BIOGRAPHY

Ishmael Beah

The author

Ishmael Beah, born in Sierra Leone, West Africa, is the New York Times bestselling author of A Long Way Gone, Memoirs of a Boy Soldier and Radiance of Tomorrow, A Novel both published by Farrar Straus & Giroux.

His newest work, Little Family, a novel, is a profound and tender portrayal of the connections we forge to survive the fate we’re dealt, Little Family marks the further blossoming of a unique global voice.

Radiance of Tomorrow, written with the gentle lyricism of a dream and the moral clarity of a fable is a powerful book about preserving what means the most to us, even in uncertain times. Already available in several foreign languages, the New York Times finds in his writing an “allegorical richness” and a “remarkable humanity to his [Beah’s] characters”.

His Memoir, A Long Way Gone, has been published in over 40 languages and was nominated for a Quill Award in the Best Debut Author category for 2007. Time Magazine named the book as one of the Top 10 Nonfiction books of 2007, ranking at number 3.

His work has appeared in the New York Times, New York Times Magazine, Time magazine, International Herald Tribune, Globe & Mail, Rutgers University Press, Vespertine Press, LIT, The Guardian, Parabola magazines and numerous academic journals.

He is based in Los Angeles, California, with his wife, Priscillia and his children.

The activist

Ishmael Beah was appointed UNICEF’s first Advocate for Children Affected by War on 20 November 2007.

In accepting the position Mr. Beah said, “… for me it’s just a way to give me more strength to continue doing what I’ve already embarked on, what I’ve dedicated my life to doing – which is to make sure that what happened to me doesn’t continue to happen to other children around the world.” He pledged to give a voice and hope to children whose lives have been scarred by violence.

In 1991, the outbreak of a brutal civil war in Sierra Leone upended the lives of millions. Ishmael Beah’s parents and two brothers were killed and he was forcibly recruited into the war at age 13. After two years, with UNICEF help, he was removed from the army and placed in a rehabilitation home in Freetown.

At the 1996 United Nations presentation of the Machel Report on the Impact of Armed Conflict on Children, Mr. Beah spoke about the devastating effects of war on children in his country. In May 2000, at the UN Special Session on Children he served on a panel entitled ‘Reclaiming Our Children: The UN Responds to the Plight of the Child Soldier’. The panel included then Secretary General Kofi Annan and UN agency heads.

Mr. Beah continues his advocacy to help change the course for the thousands of children still trapped in wars. He is a member of the Human Rights Watch Children’s Rights Division Advisory Committee and has testified before the United States Congress.

In 2007, he founded the Ishmael Beah foundation dedicated to helping children affected by war reintegrate into society and improve their lives. By 2009, 50 student from different regions in Sierra Leone, West Africa received grants to continue and improve on their education. In 2011, the Ishmael Beah Foundation opened its first college chapter at Oberlin College. To date, the Ishmael Beah Foundation has helped more than 150 children.

In 2008, he co-founded the Network of Young People Affected by War (NYPAW) with a mission to raise awareness of the plight of children in conflict zones, advocate for an end to hostilities and provide role models for children who are currently struggling to recover from war.

Ishmael Beah is also the Vice-Chair of Narrative 4, a global organization headed up by some of the world’s most renowned and influential authors, artists and community leaders who have come together to promote empathy through the exchange of stories.

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