A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier by Ishmael Beah // The Memoir Everyone Should Read

Saturday, 9 July 2016
A Long Way Gone, by Ishmael Beah
Publication: February 13, 2007, by Sarah Crichton Books
Genre: Non-Fiction, Memoir
Pages: 229
Format: Paperback
Source: Borrowed

This is how wars are fought now: by children, hopped-up on drugs and wielding AK-47s. Children have become soldiers of choice. In the more than fifty conflicts going on worldwide, it is estimated that there are some 300,000 child soldiers. Ishmael Beah used to be one of them.
What is war 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 until now, there has not been a first-person account from someone who came through this hell and survived.
In A Long Way Gone, Beah, now twenty-five years old, tells a riveting story: how 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.
This is a rare and mesmerizing account, told with real literary force and heartbreaking honesty.

My Thoughts:

Wow. It's rare for me to get hit by a book so much and feel so bad that I just want to hop on a plane to the country and help everyone out. But that's only because there are not many books out there like A Long Way Gone, not many books out there about child soldiers or children in Africa who are being affected by poverty, dehydration, violence and abuse constantly. We are so hidden from the rest of the world in our big suburban communities, in our huge cities with blazing lights, billboards that show the newest music, restaurants with the most exotic foods, and most of all, we are hidden from people like Ishmael Beah, and there are probably hundreds of thousands of Ishmael Beahs in countries like Sierra Leone. It just hurts me so bad, and this book really did hurt me. A Long Way Gone seems so fictional because it is so difficult for us readers to put ourselves in the shoes of our protagonist, Ishmael, who writes about his personal demons and battles as a child, being taken by foreign people, thrown into a truck with an AK-47 and being taught to kill, taking drugs and losing his family. There is so much that this book contains that is unimaginable, although Ishmael gives us the chance to believe that this is reality, for many young children and people who are constantly struggling, without the rest of the world knowing.

We are always told that we could make a difference. I don't know if I'll ever get the chance to visit these poor African countries. I don't know if I'll ever make it to the United Nations and speak for them (most likely, not). But because of all that Beah had done and conquered in his life in Sierra Leone, I'm going to state a very cheesy point here: our dreams could most definitely come true. This memoir, this novel, from all of the books that I have ever read, has given me the chance to have hope. Because when we look at all that Ishmael had to deal with and how he ended up where he is now, speaking for the United Nations in the best city in the world, New York City, writing a book and becoming famous for his courage, we can only have hope that all who are suffering will eventually not suffer anymore. 

It's hard to retell Ishmael's story as a summary, because it all occurred, it is all true. I am not summarizing a story, but his life. Life in Ishmael's small village was normal when he was ten years old, until his village got attacked and he and his brother were on the run for it. They didn't know where, but they were on the run. Eventually, they get separated and Ishmael meets a new group of friends, and they all undergo struggles for food and clean water. Ishmael's story expresses all of the troubles that children and people in Africa undergo all in a year or so, or perhaps, a little more than that. 

There were moments where I felt that I was being forced to read this book, and others where I just enjoyed it so much that I couldn't stop. I had to read this book for school, and I was supposed to compare it to other works I read in that semester, like Life of Pi. Both differ, this being a solemnly true story, while Yann Martel's being fiction, but they compare at the same time. I enjoyed this because my emotions kept exploding all over the place. I was happy when Ishmael was safe, being helped by the United Nations Peacekeepers, but then remembering that Ishmael lost his whole family in a few days. 

I just have a warning for you readers: this is a really harsh read. You see, I never have issues with gore or blood, so I was okay with the vivid imagery. It certainly wasn't pleasing, but that didn't leave me enjoying the book less. Many reviewers did not enjoy the book for the fact that the goriness was very harsh. So, I would advise to keep caution, but honestly people? This is non-fiction. The book wouldn't be the same without this realness. We readers would not be able to feel what Ishmael had gone through, you know?

A Long Way Gone literally took me a long way away to Sierra Leone, and this book seriously is energetic, heart-breaking, raw and full of feelings that many books have difficulty providing readers with. Ishmael Beah is the kind of person who will inspire you and make you so interested with the culture that he is writing about in the novel. After reading, I had to do a presentation on Sierra Leone, and I immediately felt so comfortable with its facts and information that this book felt like home. I just wish it had that extra push in the beginning—I had no knowledge of where Beah was going to take us.

What are some books/memoirs that are similar to Beah's? Have you heard of Ishmael Beah and his story before?

No comments :

Post a Comment

I love comments, I always read them, they always make my day and help me improve my posts. Thank you!