Regarding A Long Way Gone, how is Ishmael Beah contributing to the community today?

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Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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I would say that one way in which Beah is contributing to the community is through his efforts to make the world aware of the plight of child soldiers. Beah has not retreated into a sanctuary of wealth and fame, forgetting that others still experience the inferno from which he escaped.  He makes clear that the plight of child soldiers must be recognized.  Beah has given interviews asserting that dehumanizing children is relatively "easy," and is something that the world community must actively counter.  Beah writes his work with the understanding that his efforts can bring attention to the condition of child soldiers in parts of the world that can be easily forgotten and overlooked in the global community.  

Being able to simply recount his narrative and have the emotional fortitude to share it is another way in which Beah contributes to the community today. When challenged regarding the authenticity of his narrative, Beah argues that “I was right about my family. I am right about my story. This is not something one gets wrong.”  The ability to convey such an experience is a way he contributes to the community today.  Beah's work stands as a realistic expression of how different parts of the world operate today and reminds all of us that more needs to be done in order to protect the voiceless and give power to the powerless.

Finally, I would argue that Beah contributes to the community because he is able to escape the clutches of the people who force him to become a child soldier.  When Beah writes about his experiences ("If you left, it was as good as being dead") it serves as a reminder of how difficult restoration is for those who are enslaved as child soldiers.  I think that this becomes a way in which he has contributed to the community.  He has escaped and has been able to relay his own narrative for both himself and those who are left behind, for those who cannot see leaving as an option because they would be "as good as...dead."  It is clear that Beah escaped for both himself and for those who could not.  In being able to carry their hopes and dreams with his own, Beah has contributed to the community today.

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