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A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier Author Ishmael Beah to Speak at Oberlin College on September 11

August 27, 2007 – Oberlin College begins its 2007-08 convocation series on Tuesday, September 11, with “A Long Way Gone: A Tale of Hope and Redemption,” a talk by Oberlin graduate and former boy soldier Ishmael Beah ’04. A book signing will be held after the lecture, which begins at 8 p.m. in Finney Chapel.

The event will mark the opening of the academic year and serve to welcome first-year students. The College also will welcome its 14th president, Marvin Krislov, who will speak at the convocation ceremony.

The author of the A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier, Beah completed a draft of the book before graduating from Oberlin in 2004. A harrowing, yet riveting tale of survival, it recounts the horrors of the civil war in Sierra Leone, in which Beah served as a child soldier and was rescued by UNICEF. The 26-year old-author attributes much of his success to Oberlin, where professors Dan Chaon, Laurie McMillin, and Sylvia Watanabe served as mentors.

When published in February 2007, the memoir garnered considerable media attention at home and abroad. “Beah's autobiography is almost unique,” wrote International Herald Tribune reviewer William Boyd. “As far as I can determine, this is perhaps the first time that a child soldier has been able to give literary voice to one of the most distressing phenomena of the late-20th century: the rise of the pubescent (or even prepubescent) warrior-killer.”

A month later the book vaulted to the New York Times best-seller list. Beah, whom TIME magazine described as “the literary-humanitarian equivalent of a rock star,” became the subject of a New York Times Magazine cover story and articles in the Washington Post, USA Today, and Entertainment Weekly. He also appeared on CNN’s Anderson Cooper 360, the Daily Show with Jon Stewart, and NPR’s Fresh Air with Terry Gross. Starbucks sold at least 100,000 copies of the book, with part of the proceeds benefiting UNICEF projects related to children and war.

Each year the Oberlin Convocation Series presents free, public discussions of cutting-edge issues by some of the country's most prominent thinkers under the auspices of the College’s Finney Lecture Committee and the Office of the President.

Oberlin’s second 2007-08 Convocation talk, scheduled for Thursday, November 15, will feature TIME magazine editor Michael Duffy ’80 and reporter Nancy Gibbs, co-authors of the just-published The Preacher and the Presidents, an account of Billy Graham’s unique and complex relationship with each of the last 11American presidents.

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Media Contact:

Betty Gabrielli
Staff Writer
Oberlin College

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