A publishing company by the name of Macmillian: Farrar, Straus and Giroux has published a book containing a firsthand account of a person who was a child soldier. The book is called A Long Way Gone by Ishmael Beah.
The book recaps the two years in which Ishmael was a child soldier while also recapping his experiences of being reintegrated back into society. (To watch a program of Ishmael talking about his experiences and his book, click here)
This looked like a great way of promoting awareness about the issues of child soldiers until an article from the section of the Observer, in the Guardian plus several articles in the Australian which are now expired, came out indicating that much of what Ishmael remembered, or recalled was exaggerated or “factually flawed” as from the article from the Guardian.
Peter Wilson, a reporter for the Australian stated,
“I’m sure he went through a terrible ordeal, but the truth matters. It is plain to anyone who wants to look at this objectively that he did not experience what has been sold as the truth to hundreds of thousands of readers. The truth matters. It sounds naive, but the shocking thing is: the publishers don’t care about this. They’ve made millions of dollars.”
Both Ishmael, his editor and his agent have denied the allegations that have been placed against the authenticity of the contents in the book.
Macmillian: Farrar, Straus and Giroux has published another memoir called All But My Life by Gerda Weissmann Klein and the six years she spent as a victim of Nazi cruelty though there doesn’t appear to be any discrepancy over the authenticity of content in her book.
So was this an act of promoting awareness about the harsh realities the children experience or just a way for a publishing company to make money? Another question that is raised from this whether or not child soldiers are taken seriously or if they are just seen as a way for publishers to gain publicity and money?
Expired Australian articles
“Beah’s Credibility a Long Way Gone,” the Australian, Feb. 2, 2008.
“Ishmael Beah’s Flaws Poetic License,” the Australian, Jan. 21, 2008.
“Web of Facts Unravel Child Soldier’s Tale,” the Australian, January 21, 2008.
“Child Soldier Questions Beah’s Tale,” the Australian, January 25, 2008.
“US Critics ‘Wanted to Believe’ Child Soldier’s Tale,” the Australian, Jan. 30, 2008.