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Lions Roar : September 2007
SHAMBHALA SUN SEPTEMBER 2007 37 “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,” Ishmael Beah writes at the beginning of A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Child Soldier. Some stories are like those that Beah heard about the war before it reached his village—they make us think that the people involved have nothing to do with us. Other stories, however, place us in the heart of the narrative and, in so doing, they enable us to identify with people who are very different from ourselves and who have had very different life experiences. A Long Way Gone, Beah’s New York Times bestseller, is this second kind of story. It describes something too awful for most people in North America to conceive of, yet it takes us into that experience and makes us understand it. Beah was leading the life of a typical child in rural Sierra Leone. He attended school when he could. He helped cultivate his family’s crops and he spent the nights sitting under the moon listening to stories told by his elders. One night when Beah was five years old, his grandfather’s friend, a man named Pa Sesay, told a story that Beah never forgot. It was about a hunter who set out to find a monkey. When the hunter finally came across one and was poised to kill it, the monkey spoke: “If you shoot me, your mother will die, and if you don’t, your father will die.” “What would you do if you were the hunter?” Pa Sesay asked. Ishmael Beah’s Long Way Back Ishmael Beah’s best-selling memoir, A Long Way Gone, tells the terrible story of his life as a child soldier in war-torn Sierra Leone. Now SUSAN McCLELLAND tells the next chapter—of the role Buddhism played in this remarkable young man’s recovery and the healing power of storytelling. PHOTO©JOHNMADERE SEPT 36-43.indd 37 SEPT 36-43.indd 37 6/25/07 4:53:52 PM 6/25/07 4:53:52 PM