5. A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier

by Ishmael Beah

I read this one in July and am still blow away by it. Whenever the book is referenced the lump grows in my throat and the eyes well up. I guess in some small, safe way, I have been traumatized by his expereince. I am at once outraged by humanity's capacity for atrocity and deeply moved by our unwavering belief in eachother. It's inexplicable. It's great.

It probably helped that Sandy and I met him last night at a Q&A following a viewing of the documentary Sierra Leone's Refugee Allstars. We also met this remarkably positive, hopeful band of musicians.

Beah was a child through Sierra Leone's civil war (mid-1990s to 2004ish) and ended up indoctrinated into the govenerment army when he was twelve. What this boy had gone through, what he was forced to do, is perhaps the greatest crime of humanity. And yet he survived and is hopeful and loving... and an outstanding writer.

It is a shocking and heart-wrenching personal account of a civil war that was fought by tens of thousands of children, on both sides. Many of these children are now in their twenties and early thirties and are suffering in profound ways... or have not survived.

Beah has posted the first chapter for us:


When he first walked past Sandy and I in the small theater last night, my heart filled with feelings for him. Mosty I felt an inner celebration for his survival mixed with immense gratitude for his decision to share this experience with us. Sandy told him as much. Beautiful.

The Sierra Leone Refugee Allstars are great. This is a band that formed in the refugee camps in Guinea and grew during their decade in exhile. They joined the Q&A last night and performed some of their music for us. Here they are. Here's the documentary, which I highly recommend.

Anyway, Beah's book is awesome. I think you should read it now.

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