Blood Diamond vs. A Long Way Gone
Ishmael 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. This book tells us how a young boy was forced to become a soldier to preserve his life and live to tell his story. Although Beah was from an under developed nation, he had the dreams and thoughts of any normal teenager from the west. It is heartbreaking to learn that such dreams of millions of children like Beah are crushed down and ripped apart by the institution of War.
Ishmael Beah was 12 years old when the civil war in Sierra Leone entered his life, in 1993. When the rebels attacked his village, Beah and a group of friends were walking to a town several miles away, where they were supposed to participate in a song and dance competition by performing to some of their favorite rap music. Like all teenagers, they hoped to become famous stars and remain deaf and aloof to the rumors of a war that nevertheless was casting on the roads by refugees who would cross the town, days and nights. Sierra Leone was a former British colony in West Africa, between Liberia and Guinea which suffered the post-independence riots of passage of corruption, unrest, military coups and gerrymandered elections. At first, Beah and his friends manage to stay together. Beah writes vividly of the boys’ various reactions to the stress and trauma of being separated from their families and thrust into a war they did not understand. One boy tells stories. One is completely silent. One fears that he was dying one piece at a time. Beah cannot sleep. He had horrible headaches. He does everything he can to avoid thinking about his parents and brothers, trying not to consider what might have happened to them. Eventually, Beah meets up with another group of boys who are running from the attacks, and he travels with them from village to village...
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