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:


Collin Kelley said...

It's stories like these that always make me sober up for a second and realize my life ain't so damn tragic. Sounds like an amazing evening, Kate.

Lisa Nanette Allender said...

WOW--I'm sooo glad I stopped in.You are doing a great thing by posting about this fellow.What a wonder he is!
I found you through Coll Kelley.

Pearl said...

Wow, that's marvelous. thanks for sharing that. I'd seen the book around and saw the listing that he would speak but didn't guess it had to do with healing.

He's a lot younger and more more compassionate minded than I had guessed from the cover.

Kate Evans said...

Hi Lisa & Pearl--So glad you have you here.

Thanks for sending people over, Collin!

If you're around Beah for even a few moments, you sense his depth and beauty.

Anonymous said...

Sorry folks but there are a lot of us that think Beah is anything but what is said here about him on this blog. At the best, he is misguided, at the worst a deliberate liar. How he squares the inaccurcies in his book with the facts as expressed by those who knew him in Sierra Leone at the time, I do not know. I feel he has a lot of explaining to do. And until he does it, I don't think much of this charlatan.

Kate Evans said...

Thanks for your comment, Anonymous--I'd love to hear where you got your information. Also, why are you Anonymous?

Anonymous said...

Most of the info on Beah is coming from the Australian daily and national newpaper, The Australian.' They sent reporters to Sierra Leone to verify his claims in the book., and found major discrepancies...including dates, maps, people and events. The discrepancies have been verified by people in the UN at the time, fellow studnets and priests. The map was off by some 1,200 miles (deliberately created to justify his claim that he was in the militia for two years), and not two months. I'm afraid all this gushing over this man makes me nauseous. He is in fact, a lier and literary fraud.

Kate Evans said...

I do know about these charges--and he himself addressed them during his talk. If he got some of the timeline wrong, that's understandable to me, given the chaos of the times. But are you saying you think he made the whole thing up? I find that unlikely.

The man is doing great work, drawing attention to (and building an organization to help out with) the suffering of child soldiers.

That said, I will keep my eye out re: these charges to see if theres is anything substansive. I appreciate your input. I do find it curious, though, why you insist on remaining anonymous. Anyone who makes such charges should be as transparent as you want Beah to be.

Michelle Neubauer said...

Dear Kate Evans,
I just came across your blog in searching for information about Ishmael Beah. I am curious how you got the opportunity to have dinner with him and hear him speak? I have not seen any news on his site about when/where he is speaking, and I want to hear him talk so badly. I think the opinion that the Australian creates of Ishmael is very mis-guided and malicious if anything. I have done my research and I think any minor discrepancies are innocent mistakes made from the mind of a 12 year old boy, because that's what he was when he experience it. I have a very photographic memory, but not having a map or a compass would make it really difficult to actually try and map out my journey. For myself, I believe his story is true and that he is an amazing individual. I would really, really appreciate it if you let me know where I can find out about his upcoming speeches! Thank you so much!