For my Modern World History summer reading a book, I read A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier by Ishmael Beah. A Long Way Gone is an autobiographical account written by Ishmael Beah and is about his childhood struggles and accomplishments. Ishmael was a 12-year-old boy living through the civil war in Sierra Leone. He ran away from his hometown to escape from the rebels who were invading the area and other villages around it. He was separated from his family but was able to find friends on his journey to a peaceful life.
By 13, he was forced to join the army and was sucked into the mindset that violence and drugs were good and that killing people wasn’t a bad thing. When he was 16, UNICEF pulled him out of the army and into a rehab program where he learned to return to his regular life without drugs and violence. There, he met his uncle that would eventually adopt him.
He was allowed to teach about child soldiers and traveled the country to portray his story.
The civil war in Sierra Leone took place from 1991-to 2002 (The book took place from 1993-to 1997. During this war, it was violent and gory, similar to many other wars. For example, a war that took place from 1992-to 1996 was the Afghan civil war. In 1992, a civil war began between 3 mujahideen armies when Hezbi Islami refused to form a coalition government with other mujahideen groups and tried to conquer Kabul for themselves. Kabul’s original population dropped from 2 million to 500,00 because of the war, violence, and raids.
This is similar to the civil war of Sierra Leone because the population of many villages dropped to very little or no people. Another war that was similar to the civil war of Sierra Leone is the Algerian civil war which took place from 1991-to 2002. The Algerian civil war was an armed conflict between the Algerian Government and many different Islamic rebel groups. It was similar to Sierra Leone because they were both one group versus a rebel group, also both armed and very violent.
Although there were violent wars that happened during the 1990s, there were also many things that didn’t have to do with violence, raids, or war. For example, in 1996 Bill Clinton was re-elected president and Al Gore was re-elected vice president. There is nothing violent about a presidential election (at least not in 1996). Another example of a nonviolent event that happened in the 1990s is that the first Harry Potter book was released in 1997. Another event that happened in 1997 was that Hong Kong was returned to China after being a part of the British Crown Colony for several years.
This book taught me more about this period than a textbook would because it was written and told by someone who experienced it. The book is a primary source and a textbook would be a secondary source so I would learn more about it in a book written by someone who experienced it. In a textbook, we wouldn’t know the feelings, thoughts, and emotions of the people who experienced it and in A Long Way Gone, Ishmael explained what he was going through and the heartbreak of when he was separated from his immediate family. A textbook wouldn’t be as detailed and precise as a first-hand autobiography of someone who was a part of the war. For example, when Ishmael was separated from his brother, he explained his emotions about being without any of his family members. A textbook wouldn’t explain the details of someone getting shot in the forehead or a baby being shot in the neck as the book did.