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Class of 2017 First-Year Read: A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier by Ishmael Beah

The selection for the fall 2013 First-Year Read program is A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier, by Ishmael Beah. After downloading the book onto their Hood iPads to read over the summer, incoming new students will meet in small groups during fall orientation to discuss the themes, issues and conflicts that are raised by A Long Way Gone. Specially trained Hood faculty, staff, and students will co-facilitate these discussions.

All Hood students are invited to attend First-Year Read special activities scheduled during the fall semester and to weigh in with their opinions about the book on Facebook and on an active blog. The program culminates with Ishmael Beah’s visit to our campus on October 23, when members of the Hood community will have an opportunity to meet with this special guest during the day. Later that evening, a public lecture followed by a book signing is scheduled. We encourage parents to attend these evening events!

A Long Way Gone was nominated for a Quill Award in the Best Debut Author category for 2007 and was a Starbucks Featured Book.


In the more than 50 conflicts going on worldwide, it is estimated that there are some 300,000 child soldiers. Ishmael Beah used to be one of them.

What does war look like through the eyes of a child soldier? How does one become a killer? How does one stop? Journalists have profiled child soldiers, and novelists have struggled to imagine their lives. But it is rare to find a first-person account from someone who endured this hell and survived.

In A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier, Beah, now 32 years old, tells a powerfully gripping story: At the age of 12, he fled attacking rebels and wandered a land rendered unrecognizable by violence. By 13, the government army had commandeered him, and Beah, at heart a gentle boy, found that he was capable of truly terrible acts. At 16, he was removed from fighting by UNICEF, and through the help of the staff at his rehabilitation center, he learned how to forgive himself, to regain his humanity and, finally, to heal.

Author Ishmael Beah was born in Sierra Leone in 1980. He moved to the United States in 1998 and finished his last two years of high school at the United Nations International School in New York. In 2004 he graduated from Oberlin College with a bachelor's degree in political science. He is a member of the Human Rights Watch Children's Rights Division Advisory Committee and has spoken before the United Nations, the Council on Foreign Relations, the Center for Emerging Threats and Opportunities (CETO) at the Marine Corps Warfighting Laboratory, and many other NGO panels on children affected by the war. His work has appeared in VespertinePress and LIT magazine. He lives in New York City.

Text excerpted from Ishmael Beah’s website

How to download onto the iPad

View A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier blog.