This week, when I entered Starbucks, procrastination was far from my mind. Instead, I was praying that their holiday drink – a double tall Gingerbread Latte with whip – could be found four months post-holiday.
The coffee gods were smiling upon me. So as I waited impatiently to gulp calories that were destined for my hips, my eyes traveled the store restlessly.
Until my gaze landed on the book display nearby.
The featured book sported a photograph cover with green grass that was almost neon in its intensity and a dirt road the color of nutmeg. This background was soothing – but the stark image of the 10- year old(?) boy was not, for as he walked along this picturesque road in tattered flip-flops that matched the green grass, a bayonet rested against his hip while he carried a grenade on his shoulders.
So I picked up A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier, by Ishmael Beah and began reading the inside cover flap…
…THIS IS HOW WARS ARE BEING FOUGHT NOW: by children, traumatized, hopped-up on drugs, and wielding AK-47s. Children have become the soldiers of choice—
“Rachelle,” announced the barrista, interrupting me.
I ignored him, my attention focused on the book.
In more than fifty violent conflicts worldwide, it is estimated that there are some 300,000 child soldiers—
I suppressed a sigh.
“Your double tall Gingerbread Latte with whip is ready.”
Yeah, yeah. All right, already.
I took my drink and grabbed a seat, deciding that my office teammates could survive a bit longer without me. I returned my gaze to the book.
Ishmael Beah used to be one of them. What does war look like through the eyes of a child?
I do not know. I barely comprehend what it looks like through the eyes of an adult.
How does one become a killer?
I do not know. The thought of children forced to kill is unthinkable.
How does one stop?
I do not know. I’m still trying to grasp how one starts.
And so, for the next 24-hours – on my BART train ride to work, my walk to and from BART, my Starbucks coffee runs, and before I went to sleep at night – my mind was obsessed with Mr. Beah’s life. The neon book cover beckoned to me, refusing to release me until I finished it.
Which surprised me, as I oftentimes read to escape to a world of fantasy.
Beah’s book is a journey into harsh reality. Yet, despite this, his straight-forward style, his matter-of-fact tone, interspersed with lyrical phrases, kept me turning pages. As horror after horror was heaped on him, I wondered how he would go on, how he would survive it. When good finally happened, I wondered how he was going to be able to accept it. Sometimes I smiled, occasionally I chuckled, many times I cried, but always I was awestruck. His survival is miraculous – and the man he has grown up to be, astounding.
The book – his words – are still with me. I highly recommend this book!
Have any of you read it?