Thursday, February 7, 2008

An Amazing Evening with Ishmael Beah

I had dinner with Ishmael Beah last night, then saw him speak. He was amazing. He's a brilliant, big-hearted young man who at only age 26 has endured so much violence, loss, and suffering.
And the message he brings is: violence and war never solve anything. Rehabilitation of people inured in violence is not only possible but necessary.

He also says we must know deep in our hearts that everyone's life--no matter what circumstances they live in--is as precious as our own.

At dinner, he was funny, quick-wittted and savvy. He talked about how this long, long book tour has been wonderful yet draining. Traveling is especially difficult for him because he holds a "third world" passport from Sierra Leone. He said he's almost always held up for extra examination. I said, "You should just pull out your book!" He said, "Sometimes it comes to that."

He said that to travel to any European country, he has to provide proof of having at least $30,000 in assets or insurance. This way, if he dies there, his "mortal remains" won't have to be taken care of by France or England. Of course, if you're American, you don't have to prove any such thing. Beah quipped that it was hard to relax and enjoy flying to Paris because he kept thinking about his "mortal remains."

He's currently working on a novel. He said his fiction always begins with the names of the characters. Having their names propels the story.

He's more than a writer. He's a visionary who believes in the transformative powers of goodness, love and action.

To get a flavor of him, watch this little clip:

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