You don’t know me, yet I feel like I know you. I recently had the opportunity not only to read A Long Way Gone, but I had a chance to experience its pages in a way many people do not. My co-teacher in the SITES program chose your book in his study of global issues. Having never read the book, I chose to read it with our students, so that I could engage in conversation in class.
As a child of literature yourself, you may know that sometimes, a book can speak to us in a way we do not expect.
For me, maybe it was that I had just finished teaching Paul Rusesabagina’s Ordinary Man and I found the parallel between the two stories haunting. Maybe it was the moment in our first discussion when one of our students pointed to a passage that I myself could not shake, “We must always strive to be like the moon,” and a ten minute discussion followed analyzing the truth and wisdom of these words. Maybe it was the fact that you wrote so poignantly that I was able to transcend the delicate refinements of my life to see what I think you want everyone who reads your book to see: even though mankind can terrorize one another and bring pain and hardship, what matters is what we do after the experience. This book, your book, stays with me because by the end, I felt strengthened by a feeling that already existed in my heart: if I only allow myself to experience man when he is at his worst, I may never know man for the potential he has: for his beauty, for his amiability, and for his love.
Last night, I had the opportunity to hear you speak. As someone who is constantly analyzing my own place in the world, I felt like a child in a classroom. Your story and strength of the first book were inspirational, but the limitlessness of your spirit is profound. You are correct in your theory that happiness should not be measured by stretches of time. It is not to be measured, but it is to be experienced. Ultimately, you were the victim of childhood captivity; without an alternative, you were forced to be a soldier. Yet, despite the reality of your past, you have allowed yourself to heal, you have allowed yourself to eclipse a world speckled with hatred so that you can live again.
Standing in line with my students eagerly waiting to get your new novel Radiance of Tomorrow signed, I felt renewed. I felt that within the hour of listening to you speak, my understanding of mankind deepened. Ishmael, for me you rejuvenated truth: Many people will enter our lives and they will see the flicker of our eternal flame. Some of those people will want to extinguish it, and if given the opportunity, they will. However, others will see us for what we are, for what we can be. These people will take one of two actions: They will either do everything in their power to relight the flame, or seeing that it still flickers, they will protect it, nurture it, and wait for it be what it was meant to be. Each of us has a light inside, and with the proper guidance and nurturing, it will blaze and we will live to our full potential: hopeful creatures, dedicated individuals, and spiritual heroes.
Thank you from the bottom of my heart for not only signing my book but for touching my life.