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In this essay, I will be discussing the whether or not we perpetuate the stereotypes of Africa by reading ‘A long way gone’. A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier (2007) is a memoir written by Ishmael Beah, an author from Sierra Leone. The book is a firsthand account of Beah’s time as a child soldier during the civil war in Sierra Leone (1990s). Ishmael Beah ran away from his village at the age of 12 after it was attacked by rebels, and he became forever separated from his immediate family. Later own his was forced him to join their army and brainwashed him into taking drugs and using guns. I believe that as a reader of this novel myself I have begun to acquire a prejudice of violence and hatred surrounding Africa which I know is not true. Racially stereotyping consists of constructed beliefs that all members of the same race share the same characteristics and lifestyle (usually meant negatively). I will be looking into both the benefits of A long way gone and the disadvantages.
I do not think that books, news articles etc. should always only focus on the poverty and the lower development of Africa because you can’t just base the whole of the diverse range of culture in Africa on a few stereotypes since this is what many people still believe Africa to be, a war zone, even though it has developed tremendously. I believe that to an extent A long way gone does perpetuate racial stereotypes because it does enforce negative stereotypes although this book could also be seen as an exception given this particular topic.
This book is written in the perspective of someone who has gone through this experience and I believe that it is his right, as a previous child soldier to be able to share it however he wants whether it is in a negative way or positive, and if it weren’t for books like ‘A long way gone’ nobody would be as informed about this situation. I also think that in some cases throughout the book Ishmael actually did the opposite of enforcing stereotypes of Africa as a whole, since his characters are all written with a lot of depth since it is from a perspective of someone who was present in the war and not someone who is influenced by racial shallow stereotypes to develop their characters.
With all that being said I also believe that certain audiences could view this book differently. Since some could think that this book only attempts to portray the negative side of Africa, it is giving out a view of Africa in a whole as a war zone where all the children are stolen from homes and either killed or turned into child soldiers. And the readers could also start to acquire a prejudice of violence and hatred surrounding Africa if they are not from there, been there or more informed since many stories that are told from Africa are about tragedies and not so much bliss. This is why I do not think that books, news articles etc. should always only focus on the poverty and the lower development of Africa because you can’t just base the whole of the diverse range of culture in Africa on a few stereotypes or else African stereotypes will never change and it will always just continue to be a low developed war zone with violence and disease which it is not since Africa is continuously developing and improving its economical and political status.
In conclusion, I believe that although ‘A long way Gone’ does perpetuate the stereotypical notions on Africa. I still feel that A Long Way Gone stands out from the rest of the books because of its author and his unique experiences. In a continent where journalistic interest appears disappointingly low, Ishmael Beah’s personal memoir is an important testament to the children who continue to be conscripted into armies and militias today.
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