Thursday, July 16, 2009

A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier

Title: A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier

Author: Ishmael Beah


Who Should Read It? Read this if you're interested in a tragic/traumatic true story that will make you cringe and force you to become aware. No, really, whoever you are, just READ THIS BOOK!

What I Have To Say: Wow! Really, that's it, just wow! This book read more like a conversation (granted, a one-sided conversation in which I said nothing, but still. . .) than a book. I felt like Ishmael Beah was sitting right there beside me recounting the tragedy of his life as if it was just another day in war-free America. That's not to say, though, that it wasn't heart-wrenching and painful to read. It was honest, extraordinary, awesome, introspective, and straight-forward. And the story is a story that NEEDS to be heard. I think that it is important that people become aware of what children are put through in other countries, the wars that they are forced to fight - over time, awareness leads to action and action leads to change. Ishmael Beah told his story in such a way that forces even the most uninterested person to become aware - without making them feel like they are suffering through a history lesson. This book was everything it needed to be, everything it should be. . . and even more.

Summary (straight from the back of the book): This is how wars are fought now: by children, traumatized, hopped-up on drugs, and weilding AK-47s. Children have become the soldiers of choice. In the more than fifty violent conflicts going on worldwide, it is estimated that there are some 300,00 child soldiers. Ishmael Beah used to be one of them.

What does war look like through the eyes of a child soldier? How does one become a killer? How does one stop? Child soldiers have been profiled by journalists, and novelists have struggled to imagine their lives. But it is rare to find a first-person account from someone who endured this hell and survived.

In "A Long Way Gon: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier," Ishmael Beah, now twenty-six years old, tells a powerfully gripping story: At the age of twelve, he fled attacking rebels and wandered a land rendered unrecognizable by violence. By thirteen, he'd been picked up by the government army, and Beah, at heart a gentle boy, found that he was capable of truly terrible acts. At sixteen, he was removed from the fighting by UNICEF, adn through the help of the staff at his rehabilitation center, he learned how to forgive himself, to regain his humanity, and, finally, to heal.

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