Ishmael Beah’s book A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier has been selected as the common reading selection for 2015-16.
The book will be provided to all incoming freshmen during their summer orientation and discussed in small group settings prior to the start of classes in August and in First Year Seminar classes. In addition, Beah will speak to campus during convocation Sept. 3.
A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier has been published in more than 40 languages and was nominated for a Quill Award in the Best Debut Author category for 2007. Time Magazine named the book as one of the Top 10 Nonfiction books of 2007, ranking at number three.
Author Jeannette Walls said, the book “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 intact, it’s the least you can do.”
Walter Isaacson called the book, “a wrenching, beautiful, and mesmerizing tale,” and Steve Coll sums the reviews up well when he said, “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”
Beah was born in 1980 in Sierra Leone. While he was a young boy, his country descended into a horrific civil war, and Beah was forced to flee his village when rebels brutally attacked. After wandering the country, Beah was picked up as a young teenager by the government army and was pressed into service as government guerrilla soldier.
Beah witnessed and sometimes participated in truly terrible acts, but the story does not end there. Beah was eventually released by the Sierra Leon government army, and sent to a UNICEF rehabilitation center where he struggled to regain his humanity and learn how to reenter the world of civilians as an adult.
He moved to the U.S. in 1988 and completed high school at the United Nations International School in New York. Beah graduated from Oberlin College with a B.A. in political science.
Beah now is a UNICEF Ambassador, an advocate for Children Affected by War, a member of the Human Rights Watch Children’s Advisory Committee, and an advisory board member of the Center for the Study of Youth and Political Violence, University of Tennessee, Knoxville. He also is a former visiting scholar at the Center for Conflict resolution, Columbia University, a visiting Senior Research Fellow at the Center for the study of Genocide, Conflict Resolution and Human Rights, Rutgers University, Co-Founder of The Network for Young People Affected by War (NYPAW) and president of The Ishmael Beah Foundation.
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