Biography of Ishmael Beah

Ishmael Beah was born in Sierra Leone in 1980. When he was 13, he was forced to become a child soldier during the civil war between the Sierra Leonean government and the Revolutionary United Front (RUF). For the next four years, Beah witnessed numerous atrocities and was forced to kill and torture people in the name of war.

He was rescued from the government army by The United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) and given a chance at a new life with his uncle. Beah was later chosen as one of two children to represent Sierra Leone at the United Nations First International Children's Parliament. His heartfelt account of the violence he faced and his testimony of the existence of thousands of children like him moved the UN. Laura Simms, a member of the UN, eventually adopted Beah as her son. In 1998, Beah moved to New York City with Simms. Beah is a graduate of the United Nations International School and Oberlin College.

Beah is a member of the Human Rights Watch Children's Rights Division Advisory Committee and has spoken to various governmental bodies about the plight of children affected by war. He is also the head of the Ishmael Beah Foundation, dedicated to helping former child soldiers find new lives by reintegrating into society. He currently lives in Brooklyn, New York.


Study Guides on Works by Ishmael Beah

According to New York Times book reviewer William Boyd, "The great benefit of Ishmael Beah’s memoir, A Long Way Gone, is that it may help us arrive at an understanding of this situation. Beah's autobiography is almost unique, as far as I can...