I often think of Africa as “so” foreign. It seems like a world I could never relate to.
I am reading A Long Way Gone: Memoirs Of A Boy Soldier by Ishmael Beah. I expected to be reading from a detached position… reading about a far off place, about people who live in a culture I can’t begin to understand.
I was startled by how familiar Ishmael felt as I read words like, “The only wars I knew of were those that I had read about in books or seen in movies such as Rambo: First Blood, and the one in neighboring Liberia that I had heard about on the BBC News. My imagination at ten years old didn’t have the capacity to grasp what had taken away the happiness of the refugees.”
His words could be my words now. I have no direct understanding of war, of abject poverty, of forced labor, of child slavery, of child soldiers. I read his words and thought, “this boy was like my son.”
I am not finished with the book. I’m reading it differently than I thought I would. It is hitting home because he was a boy who went to school, loved rap music, danced and had dreams of college. He was not so different. And so the stories of horror that are now flooding the pages seem more real, more painful.