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Former Child Soldier Ishmael Beah: A Long Way Gone

Host Marcia Franklin talks with former child soldier Ishmael Beah, whose bestselling book, A Long Way Gone, details his harrowing experiences in the 1990s when he fought with the government-backed army in Sierra Leone as a teenager during a brutal civil war. Beah fled attacking rebels in his homeland at age 12 and was later picked up and forced to serve in the government army. He was eventually released by the army and sent to a UNICEF rehabilitation center.

Franklin and Beah talk about how he and other children are drawn into war, what effect his experiences had on him, what society can do about this illegal practice, and what he plans to do with his future. Beah also addresses allegations that there were factual inaccuracies in his book, including how long he was a soldier.

Beah moved to the United States in 1998 and later earned a bachelor’s degree in political science. He has spoken before the United Nations, the Council on Foreign Relations, and the Center for Emerging Threats and Opportunities (CETO) at the Marine Corps Warfighting Laboratory, as well as many other panels on children affected by the war.

Beah’s novel Radiance of Tomorrow was published in January 2014. His most recent novel Little Family was published in April 2020.

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Originally Aired: 12/02/2010

The interview is part of Dialogue’s series, “Conversations from the Sun Valley Writers’ Conference,” and was taped at the 2010 conference. Since 1995, the conference has been bringing together some of the world’s most well-known and illuminating authors to discuss literature and life.

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