Looking at the Times’ top hardcover bestsellers on politics, a former child soldier’s memoirs completes the list at number 15–the only book that isn’t concerned with American elections (or conflict in the Middle East) to make the list.
Is it worth the position? I’m sorry to say that I don’t know. I haven’t read the book. It’s sat beside my bed since publication, and I haven’t been able to open the front cover. I made it further with the other fare–halfway through Dave Eggers’ ‘What is the What’, and almost a whole chapter into ‘Beasts of No Nation’.
Part of the problem is, compared to my interviews with youth abducted by the LRA, these books sometimes feel inauthentic (certainly the case with ‘Beasts’). Another part of the problem is that I usually don’t feel like taking my work home with me. I hear Beah’s account is reasonably good, although it apparently raises the suspicion (explicitly raised by Eggers’ own main character) that the story is an amalgamation of many youths’ experiences, and not Beah’s alone. One of these days I’ll try to find out for myself.
What a shame, however, that the only books and movies on Africa most Americans will ever read deal with (1) child soldiers, (2) big game, and (3) Ernest Hemingway shooting big game.