Most twelve year olds you know spend their time collecting WII games, trying to prove themselves on the basketball court or baseball field, and are just discovering that maybe girl cooties aren’t so bad. In war torn Sierra Leon, life is not nearly so simple. That families are destroyed and people are murdered are the least of the dangers there. Young boys are forced to choose sides and take up weapons in order to survive. Civilians run from them, soldiers see them as reinforcements, and their actions will haunt them for the rest of their lives.
In A Long Way Gone Ishmael Beah courageously tells us about his flight from the rebels, the loss of his family, his forced conscription into the government army, and his fight for rehabilitation afterwards. Despite everything, Beah doesn’t hold anything back about his experiences. The honesty and pain behind his words makes his autobiography compelling and unforgettable.
Beah learned firsthand of how hatred and revenge can ruin a nation and scar a person’s life. But he also shows the resilience of children, who can survive even the darkest parts of humanity. But most amazingly, Beah comes out of his experience with hope for the future instead of a hate-filled heart. There is a chance, if people learn from his story, that the world can be made better and the evils of humanity can be made better.
While I would have liked more physical description in order to help me fully see the world he comes from, I can hardly fault him. Just delving into these memories must have been painful and his ability to confront his pain and push on in spite of it (or perhaps because of it) is inspiring. This is a book no one will soon forget.
Read the book: A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier