TROY - Ishmael Beah, a former child soldier from Sierra Leone and author of "A Long Way Gone," will address students on the Troy Campus at 3 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 29, in the Trojan Center Theater.
Beah's book, named as one of the Top 10 Nonfiction Books of 2007, is the focus of the University's Common Reading Initiative, which provides a freshman text utilized across academic disciplines and encourages students to read more while in college.
Born in Sierra Leone in 1980, Beah's life was derailed by civil war when he was 11 years old. After his parents and two brothers were killed, he was recruited to fight as a child soldier in the army at age 13. Removed from the army by UNICEF and rehabilitated, Beah won a competition to attend a conference at the United Nations to talk about the effects of war on children in his country. He was later adopted by an American family.
In 1998, Beah came to live with his American family in New York City. He completed high school at the United Nations International School, and subsequently went on to Oberlin College in Ohio. Throughout his high school and undergraduate education, he continued his advocacy work to bring attention to the plight of child soldiers and children affected by war around the world, speaking on numerous occasions on behalf of UNICEF, Human Rights Watch, United Nations Secretary General's Office for Children and Armed Conflict, at the United Nations General Assembly, serving on a UN panel with Secretary General Kofi Annan and discussing the issue with dignitaries such as Nelson Mandela and Bill Clinton. He is a member of the Human Rights Watch Children's Rights Division Committee.
Beah's first novel, "Radiance of Tomorrow," follows two boys' return home after the Sierra Leone civil war and the struggle to regain the normalcy of pre-war life. Since its release in early 2014, the story has received high praise from critics, including "The New York Times" review.
He serves as an advisory board member of the Center for the Study of Youth & Political Violence at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville; a former visiting scholar at the Center for International Conflict Resolution at Columbia University; a senior research fellow at the Center for the Study of Genocide and Human Rights at Rutgers University; cofounder of the Network of Young People Affected by War (NYPAW); and president of the Ishmael Beah Foundation.
He lives with his wife in New York City.