For weeks Ishmael Beah and his handlers have been attacking the professionalism of Australian reporters who raised questions about the credibility of A Long Way Gone. Now Beah has used a similar tactic on the gifted Village Voice reporter Graham Rayman, who first wrote about the controversy in the March 18 issue of the alternate weekly www.villagevoice.com/news/0812,boy_soldier,381308,1.html.
Rayman caught up with the author when he spoke about his book at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice in Manhattan. He asked Beah, who claims to have spent more than two years as a child solider in Sierra Leone, if he had used composite characters or taken events that had happened to others and presented them as his own.
“You should ask Peter Wilson that question. I’m sure he gave you all these questions,” Beah said, according to a story in the April 15 issue of the Voice. Beah was referring to a reporter for the Australian who visited Sierra Leone and could find no evidence of a fatal brawl at a UNICEF camp described in A Long Way Gone.
Rayman responded in the article:
“Beah was wrong in assuming that the questions were fed to the Voice by Wilson, but his response suggested that he is flustered by the doubts that have been raised about his book.”
Here’s my question for Beah: If he didn’t use composite characters or pass off others’ experiences as his own, why didn’t he settle the matter right then by saying “no” instead of insulting Rayman’s professionalism by implying that he couldn’t have thought of his questions on his own?
To read Rayman’s April 15 story on Beah’s talk at John Jay, Google “Rayman + Beah + John Jay.” [I will insert a working link here as soon as I can.] Rayman asked Beah about the fatal brawl that he claims occurred at a UNICEF camp and Beah replied cryptically, “There was so much that happened in the war that was not recorded,” but again offered no proof that the incident occurred. I am quoted in Rayman’s earlier story in the controversy.
(c) 2008 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.