At a Glance

Ishmael Beah : Biography at a Glance

  • Bestselling author of "A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier"
  • Author of well-received novel "Radiance of Tomorrow"
  • UNICEF Goodwill Advocate for Children Affected by War
  • Member of the Human Rights Watch Children’s Rights Division Advisory Committee
  • Co-founder of the Network of Young People Affected by War, raising awareness of children in conflict zones

Ishmael Beah, born in Sierra Leone, West Africa, is a celebrated author and human rights activist whose New York Times best-selling book, "A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier," recounts his time as a child soldier during the civil war in Sierra Leone.

Beah’s most recent book, "Radiance of Tomorrow," published in 2014, has received positive reviews by The New York Times Book Review, Washington Post, and Boston Globe. Beah is also an engaged humanitarian involved in issues surrounding children in warzones.

Beah’s "A Long Way Gone" has been published in over 40 languages and was nominated for a Quill Award in the Best Debut Author category for 2007. TIME Magazine named the book as one of the "Top 10 Nonfiction books of 2007," ranking at number 3.

"Radiance of Tomorrow" is a novel about returning home to a civil war ravaged town, and is said to be “written with the moral urgency of a parable and the searing precision of a firsthand account.” Already available in several foreign languages, the New York Times finds in his writing an “allegorical richness” and a “remarkable humanity to his characters.”

Beah’s work has appeared in the New York Times, New York Times Magazine, TIME magazine, International Herald Tribune, Globe & Mail, Rutgers University Press, Vespertine Press, LIT, The Guardian, Parabola Magazines, and numerous academic journals.

Also a committed humanitarian, Beah is actively involved with issues of which he himself has first hand experience. Beah was named UNICEF’s first Goodwill Advocate for Children Affected by War in 2007 and is also as a member of the Human Rights Watch Children’s Rights Division Advisory Committee. In 2008, he co-founded the Network of Young People Affected by War (NYPAW) with a mission to raise awareness of the plight of children in conflict zones, advocate for an end to hostilities, and provide role models for children who are struggling to recover from war.


It went very well. The student response was overwhelming, and Ishmael gave an inspiring talk. He also handled the question and answer portion with a lot of grace and humor. By any measure, it was a great success.

Community College of Baltimore County

If only every speaker could be so gracious, inspirational, charming, cooperative, selfless, and draw a standing room only crowd! No, it was beyond standing room. We had people standing in every possible place they could to hear him speak.

University of Iowa

We absolutely LOVED him! It was a packed house and we had to turn several hundred students away as we hit capacity (almost 2,000 students). Our students really resonated with his message on resilience, privilege associated with education, and all he has accomplished in his lifetime already. 

University of Kentucky

Ishmael was such a great sport, very personable and enthusiastic even though we kept him busy. Ishmael’s visit went very, very well. Despite his visit occurring on the first day after Spring Break, many students came to hear him speak. Every seat in the room was filled. 

University of Notre Dame

Ishmael was great! The students and faculty enjoyed the event and we had a full audience.

New York University

The conference was awesome. Ishmael’s keynote was stellar and his work with our kids yesterday in the writers’ workshops and with the evening presentation was so, so powerful. 

Concordia International School Shanghai

He was gracious, impactful, and our kids really connected to him.

Greenville High School

It was great! We really enjoyed having Ishmael come and speak. He's a very nice person.

Northern Arizona University

Ishmael was amazing. Absolutely amazing. It was great to get to meet him and I still hear almost daily about how profound his visit was on our participants.

Idaho Home for Refugees
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