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African Realism and Resilience in Ishmael Beach’s latest book

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Title: Radiance of Tomorrow

Author: Ishmael Beach

Format(s): Hardcover, paperback, Nook, http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/radiance-of-tomorrow-ishmael-beah/1115295561?ean=9780374246020

Genre: Novel

Literary Elements: African Realism, imagery, dialogue

Youtube.com video of interview with author on January 13, 2014: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zp4UXeBQV_I

***Fascinating note: Ishmael Beach was once a child soldier in the era of Sierra Leone’s Civil War

Synopsis: Readers may not be aware of the bloody and ruthless civil war fought in Sierra Leone during 1991-2002. Western interests and domestic greed imperiled a nation and the innocents within for over a decade as the world watched, ignored, and abandoned a generation. The child soldiers of this war scarred and are forever scarred by the acts committed during the battles between adversaries. This war is vividly illustrated within the domain of African Realism and reality in Radiance of Tomorrow. The author, Ishmael Beach, is able to fuse the ancient, metaphysical aspects of Sierra Leonean life with the contemporary issues faced by the people. Beach does not politicize or preach to state his case. These approaches would fail to endear the reader to the plight of the people. Instead, readers are seduced to feel compassion for the people through the images and dramatic, direct dialogue of the characters. Readers come face-to-face with the blunt blade of machetes as they rip through the flesh of heroes and heroines. We, as well as the characters, attempt to flee into the woods to escape the deaths, but the smell of decaying bodies pushes us back into the line of fire. Slowly, we emerge from the war back into the rays of sunlight and a hope for a calmer day. We do not dare hope for much more. With the ragged, ailing, aging survivors, we trek back home. Burned homes, monuments to an innocent past, are all that we find. We hide in the shadows and wait. The world stabilizes a bit. Children return home. Our hopes and spirits are given a means to take root, again. Only later, we find the graft, the greed, and the deception return too. Schools open without books and the teachers unpaid. Still, the people thrive through the hope of the children.

Ishmael Beach brilliantly captures the resilience of the human spirit and the desires of the Sierra Leonean people to live on for the light of a better day. This is a book to be read and remembered by all. The brutality of the civil war of Sierra Leone is eclipsed only by the brutal apathy of the world as it watched the massacres….and stood as silent cowards.

Critique: I recall the era of the bloodbath in Sierra Leone. With family, I suffered the losses and the instability of this region. The end of the war welcomed the hope of stability and peace, again. But, few escapees wanted to return home. The damage and wounds were far too deep. I learned that to be psychologically mutilated was just as devastating as the physical act. I witnessed the loss of the innocence of many Sierra Leonean expatriates.
Ishmael Beach is a gifted and anointed writer. He is able to convey both desperation and hope in a single verse. Beach brings back to life those things which many have forgotten. I did not forget. Beach brings to mind what many veterans of the military have communicated to me. American naval ships stood idle near the shores of Sierra Leone. The veterans witnessed the slaughter and lack of action. Let us not dismiss what is too painful to remember. Ishmael Beach, the author, will not dismiss the fact that he committed atrocities. Let us not forget that apathy is an atrocity too.

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