Tuesday, February 12, 2008

A LONG WAY GONE--The Controversy

I read Ishmael Beah's book A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier last month. It's a horrific story about the author's boyhood in Sierra Leone where he lost his family and then was conscripted into a brutal army when he was still a child. You may have read the controversy now surrounding it. Journalists in Australia question Beah's timeline. They say he couldn't have done the things he said because his timing is off. Beah's response is that he was a child and that he stands by the spirit of the work. His editor and publishers back him up.

I wish this whole tempest in a teapot would to away. It's a luminous book, a testament to the resilience of the human spirit. Maybe Beah's facts got a little fuzzy regarding months and days. But no one questions the experiences he relates. It's a MEMOIR--not a fact-checked biography. Memoirs are written from the writer's memory and, in my opinion, shouldn't be subject to line-by-line scrutiny.

If I wrote the story of my childhood, it would not agree with how my brother sees it. It's MY experience. There's some of that in the Beah controversy. My fondest hope is that he stands his ground and shuts everyone up when he produces his next book.

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