Monday, April 28, 2008

Little Is Known of Sierra Leone....

So we've been reading and discussing Ishmael Beah's amazing memoir, A Long Way Gone. It explores his experiences as a conscripted soldier in Sierra Leone's brutal civil war. Beah describes children with limbs chopped off, families burnt alive, weeks of hunger and the agony of not knowing where his family is or if they are even alive. His writing is honest and vivid, sparing no one, least of all himself. This makes his book an especially book candidate for the "reading writing connection". The other day we selected especially great visual detail from Beah's work, and then with highlighters (a writer's best friend), I asked the kids to identify a particular line or description from their own journals that they thought was vivid.

I've been in contact with Beah's publicist, as he travels frequently telling his story and speaking out on behalf of child soldiers and other kids impacted by war, in the hope that he can come speak to us. I have also connected with a friend and classmate of mine (I'm finishing up my doctorate at ICAR) who himself was impacted by the war in Sierra Leone. He's happy to come speak to my students and we're working out a time. I know he'll have a story to tell that the kids won't forget. I love seeing them learn about a place so unfamiliar yet contemporary that so rarely makes the curriculum. We can't create global citizens without knowledge of life beyond one's own borders. I was impressed, when I asked my kids about similarities between Ishmael and kids here in the U.S., to hear them identify broken and separated families, hunger and gangs (the rebels, as they said). Such discussions are also a good way to begin, to whatever extent possible, talking about some of the tensions I observe here, especially between some of the Hispanic and African American students.

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