Reporters at The Australian are trying to turn up the heat on Ishmael Beah, the former child soldier from Sierra Leone whose memoirs, A Long Way Gone, they have been questioning in print since last month. Over the weekend, the paper published a story describing records from Mr. Beah’s time in grade school, which seem to indicate that he was enrolled there through March 1993. These records appear to contradict the account Mr. Beah gives in his book, according to which he fled from his home in January 1993 at the age of twelve after his village was attacked by rebels. According to the book, he enlisted as a soldier soon after, and fought in the civil war in Sierra Leone for almost three years before being rescued by UNICEF.
If they are authentic, the school records The Australian describes seem to bolster the paper’s contention that the timeline Mr. Beah presents in his book is inaccurate. Previously, the paper claimed that the siege Mr. Beah describes as happening in 1993– the one that forced him to leave the village where he lived– did not happen until 1995.
Mr. Beah has defended himself publicly against The Australian‘s accusations, issuing a statement reaffirming that his book was true, and telling the AP that he wrote it based on how he remembered it and continues to stand by it as such.
Mr. Beah’s publisher, Farrar, Straus & Giroux (FSG), has been relatively quiet in response to The Australian‘s reporting, issuing only one official statement so far confirming that they “continue to be at odds” with the paper “over whether the purported inaccuracies in Beah’s chronology are factual.”
FSG’s senior vice president for marketing and publicity, Jeff Seroy, told Media Mob that the company has no plans to issue a statement in response to The Australian‘s most recent report. Asked if he was planning to respond in any way, Mr. Seroy joked that he was “responding with an ulcer.”