiled Beads by Clemantine Wamariya and Elizabeth Weil has been selected for the Campus Read at WVU. All students should read this fantastic book during the summer months. As an Honors student, we ask that you delve into the material a little deeper and reflect on the book before starting your classes this fall.

Your Assignment

The Honors College has developed four prompts for you based around the reading. Please choose one prompt and write an essay that is 4+ pages, double-spaced, 12- point, Times New Roman font with one-inch margins (roughly 1200-1500 words) and that follows APA or MLA format.

Your essay will be due the first week of classes during your HONR 298o orientation class. You may submit your essay to your HONR 298o mentors via eCampus.

Prompt 1:

Clemantine’s story includes injustice, trauma, triumph, domestic abuse, poverty, loneliness, illness, possibility, horror, hope, anger, and the pursuit of inner peace. What part of Clemantine’s story stood out to you most? Why?

Prompt 2:

Clemantine writes about how important her katundu, or stuff, is to her. What do you think the objects she collects represent to her? How did her objects help her through her journey? What cherished objects have you saved, and what do they mean to you? How will they help you through your journey at WVU?

Prompt 3:

The genocide in Rwanda began when Clemantine was just six years old. From her perspective as a young child, she recalls how things change around her, like how she and her family eat lots of carrots and lentils because her parents stopped going to the grocery. She also remembers moving in with her grandmother, and, for the first time, not taking soap as a gift, which they had always done previously when visiting her grandmother.

With any memorable event, people often recall that event from their perspective at the time. How will you tell your story to future generations regarding the COVID-19 pandemic? How will you remember your struggles, resilience and perseverance?

Prompt 4:

Clementine writes on page 102 that “there is never just one word.” In this part of the book, she is referring to intambara, or war, but elsewhere she makes a similar plea for understanding the word genocide.

Words are profoundly important, as is context. Why is context important for Clementine in the recollection of her experiences? Was there a time in your life when you found a one-word summation inaccurate, that one word could not capture your experiences? If so, why?


With this reading assignment, we encourage you to consider the historical hardships faced by generations of people everywhere throughout the decades. We are currently living in and through a global pandemic that the world will remember for years to come. Just as Clemantine mustered the strength to live each day, how will you achieve your goals in spite of many obstacles that may come before you? How will you face challenges and use your intellect to change your own life? What are the bigger forces in play that shape your education?

We hope that you are inspired by Clemantine Wamariya’s story to take advantage of every opportunity set before you at West Virginia University, and that you will find courage, strength, and a sense of self during your time here.

How will this assignment be graded?

See the assignment rubric here.

What is a Campus Read?

The WVU Campus Read program is an academically- driven common read experience that engages students, faculty, staff and even members of the Morgantown community, to share ideas and think critically through thoughtful dialogue.

We look forward to welcoming you to campus this fall!


For questions about the summer reading assignment, please contact Dr. Ashley Watts via email at