One-Minute Book Reviews

February 5, 2008

Out of the Mouth of a Babe Soldier (Quotes of the Day / Ishmael Beah)

Confused about the controversy about A Long Way Gone, which Ishmael Beah says describes his two years as a boy soldier in Sierra Leone? These quotes from Beah may clarify the situation. Or not.

“The first time that I was touched by war I was twelve. It was in January of 1993.”
Ishmael Beah, page 6, A Long Way Gone (Use the “Search Inside” tool on the Amazon page for the book to search for “I was twelve”

“I tried to write as I felt back then – at twelve, at eleven …”
Ishmael Beah on the Daily Show With Jon Stewart, Feb. 14, 2007 interview

“I am right about my story. This is not something one gets wrong. … Sad to say, my story is all true.” Ishmael Beah in a statement defending his book published by the trade journal Publishers Weekly on Jan. 21, 2008

“I have tried to think deeply about this, and my memory gives me 1993 and nothing more. And that’s what I stand by.”
Ishmael Beah in an interview with Hillel Italie of the Associated Press as published on Jan. 30, 2008, in the International Herald Tribune and elsewhere


In A Long Way Gone Beah says clearly that he was first “touched by war” he was 12. He mentions earlier events as background but does not imply that, at 11, he was a soldier (which he suggests occurs between the ages of 13 and 15). But you could easily have come away from his Daily Show interview with the idea that he was a soldier “at 12, at 11.” His book says he was born in 1980, so events that happened when he was 11 would have occurred in 1991 or 1992, or before the 1993 date that he stands by.

(c) 2008 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.


  1. Please don’t think I’m being rude, but I’m trying clarify something. You refer to “solider” several times here. Do you mean “soldier,” or is that the actual term he uses?

    Comment by moonbeammcqueen — February 6, 2008 @ 2:01 am | Reply

  2. Oh, what an embarrassing typo! A thousand thanks for pointing it out. I must have hit an auto-correct button unintentionally. I really appreciate it when people point out typos, so I can correct them …


    Comment by 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom — February 6, 2008 @ 3:04 am | Reply

  3. You are so welcome. I’m a stickler, and because I read (and enjoy) your blog, I know that you are too!

    Comment by moonbeammcqueen — February 6, 2008 @ 2:35 pm | Reply

  4. My father taught high school English … and HE would thank you, too.

    Comment by 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom — February 6, 2008 @ 3:53 pm | Reply

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