From 1991 to 1999, Sierra Leone was involved in a bloody civil war between its corrupt government, its military, and the RUF (Revolutionary United Front). The movie Blood Diamond shows how young boys were conscripted into the RUF, while A Long Way Gone (a true story) describes the author’s same conscription into the Sierra Leone army in 1993 at the age of 13. Both the movie and the book are sobering reminders of what was happening to children in Sierra Leone less than ten years ago and what is still happening in many other parts of the world today. Using intimidation, drugs, and fear, children ages 12 to 18 are forced to become a part of the mindless killing going on in war-torn countries.
Blood Diamond wasn’t a fun movie to watch, but it was important to watch it. And after reading A Long Way Gone, you can get an even greater understanding of the horrendous impact on civilian populations of these civil wars and the struggle for power. The author, Ishmael Beah, was born in 1980—startlingly close to the ages of my own children. I struggle to get my mind around the fact that while my children were taking swimming lessons and writing book reports, Ishmael Beah was forced to carry an AK-47 through the forests of Sierra Leone, witnessing and participating in murders of the "enemy." It was only when UNICEF intervened on his behalf in 1996 that he was “rehabilitated” and eventually found his way to the United States.
It's not a thick book--it doesn't take long to read. However, you will find yourself thinking about it for a long time after.