Backtalk with Ismael Beah

But how do you cope with the memories?
They don’t destroy me as much as they used to. It’s what I do with them that matters. But, you know, I’m one of the lucky ones. There are a lot of people who cannot live with the nightmares or flashbacks or people who died during the war. So for me, this is a price that I pay to continue to live on.

Have you had trouble rebuilding personal relationships?
Well, for a while it was difficult. It took some time for me to understand that there are indeed people who will care for you deeply. I have come to renew my faith in human beings. When I meet or befriend people now, I come to the table with a clean slate. And I’m able to form those relationships, because I see that not everyone is as awful as I had come to believe.

What do you want people to understand about children of war?
Some of these children have never had a sense of peace in their life. They’re not going to grow up to have the same kind of understanding of moral and ethical standards, because they live in a world that is showing them violence at an age when they should be running around playing. People don’t speak very much about that, which has always sat badly with me.

How so?
In the United States, particularly, people aren’t willing to show certain things on television because people don’t want their kids to see those things. And that’s rightly so, they should be protected. But at the same time, a kid who lives in Iraq sees that every day. It’s not on the television for them, it is their reality. So I guess the issue is, if you don’t want that for your child, perhaps you shouldn’t let it happen to another kid somewhere else.

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