I find people, humans, utterly fascinating. What we can do to each other, what we can do to ourselves. Not just the good, but the bad and the ugly. I’m not sure if this is good trait of mine, but I can’t help looking. We are fascinating creatures.
I don’t want to trivialize it; I feel for humanity, I really do. My heart is easily broken, but I can’t stop looking.
Somedays I wonder how I can write, how I can do justice to the depth and complexity that is our humanity.
What got me in this pensive mood is A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier. I picked it up today, and I was crying by page 13. Within three hours, I’d read the whole thing, and cried several more times.
It’s one of those books you read, and you’ll never be the same again. It’s one of those stories that sticks with you forever. There are images in this book that I will never, ever forget.
After running from the rebels for a year, even living in the jungle alone (at twelve!) in order to stay safe, Ishmael Beah finally finds his way to a safe town that is protected by the army. But then the army needs him, and he has no choice but to become a soldier ... at thirteen.
Storytelling is an oral art still respected in his upbringing, and it’s clear that Beah inherited the talent. His book is one that was adopted by Starbucks for their stores, but it deserves it. He’s a gifted writer, and he didn’t need to be in order to publish this book. His story was that compelling, but it’s also that well told.
It feels important to be aware of the world, but I often wonder: if you can’t directly or even indirectly help, is their any good in being aware? Or do we just depress ourselves? It feels important to know and to feel for those in pain, even when we can’t help. But does it help anyone?
It does change our perspective. Maybe that’s the most important thing of all. But one does wish one could do something, you know?
Anyway, here’s quote from Publishers Weekly:
This absorbing account by a young man who, as a boy of 12, gets swept up in Sierra Leone’s civil war goes beyond even the best journalistic efforts in revealing the life and mind of a child abducted into the horrors of warfare. Beah’s harrowing journey transforms him overnight from a child enthralled by American hip-hop music and dance to an internal refugee bereft of family, wandering from village to village in a country grown deeply divided by the indiscriminate atrocities of unruly, sociopathic rebel and army forces. Beah then finds himself in the army- in a drug-filled life of casual mass slaughter that lasts until he is 15, when he’s brought to a rehabilitation center sponsored by UNICEF and partnering NGOs. The process marks out Beah as a gifted spokesman for the center’s work after his "repatriation" to civilian life in the capital, where he lives with his family and a distant uncle. When the war finally engulfs the capital, it sends 17-year-old Beah fleeing again, this time to the U.S., where he now lives. (Beah graduated from Oberlin College in 2004.) Told in clear, accessible language by a young writer with a gifted literary voice, this memoir seems destined to become a classic firsthand account of war and the ongoing plight of child soldiers in conflicts worldwide. (Feb.)