Think back--maybe it was last month, maybe it was years ago--think back to that one special novel you read, the one that changed who you think you are and what you want to be. Now be prepared to have it squashed, then eclipsed by Ishmael Beah's Radiance of Tomorrow.
In postwar Sierra Leone, people are returning to their homes after running for their lives--and they are the lucky ones. Those who return to the village of Imperi, rebuild their lives, their homes, and their school. A new community is formed, headed up by Benjamin and Bockarie, two teachers at the school who become the staid leaders of Imperi. The money is scarce, and when a foreign company comes in to mine their land, their land and their homes are destroyed beyond repair among other tragedies such as rape, murder, and dangerous living conditions. How does a community thrive when everything they know is no longer theirs?
I am honestly not sure that I have read another book that holds the depth of the human resilient spirit so close to its heart. I was beyond blown away by the ease of Beah's prose; it was like drinking a cool glass of water after a long day in the heat and the sun. It was like a precious gift that was bestowed upon me, one that I didn't ask for yet it was everything I never knew I always wanted. What a journey, and what an absolute treasure. I felt as though reading this book on the subway was a secret that I had from all my fellow riders. They had no clue what I had in my hand--it felt like the Crown Jewels in storytelling format.
There are so many moments in this book that just blew me away. When I read of a young man named Abu who went to great lengths to go to school, I almost cried with joy. How ofter we take for granted the privilege of an education when others across the world are begging for the honor. We cry and moan about getting up to go to work when others are thankful for the opportunity to provide for their families, as in Benjamin's and Bockarie's cases when they find out they have an opportunity to make more money--as an unforeseen cost to them both. How annoyed we get at our families when we just want to be left alone when so many around the world would give a limb to have theirs back--and the passing down of stories is no burden, rather an honor, as when Mama Kadie shares the history of Imperi with the children who survived the war yet have known no other way. How incredible these stories are; how incredibly the steadfastness in the belief of the radiance of tomorrow.
I had the distinct honor of meeting Mr. Beah at MashReads last week. What an honor it was. I don't count myself as someone who is starstruck very often; in fact, I can tell you all of the times. I was so nervous to ask this incredible man about his story as he was so eloquent and thoughtful in all his responses. He is an incredible humanitarian and a lovely person, and the insight he gave into his book was amazing.
What I took most out of the meeting was the meaning behind the radiance of tomorrow--that tomorrow is another day, and it will bring joy. No matter what has happened today, we go to sleep finding the simple joy of the day. It's how we survive and find a way to thrive. Mr. Beah said it best: "We don't write for those who make history; we write for those who suffer history." What an incredible honor for which I couldn't be more grateful.
A reminder about MashReads and the amazing folks at Mashable who make me an even happier bibliophile than I could ever ask to be. I really want to encourage you to head to their Goodreads group, follow the hashtag #mashreads on Twitter or Instagram in order to join in their book discussions, follow @mashlifestyle, and if you are in the area and are interested in attending their latest book club, reach out via the Twitter hashtag! They are so wonderful, and you should join in!
Get this book for yourself. Kindle version on left, hard copy on right.