Two years ago, I read A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier by Ishmael Beah. It’s an autobiographical account of a boy who spent his childhood fleeing from the atrocities of the civil war in Sierra Leone. Eventually, he was recruited into the army to fight on the front lines. It doesn’t take much for me to shed a tear when I read, but this remains the only book I’d ever had to put down for sobbing breaks.
This Christmas, I picked up a copy of it for my friend Mack. I thought he’d like it because he’s always reflecting that "This is real life,” at appropriate moments, like when he helped Collin and I move in together or when we met our godchild for the first time. I also thought that he’d be interested in Beah’s childhood affinity for Shakespeare's Julius Caesar, as he’s cast in an adaptation of the piece to be performed in May. I wanted to reread it before I gave it to him, but I was busy making sure that Haruki Murakami’s The Elephant Vanishes wasn’t too sexy to give to my grandmother for her Christmas present.
I inhaled some more fiction before I finally pulled A Long Way Gone off of the shelf this week. It hit me just as hard this time around. I mention it here because I’ve noticed in this business there is often a healthy and perpetual emotional kindling. We like to feel things, both negative and positive. We embrace a good tug on our heartstrings now and then. We’re not afraid to cry, because we believe in some abstract, halfway-defined concept called catharsis. If you’re up for reading this real account, brace yourself for what it may awaken inside of you. The truth, inspiration, and hope it will return makes it worthwhile.
Here's the unusually quiet Daily Show clip that made me run out and buy the book almost two years ago: