A Long Way Gone: The True Story of a Child Soldier
My new friends have begun to suspect I haven't told them the full story of my life.
"Why did you leave Sierra Leone?"
"Because there is a war."
"You mean, you saw people running around with guns and shooting each other?"
"Yes, all the time."
I smile a little.
"You should tell us about it sometime."
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 the #1 New York Times bestseller, 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.
'A corrosive, eloquent and illuminating account of a child soldier's life, and it makes you look at the news with a fresh eye. What he has done is to make his situation imaginable for us, and stop us from simply turning away in horror. That is the best gift he could give the world.' Hilary Mantel 'The arming of children is one of the greatest evils of the modern world, and yet we know so little about it because the children themselves are swallowed up by the very wars they are forced to wage. Ishmael Beah has not only emerged intact from this chaos, he has become one of its most eloquent chroniclers. "A Long Way Gone" is one of the most important war stories of our generation. We ignore its message at our peril.' Sebastian Junger 'A ferocious and desolate account of how ordinary children were turned into professional killers.' The Guardian 'A remarkable book!makes you wonder how anyone comes through such horror with his humanity and sanity intact. Ishmael Beah seems to prove it can happen.' William Boyd 'Everyone in the world should read this book.' Washington Post 'We are glued to every page!read his memoir and you will be haunted.' Newsweek 'A breathtaking and un-self-pitying account of how a gentle spirit survives a childhood from which all innocence has suddenly been sucked out. It's a truly riveting memoir.' Time Magazine 'Beah's autobiography is almost unique, as far as I can determine -- perhaps the first time that a child soldier has been able to give literary voice to one of the most distressing phenomena of the late 20th century: the rise of the pubescent (or even prepubescent) warrior-killer!A remarkable book!"A Long Way Gone" makes you wonder how anyone comes through such unrelenting ghastliness and horror with his humanity and sanity intact. Unusually, the smiling, open face of the author on the book jacket provides welcome and timely reassurance. Ishmael Beah seems to prove it can happen.' William Boyd 'A gifted writer, he has transformed a brutalised childhood into an exploration of what it means to be human.' Daily Mail 'This is a journey into the Heart of Darkness -- and back!it reads like a description of a nightmare.' The Financial Times 'Beah succeeds admirably in representing the simple emotions of his younger self, notably the fears that began to multiply as his friends started to die of hunger!His memoir of a life he has now escaped is written with an unforced mastery of narrative and imagery. In time, this short but powerful book may well takes its place alongside the "Diary of Anne Frank" as a classic evocation of adolescence and war.' Literary Review 'A vitally important story about life and loss of innocence in the Third World.' In Dublin 'The simplicity with which Ishmael tells his story carries conviction. If this is not a literary masterpiece, it is indeed an important book. The author bears witness on behalf of hundreds of thousands of child soldiers, almost none of whose stories attain such a tolerable ending as his own.' Max Hastings, The Sunday Times 'An astonishing confession.' The Observer 'Beah's memoir is unforgettable testimony that Africa's children have eyes to see and voices to tell what has happened. No outsider could have written this book, and it's hard to imagine that many insiders could do so with such acute vision, stark language, and tenderness. It is a heart-rending achievement.' Elle Magazine
Ishmael Beah came to the United States when he was seventeen and graduated from Oberlin College in 2004. He is a member of the Human Rights Watch Children's Rights Division Advisory Committee and has spoken before the United Nations on several occasions. He lives in New York City.