Tuesday, October 2, 2007

BOOK REVIEW: A LONG WAY GONE - Memoirs of a Boy Soldier

Author Ishmael Beah documents his stolen childhood in A LONG WAY GONE - Memoirs of a Boy Soldier. Beah lived a normal, happy childhood with his family in a small village in Sierra Leone until war separated them when he was age 12. For one year he scavenged, hid and ran for his life. By age 13, he had been recruited into the national army where he was brainwashed and fed addictive drugs. He fought, killed, and tortured 'the enemy' with a new found sense of retribution and vengeance for the loss of his own family. His life changed when he was rescued by UNICEF and admitted into a rehabilitation/deprogramming center for children like Beah. This proved to be life changing. This new experience opened the door for Beah to begin his journey of self forgiveness and healing.

Beah's narrative and attention to detail makes his story mesmerizing, haunting and thoroughly compelling. You not only feel deep empathy and sympathy, but you feel as though you are there and a part of his nightmare.

The thought that children are forced to this degree of inhumanity is absolutely horrific. They are robbed of their childhoods and forced into a world no human being should experience. The saddest part of this story is that Beah is an anomaly. Most child soldiers are maimed or murdered by their own countrymen, or often times, by other children. Beah's hope, hard work and love for life has thankfully brought him out, along with the help of many people who saw the urgency of his situation.

Stories like this should inspire and give us all hope - hope to overcome our own issues of broken homes, abandonment, child molestation or to a lesser degree, dealing with the new Prada shoe being sold out - it is all about perspective. If a child can survive such inhuman conditions, then we surely can navigate the far less complicated terrain of our contrastingly cushioned lives. Beah has gone on to speak out against the atrocities that far too many children all over the world have to endure. He has inspired many people, including me, to stay the course, never give up, always have hope and faith and to trust that it can always get better.

Beah's story happened during the 90's , so this is very close to us and still happens at this very moment. Interestingly enough, I find so many similarities in the experiences of Beah with those of many children right on our own blocks and in our neighborhoods who are involved with gang and drug culture. I hope they can also find the road to freedom as Beah has.

An absolute must read.....and then share it with someone else.

1 comment:

Deep Fried said...

Boy, we do have a lot in common. I just finished this book last month. Great read!