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

This is a rare and mesmerizing account, told with real literary force and heartbreaking honesty.

This is how wars are fought now by children, hopped up on drugs, and wielding AK-47s. In the more than fifty violent conflicts going on worldwide, it is estimated that there are some 300,000 child soldiers. 

Ishmael Beah used to be one of them. 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 it is rare to find a first-person account from someone who endured this hell and survived.

In A Long Way Gone Beah, now twenty-six years old, tells a riveting story in his own words: 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 Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier by Ishmael Beah

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Such an excellent book. I’d recommend this to anyone, anyone looking for gaining an outlook of life from another whether similar circumstances or different from your own, those seeking out humanitarian endeavors, anyone who is looking for a bit of history into the country of Sierra Leone from personal experience, curiosity of historical events during the 1990s, or anyone looking for insightful inspiration or meaning for their lives.

I listened via audiobook, narrated by the author, which I’d highly recommend.

This book was unique in that it was a beautiful story, beautifully written, and listening to the author narrate it really put a complete idea and significance in my head. Not many memoirs in my experience can do all 3 from the same person and I think this book deserves a bit of celebration for that.

Everything from survival to the most rudimentary way of living to joy in abundance and renewed zest for life. In its simplest form it tells an immigration story and I really liked the way he told his story, humbling and honest, but it was even deeper than that because it encompassed a turning point in human history, one of triumph beginning on a personal level, while also recognizing loss, separation, longing, and coming to terms with the past and how hardship in the most crude way tells an even more powerful story because he lived to tell about it in a story all his own without sugar coating or watering down the distress he experienced and paths he followed.

It’s a heavy read with much tragedy and trauma, but I cherished hearing all about his experiences because it depicted an uncomfortable reality, savagery, suffering, and all the peaks in between.

I especially enjoyed references to popular rap music at the time, Naughty by Nature, OPP, LL Cool J. The writing was seamless in the story, giving personal insight, yet plenty of context for anyone who may not relate or understand the situations, written from a place of genuine experience and life observations, all with an outlook toward hope, positivity, and meaning.

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