A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier by Ishmael Beah

This is a book that has been on my ‘to read list’ for quite some time. I’m glad I finally picked it up. It’s a pretty easy read as far as langauge goes but the content is very heavy! It was one of these books that made me be extremely thankful to have been born away from a place where a child would need to face horrific events and live with the memmory of them. Things that adults are unable to deal with. It also brought tears of sadness, pitty and hope into my eyes at several sections of the story.
This is a very honest, raw account of what life was like for Ishmael when forced to become a child soldier in Siera Leon. He fought against the rebel soldiers who also ‘recruited’ children. The account takes the reader on his journey as he transformes from a regular child who has learned to love Shakespeare and loves to rap and perform in talent shows, to a child suffering from insomnia who is most comfortable with his gun and ammunition and can not function without his daily dose of war, blood, cocaine and marijuana.
I remember writing a research paper back in grade 13 about child soldiers. I chose the subject because it was so new to me and I knew I had a lot to find out. What I dug up was shocking! I know I still have my research paper somewhere in the basement. I’d really like to take it out and go over what I had written 8 years ago.
Although I am now familiar with what child soldiers are and what they are forced to go through. This book gave a very different perspective to the issue because of it’s being a first hand account of true events with the use of a child’s voice. It has presented the issue from a different prespective. It’s not an outsider looking in. It’s not about an observer or journalist telling us a story of a boy. It’s not about statistics and numbers. It’s about the innocence of a child robbed; and it’s written by the boy himself.
The book also brings a tremendous amount of hope. I don’t know too much about Ishmael now. However, I do know that he is a part of the Free the Children Organization as well as the Me to We effort, based in Toronto, that bring together youth to carry out global projects building schools and providing basic facilities such as clean water in remote areas in underdeveloped regions. I believe he is also a motivational speaker. Now here is a person I’d really like to meet!
This is a story of one of the lucky ones though. One of the very few who have made it out alive.
I would highly recommend this book to anyone who can appreciate what it is to be human.
p.s there are quite a few links in this post but I think they’re well worth checking out :@)