Often, he relies on the distanced perspective of a storyteller. 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, father and siblings. Reports about child soldiers and the crises in Africa proliferate, but 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 "Beah's memoir, A Long Way Gone, 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. How is it possible that 26-year-old Beah, a nonnative English speaker, separated from his family at age 12, taught to maim and to kill at 13, can sound such notes of family happiness, of friendship under duress, of quiet horror?
But 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: '"We can be rehabilitated," I would emphasize, and point to myself as an example. powerful fragments of traditional African folklore. His willingness to share the comfort that things like tall tales, the face of the moon, or the smell of traditional foods bring him is sobering. Scenes the author witnessed and participated in are described in gruesome detail . 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."—Richard Thompson, The Star Tribune (Minneapolis) "Terrifying, often graphic in portraying the violence he both witnessed and carried out as a barely adolescent soldier in Sierra Leone, 26-year-old Beah's story is also deeply moving, even uplifting . 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.
By thirteen, he had been picked up by the government army, and Beah, at heart a gentle boy, found that he was capable of truly terrible acts. 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 . Not just because it contains an amazing story, or because it's our moral, bleeding-heart duty, or because it's clearly written. I don't think it's possible to 'understand' this book.
At sixteen, he was removed from fighting by UNICEF, and through the help of the staff at his rehabilitation center, he learned how to forgive himself, to regain his humanity, and finally, to heal. We should read it to learn about the world and about what it means to be human . A Long Way Gone says something about human nature that we try, most of the time, to ignore.
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