Ishmael Beah was born in 1980 in Sierra Leone, West Africa. His writing has appeared in The New York Times Magazine, Vespertine Press, LIT, Parabola, and numerous academic journals. He is a UNICEF Ambassador and Advocate for Children Affected by War; a member of the Human Rights Watch Children's Rights Advisory Committee; an advisory board member at the Center for the Study of Youth and Political Violence at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville; visiting scholar at the Center for International Conflict Resolution at Columbia University; visiting Senior Research Fellow at the Center for the Study of Genocide, Conflict Resolution, and Human Rights at Rutgers University; cofounder of the Network of Young People Affected by War (NYPAW); and president of the Ishmael Beah Foundation. He has spoken before the United Nations, the Council on Foreign Relations, and many panels on the effects of war on children. His book A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier has been published in over thirty languages and was nominated for a Quill Award in 2007. Time magazine named the book as one of the top ten nonfiction books of 2007, ranking it at number three. Ishmael Beah is a graduate of Oberlin College with a B.A. in Political Science and resides in Brooklyn, New York.
Rarely does one encounter anything but outrage, sadness, and pain when reading about the exploitation of child soldiers, but Beah's account also offers hope, humility, bravery, and, yes, peace. Beah was 13 years old when rebels attacked nearby villages in his native Sierra Leone. He was separated from his family (he learned later that they perished) and was on the run from both the rebels and the Sierra Leone Military Forces for over a year. Eventually captured by the military, which could behave as horrendously as the rebels, the boy was forced to join the army, carrying guns or grenade launchers. Like the thousands of other children traumatized by these events, Beah needed rehabilitation when his "tour of duty" was over. A former juvenile center turned counseling house afforded him a safe haven. After being chosen to speak at a UN conference in New York, he began the long process of relocating to the United States. The brutality of war is brought out early in this narrative, and just to have survived is amazing. Beah writes with frankness and honesty about his experiences but also with other people in mind; his account of the healing process after the horrors he saw is remarkable. His book, especially relevant in today's world, should be in all high school, public, and academic libraries. [See Prepub Alert, LJ 11/15/06; Beah's book is the second title in the new Starbucks book program.-Ed.]-James Thorsen, Madison Cty. Schs., Weaverville, NC Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information.
Beah's harrowing story of a boy caught up in the civil strife in Sierra Leone is not an audio to curl up with before bedtime. Beah's even-toned narrative is particularly disturbing because it's almost exactly the same whether he is enjoying the company of a newly found uncle or busy shooting and maiming rebels and even burying them alive. His monotone works particularly well when he is recounting his dreams, for he cannot distinguish his nightmares from his waking life. Beah speaks with a thick accent that omits "th" sounds. Many words are understandable in their context, but a few are not. He also stumbles over some longer and more complex words. Despite these drawbacks, Beah's tale is a riveting snapshot of childhoods stolen from all too many, not just in Sierra Leone but in Somalia, Iraq, Palestine and other places ravaged by civil wars. Simultaneous release with the FSG hardcover (Reviews, Dec. 18). (Mar.) Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information.
Adult/High School-This gripping story by a children's-rights advocate recounts his experiences as a boy growing up in Sierra Leone in the 1990s, during one of the most brutal and violent civil wars in recent history. Beah, a boy equally thrilled by causing mischief as by memorizing passages from Shakespeare and dance moves from hip-hop videos, was a typical precocious 12-year-old. But rebel forces destroyed his childhood innocence when they hit his village, driving him to leave his home and travel the arid deserts and jungles of Africa. After several months of struggle, he was recruited by the national army, made a full soldier and learned to shoot an AK-47, and hated everyone who came up against the rebels. The first two thirds of his memoir are frightening: how easy it is for a normal boy to transform into someone as addicted to killing as he is to the cocaine that the army makes readily available. But an abrupt change occurred a few years later when agents from the United Nations pulled him out of the army and placed him in a rehabilitation center. Anger and hate slowly faded away, and readers see the first glimmers of Beah's work as an advocate. Told in a conversational, accessible style, this powerful record of war ends as a beacon to all teens experiencing violence around them by showing them that there are other ways to survive than by adding to the chaos.-Matthew L. Moffett, Pohick Regional Library, Burke, VA Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information.
