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Former child soldier Ishmael Beah to speak at college Feb. 19
Thursday, January 29, 2009

(COLUMBIA, Mo.) -- The Columbia College student development office and the Unity in the Community program are pleased to welcome Ishmael Beah, former child soldier and New York Times best-selling author, to campus Thursday, Feb. 19 from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Beah will read excerpts from his book and speak about his experiences, his use of writing as a tool for resilience in the aftermath of trauma and as a means of sharing his story to advocate for human rights. The event will take place in the Dulany Hall Banquet Room. Lunch will be provided and a book signing will follow. There's space for only 136 people, so RSVP to Kim Coke, director of student development, at 875-7420 or

Beah’s acclaimed book, A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier, tells the riveting story of how he was caught up in civil war in Sierra Leone. The book chronicles his rescue and his personal journey in rehabilitation to regain his humanity. Beah, now 27, is UNICEF’s advocate for children affected by war and is one of the world’s most tireless advocates for child soldiers and an eloquent spokesperson for the healing power of sharing the stories of one’s life.

Kim Kinyon Coke, director of student development, and Dr. Lisa Ford-Brown, associate professor of speech and humanities, were instrumental in bringing Beah to campus.

“Bringing Ishmael Beah to Columbia College is an opportunity to hear of another’s experience. There is a wealth that resides in individuals stories. It is in sharing those stories that we come to understand one another more and gain wisdom and knowledge that we didn’t previously have,” said Kinyon Coke. “I hope his story will bring a new perspective, a changed understanding and inspire those that hear him speak.”

What others are saying about A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier:

Deeply moving, even uplifting ... Beah's story, with its clear-eyed reporting and literate particularity—whether he's dancing to rap, eating a coconut or running toward the burning village where his family is trapped—demands to be read.

- People (Critic's Choice, Four stars)

A breathtaking and unselfpitying account of how a gentle spirit survives a childhood from which all innocence has suddenly been sucked out. It's a truly riveting memoir.

-Time Magazine