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A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier

Ishmael Beah’s autobiography is unique for many reasons. It is a first hand account of a boy’s entry into the armed forces of Sierra Leone at a turbulent time, a time when power hungry rebels were at their ascendancy.  Ishmael’s voice is a sensitive voice, and astute observer of the objective with a rare capacity to remain deeply human, involved, imploring.

The story charts Ishmael’s journey from a sunny afternoon in the life of a carefree son of Sierra Leone obsessed with rap and family and learning to the ironic, marooned life of an international spokesperson on behalf of children’s rights.  It is a compact read, dense with tradition and culture – from the rural foods to the ancestral stories – while expansive and universal, brimming with the hopes and loves and fears of young people everywhere.

Books like this continue to awe. They speak more than a thousand nights of television to the capacity of young people, through the diligence and humility of their peers, to adapt. And, through the vices and capricious whim of their peers to corrupt. The cycle is ultimately about regeneration. We are more than the sum of our experiences. We have, and will always have, the capacity to overcome mere circumstance.

That is the lesson and the gift of A Long Way Gone. The website for the book also contain a nice selection of multimedia clips, discussion guides for reading circles and teachers, as well as links to purchase the book online. I strongly urge readers at NCDD to do so for a moving opportunity to explore an issue affecting millions of young people around the world.

Lars Hasselblad Torres
In 2004 and 2005, Lars ran a scoping study to determine whether a “National Dialogue Bureau” was a feasible idea. The Dialogue Bureau, if developed, would supply journalists with a “one stop” destination for the collection of views held by ordinary Americans who engage in dialogue about current affairs.

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