Wednesday, January 02, 2008

[Book Review] A LONG WAY GONE by Ishmael Beah


Sarah Frierson reviews A LONG WAY GONE: Memoirs of A Boy Soldier by Ishmael Beah (Farrar Straus and Giroux, 2007)

Ishmael Beah lived in a small village in Sierra Leone. At a very young age, his life was interrupted by the political and social turmoil around him. On what began as a very normal day, Beah found himself without his family, his home or a sure path to safety. After months of wandering, scavenging for food and awaiting his own death at the hands of the rebels or fearful civilians, he was recruited by the army to fight. As a soldier, he was armed with weapons and drugs and taught to kill. Fortunately, he survived his conscription, eventually being released to an NGO rehabilitation program and taught how to once again be a child.

Beah’s first-person account is remarkable first and foremost because he lived to tell his story, which he recounts in hopes of eliciting change and protecting other children. But what is most incredible is his ability to take the reader down the path he was forced to tread. His impressive skill as a writer allows each reader to feel the fear of a night alone in the forest or the sorrow of losing a friend.

At times, reading this story can be overwhelming. But, one must only glance at the picture of Beah on the back of the book to regain a sense of hope. This young man’s smile alone gives a sense that anything can change for the better and that hope can never be lost. Perhaps his story is a story that must be told and retold until everyone is safe on the other side.

Sarah Frierson, Business and Sciences Department

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