A couple of months ago I saw an interview with Ishmael Beah on the Daily Show. I am not usually a non-fiction reader, but I was so moved by Beah's interview that I immediately went upstairs and ordered the book. I have finally gotten to reading it. I started reading it yesterday and devoured all 230 pages by 8pm tonight.
The book begins like this:
"There were all kinds of stories told about the war that made it sound as if it was happening in a faraway and different land. It wasn't until some refugees started passing through our town that we began to see that it was actually taking place in our country. Families who had walked hundreds of miles told how relatives had been killed and their houses burned."
Beah tells his story from his perspective at 11 to about 15 years old during a horrific time in Sierra Leone. He gives us a glimpse of his life before the war enters it. The Revolutionary United Front (RUF) formed in the early 90s in Sierra Leone with the goal of overthrowing its corrupt government the All People's Congress (APC). This began over a decade of horrific fighting and multiple, equally ineffective and corrupt governments in Sierra Leone. There isn't a lot of deep discussion about the government and the rebels, he sticks true to his knowledge and perspective at his age and during that time. After losing his family and having his home destroyed, he embarks on a journey which purely consists of surviving. His descriptions of his experiences are remarkable and terrifying.
I will not get deep into the storyline because I firmly feel that every single human being should read this book. My ignorance of the events in Sierra Leone, in the very very recent history, was shameful. It is absolutely the most moving book I have ever read in my entire life. To quote John Stewart, "It made my heart hurt."