December 2, 2010

Ishmael Beah, Former Child Soldier: Conversations from the Sun Valley Writers’ Conference

Host Marcia Franklin talks with former child soldier Ishmael Beah, whose bestselling book, A Long Way Gone, details his harrowing experiences in the 1990s when, as a teenager, he fought with the government-backed army in Sierra Leone during a brutal civil war.

Now 30, Beah fled attacking rebels in his homeland at age 12 and was later picked up and forced to serve in the government army. He was eventually released by the army and sent to a UNICEF rehabilitation center.

Franklin and Beah talk about how he and other children are drawn into war, what effect his experience had on him, what society can do about this illegal practice, and what he plans to do with his future.

Beah also addresses allegations that there were factual inaccuracies in his book, including how long he was a soldier.

Beah moved to the United States in 1998 and later earned a bachelor's degree in political science. He is a member of the Human Rights Watch Children's Rights Division Advisory Committee. Beah has spoken before the United Nations, the Council on Foreign Relations, and the Center for Emerging Threats and Opportunities (CETO) at the Marine Corps Warfighting Laboratory, as well as many other panels on children affected by the war.

Franklin spoke with Beah at the Sun Valley Writers' Conference. Since 1995, the conference has been bringing together authors to discuss literature and life. Franklin has interviewed speakers there since 2005. Those conversations can be found at