"Everyone in the world should read this book. Not just because it contains an amazing story, or because it's our moral, bleeding-heart duty, or because it's clearly written. We should read it to learn about the world and about what it means to be human." --Washington Post "A breathtaking and unselfpitying 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 "Beah is a gifted writer. . . Read his memoir and you will be haunted . . . It's a high price to pay, but it's worth it." --Newsweek.com "Deeply moving, even uplifting...Beah's story, with its clear-eyed reporting and literate particularity--whether he's dancing to rap, eating a coconut or running toward the burning village where his family is trapped--demands to be read." --People (Critic's Choice, Four stars) "Beah's memoir, A Long Way Gone (Farrar, Straus and Giroux), is unforgettable testimony that Africa's children--millions of them dying and orphaned by preventable diseases, hundreds of thousands of them forced into battle--have eyes to see and voices to tell what has happened. And what voices!" --Melissa Fay Greene, Elle "When Beah is finally approached about the possibility of serving as a spokesperson on the issue of child soldiers, he knows exactly what he wants to tell the world: I would always tell people that I believe children have the resilience to outlive their sufferings, if given a chance. Others may make the same assertions, but Beah has the advantage of stating them in the first person. That makes A Long Way Gone all the more gripping." --Christian Science Monitor "In place of a text that has every right to be a diatribe against Sierra Leone, globalization or even himself, Beah has produced a book of such self-effacing humanity that refugees, political fronts and even death squads resolve themselves back into the faces of mothers, fathers and siblings. A Long Way Gone transports us into the lives of thousands of children whose lives have been altered by war, and it does so with a genuine and disarmingly emotional force." --Minneapolis Star-Tribune "What Beah saw and did during [the war] has haunted him ever since, and if you read his stunning and unflinching memoir, you'll be haunted, too . . . It would have been enough if Ishmael Beah had merely survived the horrors described in A Long Way Gone. That he has written this unforgettable firsthand account of his odyssey is harder still to grasp. Those seeking to understand the human consequences of war, its brutal and brutalizing costs, would be wise to reflect on Ishmael Beah's story." --Philadelphia Inquirer "Beah speaks in a distinctive voice, and he tells an important story." --The Wall Street Journal "Hideously effective in conveying the essential horror of his experiences." --Kirkus Reviews "Extraordinary . . . A ferocious and desolate account of how ordinary children were turned into professional killers." --The Guardian UK "A Long Way Gone is one of the most important war stories of our generation. The arming of children is among 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. We ignore his message at our peril." --Sebastian Junger, author of A Death in Belmont and A Perfect Storm "This is a beautifully written book about a shocking war and the children who were forced to fight it. Ishmael Beah describes the unthinkable in calm, unforgettable language; his memoir is an important testament to the children elsewhere who continue to be conscripted into armies and militias." --Steve Coll, author of Ghost Wars: The Secret History of the CIA, Afghanistan, and Bin Laden, from the Soviet Invasion to September 10, 2001, winner of the 2005 Pulitzer Prize for general Nonfiction "This is a wrenching, beautiful, and mesmerizing tale. Beah's amazing saga provides a haunting lesson about how gentle folks can be capable of great brutalities as well goodness and courage. It will leave you breathless." --Walter Isaacson, author of Benjamin Franklin: An American Life "A Long Way Gone hits you hard in the gut with Sierra Leone's unimaginable brutality and then it touches your soul with unexpected acts of kindness. Ishmael Beah's story tears your heart to pieces and then forces you to put it back together again, because if Beah can emerge from such horror with his humanity in tact, it's the least you can do." --Jeannette Walls, author of The Glass Castle: A Memoir