by Dan Bloom, producer
Ishamel Beah cannot change the past, but can write his future. In his breakout debut book “A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier,” Beah told the true story of his family’s devastation and his own recruitment into Sierra Leone’s brutal civil war as a child soldier. At the end of the book, Beah escapes Sierra Leone and makes his way to New York via an illegal transit through Guinea.
Beah has since graduated from Oberlin College in Ohio and settled with his wife in New York. Now, with his second book “Radiance of Tomorrow,” Beah returns to the subject of Sierra Leone’s violent past, but this time through the lens of fiction. Beah says that the change in storytelling style allowed him a key tool in living peacefully with this painful subject matter: control. As a child, Ishmael Beah could not control the awful fortune that befell him, but the characters in his book and their fictionalized town of Imperi are his own creations, and their destinies lie in the fertile imagination of this skilled wordsmith.
Discontent to simply pore over and profit from a difficult childhood in Sierra Leone, Beah began working with UNICEF in 2007 to advocate for children affected by war. He also founded the Ishmael Beah foundation which provides scholarships and other support for children in Sierra Leone who lack opportunities due to a dearth of support.
Beah is an inspiring figure whose accomplishments show that with gratitude, positivity and dedication to art, even the bleakest of circumstances can be put into the background of one’s life and harnessed as a force for good.
Visit the Ishmael Beah Foundation’s website, here.