Those of us who live in the U.S. of A. hear of “wars and rumors of wars,” but our children are usually spared the horrible details. This is not true of the child soldiers on distant shores who meet war in the close up and personal way that young Ishmael Beah did. In his book, A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier , It is 1992, andtwelve year old Ishmael, his brother, and a few friends leave their village in Sierra Leone, West Africa in hopes of becoming rap stars in a talent show. The boys never see their families again.
Pushed into a war that they don’t fully comprehend, the boys are starved, threatened and forced to become blood thirsty soldiers who murder, maim, and kill with impunity. Freely given drugs such as brown-brown (cocaine mixed with gun powder) and speed, the boys are soon addicted to violence and murder, considering themselves soldiers. Ishmael writes, "My squad was my family, my gun was my provider and protector, and my rule was to kill or be killed." Sent to a rehabilitation camp, he begins a slow withdrawal process from the guns and violence, and ultimately is given a chance to tell his story before the United Nations on behalf of children throughout the world.
This true memoir is a heart breaker, but Ishmael’s story must be told. Today, he is twenty six years old and lives in the United States. A Long Way Gone should be required reading for students everywhere.