Ishmael Beah on life after being a child soldier

First aired on George Stroumboulopoulos Tonight (12/1/14)


Ishmael Beah is a former child soldier from Sierra Leone. In 2007, he gained international attention for his memoir of that period, Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier. Seven years later, Beah is putting his author hat back on -- and this time, he's giving fiction a try. His latest book looks at life after being a child soldier. It's called Radiance of Tomorrow and it was released earlier this year.

Beah thought telling this story was important because "people are so interested in what's going on when places are collapsing, with violence," but the public interest stops there. "As soon as the war ends, the cameras, everybody, stops talking about that particular place and they move on to whatever the next madness is."

This is a problem because, as Beah sees it, "post-conflict is the most crucial, if not the most important stage." It's a time for healing, recovering and learning "how you learn to live together again." This is why Beah wanted to write Radiance of Tomorrow. He's spent a lot of time grappling with questions surrounding post-conflict "At the heart of this, I'm looking at how do you move towards a future when the past is pulling at you very strongly. How do you really do that?"

Beah has been able to move on thanks to one important tool: forgiveness. "You have to forgive yourself in order to learn to move on," he said. "Because otherwise if you don't, the burden, the memories, would literally kill you. It's too much. So you have to learn to build new memories, to move forward and to appreciate the simple moments of just waking up every day without having to run for your life."

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