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A LONG WAY GONE by Ishmael Beah


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“I realize it sounds odd, but this memoir makes me think of The Diary of Anne Frank. It is the work of a young writer whose talent was forged in the horrors of his childhood. It shows human nature at its worst, but also the resilience of the human spirit and the healing power of love.

Ishmael Beah was 12 years old when the rebels attacked his village in Sierra Leone. He and a few friends fled while the slaughter was going on. For months the boys wandered through the bush from village to village, internal refugees in a civil war, until they were apprehended by an army unit. Ishmael was given an AK-47 and inducted into the army. With the help of a daily diet of narcotics, he became a killer. He doesn’t spare himself or the reader in describing his life as a predator in uniform.

When Ishmael was 15, he was discharged and sent to a UNESCO camp for rehabilitation. He had become a violent, angry drug addict who felt betrayed by the army for discharging him and at the same time, afraid he could never live normally again. The story of how a nurse and an uncle helped change his life is as gripping as what came before.

Ishmael lives in the U.S. now, and recently graduated from Oberlin College. If you read his book, I don’t think you will ever forget it.”—Larry Shapiro, Editorial Director

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