Monday, October 20, 2008

Beasts of No Nation
Author Photo by Seth Wening
Title: Beasts of No Nation
Author: Uzodinma Iweala
Pages: 176
Yearly Count: 70
  • The Los Angeles Times Art Seidenbaum Award for First Fiction
  • Sue Kaufman Prize for First Fiction from the American Academy of Arts and Letters
  • First-Place Winner of the 2005 2005 Discover Award, Fiction
  • The Best Book of the Year by Time, People and Slate Entertainment Weekly New York Magazine
A boy soldier, Agu, a child of a nondescript age (between 9 and 12) and from an unnamed West African Nation, speaks forth of the reality of child soldiers everywhere. Written as a novel, Iweala has taken bits and pieces of child solders worldwide, and formed a conglomerate child soldier in his character Agu. Beasts of No Nation is filled with their inner thoughts, their heartbreaks, and what they are asked to do. Agu's own morals, ethics and survival take a backseat to the desires of his leaders, who all in all are only different degrees of jaded and violent in this war of confusion.

I read this during the read-a-thon, and I was impressed with the writing, the detail and the thoughts it stirred, but it was really hard to read about. I have become even more impressed with this novel after I read it and it settled in and I realized that the author wrote it when he was 23 years old. Inner war of the conscience plays a large part in Beasts of No Nation, of what Agu was taught, and what he is now forced to live. He was brought up going to church, reading the Bible, and now he feels nothing could be further from the beast he has become. This approach of conscience that Iweala used brought me inside Agu, to the thoughts and debates going on inside this child soldier, and really helped me feel a connection to him. Despite his outward actions of war and savage acts forced upon him, inside the war was just as strong, a battle of will, conscience and ultimately survival.

Commandant is shouting, but I am hearing him like he is speaking through one big bag of cotton. He is saying, let us pray, let us pray and then he is asking the Lord to be guiding us in everything we are about to be doing. I am thinking that we should not even be asking God for anything because it is like he is forgetting us. I am trying to forget Him anyway even if my mother would not be happying with me. She is always saying to fear God and to always be going to church on Sunday, but now I am not even knowing what day is Sunday (p. 44).

Author information I found interesting:
Stop Trying to 'Save' Africa article in the Washington Post by Uzodinma Iweala
Uzodinma Iweala Article in The Morning News
Galley Girl Catches up With Uzodinma Iweala Article in Time
I Don't Ever Want to Sit Back, Michelle Pauli, of Guardian interviews Uzodinma Iweala



bermudaonion said...

Books like that are hard to read, but so necessary to keep us informed of the world around us. Sometimes it is so difficult to believe things like that still exist in the world.

beastmomma said...

This sounds like a great read! I am glad that you found an enganging book to help you stay awake during the read-a-thon!

bethany said...

bermudaonion- I really agree. They are hard, just like the news is hard...but I love novels because you feel that human connection.

beastmomma- it was! yes, I am so happy for that too :)

Wendy said...

Fantastic review! I was also touched by this slim novel when I read it in March 2007...stunning. Here is my review if you are interested.

kwolph said...

Thanks for the book suggestion. I am involved with Survivor Corps and the organization is involved with uniting survivors of war. I think tales of children soldiers whether fiction or non fiction can bring an awareness to many uneducated in the subject.

Veens said...

Very interesting book. I will surely check it out

Ti said...

I real A Long Way Gone, which is the same subject matter (children as soldiers) but was loosely constructed and did not hold my attention.

Beasts of No Nation sounds a bit more promising. Thanks for the review.

Ramya said...

hey.. did you read "A Long Way gone"? IT is also about a boy soldier.. I read it a while ago and it still haunts me.. I think i want to read Beasts of No Nation as well!!

Literary Feline said...

I read this last year and count it among my favorites. It made a powerful impression on me. The author did an amazing job of speaking through a child soldier, even if a fictional one.