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Radiance of Tomorrow by Ishmael Beah

Radiance of Tomorrow (2014)

by Ishmael Beah

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Ishmael Beah uses the fictional village of Imperi in Sierra Leone to make his political point that simple peasants can indeed recover from a devastating civil war, but corporate greed and institutional corruption are much more insidious and present significant threats to traditional culture. He creates a group of endearing villagers who struggle to regain their pre-war roots and seem to be on the verge of success when a mining company invades their village. The company and their governmental underlings are primarily interested in profit and have little regard for these people or their traditions. Along with a promise of jobs and prosperity, the mine brings pollution, death, rape and prostitution to this isolated village. Ultimately, progress comes at a high cost because corporate greed dictates that the village be flattened and its inhabitants displaced. The main characters elect to move to the capital city of Freetown, where they encounter more corruption and little of the social fabric they enjoyed in Imperi. In his short novel, Beah leaves his characters there still struggling, but one hopes that they eventually will succeed.

Although uplifting and certainly enlightening, the novel lacks nuance. The villagers are universally good while the government and the mining company are bad. Beah clearly has an important point of view and his arguments seem valid, but the novel essentially is a polemic that resembles a fable with a clear moral. ( )
  ozzer | Jan 8, 2016 |
I started marking passages that I really liked but soon realized that there were too many of them. This is the first novel by the author of Long Way Gone, which was the memoir of his days as a boy soldier in Sierra Leone. This novel tells the story of a fictional village, Imperi, that was totally destroyed in that civil war. The few surviving residents of the village slowly return and try to rebuild their homes and their way of life. Needless to say, it is difficult, if not impossible. All have experienced the trauma of war. Most have lost numerous family members and many have lost hands or arms, as amputation by machete was very common during the conflict. In fact, an orphaned boy comes to the village after secretly following a father and his two daughters whose limbs he had been forced to sever. He did not know where he was from, but even this child was welcomed to the village and given a home by the elders of the village. Knowing what had happened, the elders say:

"The war has changed us, but I hope not so much that we'll never find our way back. I could have never imagined a world where the presence of a child brings something other than joy." Her friends agreed, looking at the boy as he walked away, his apprehensive shadow seeming to dodge the sun, painting itself in strange forms on the earth.

The language of the book is beautiful. The story is at many times depressing, but as the elders say, "We still have laughter among us, my friends...."
( )
  TheresaCIncinnati | Aug 17, 2015 |
Powerful book, imagery that shifts your perceptions. Although not the primary theme, this is a fine example of how our language affects our cultural perceptions and life outlook.
Some elders return to their village, abandoned during the Civil War (191-2002, from news sources, not text). As more people come to make their homes, the elders welcome them and consider how to aid their healing. This is interrupted by development of a rutile mine nearby, which poisons their water, creates a hazard of roads, all by a company that values humans worth as equal to "a bag of rice" or denies any culpability. The villagers are eventually moved out of their village and the graveyard dug up. We follow one family as they attempt to start a new life elsewhere, and are left with hope for their ability to survive.
It is so sad to hear about the destruction of a culture that values this world. And for a chemical that is wasted to color our toothpaste white. Boycott frivolous applications! ( )
  juniperSun | Mar 16, 2015 |
I read this book for my book group. What an excellent choice for an in-depth discussion. The village of Imperia has been almost leveled by the civil war in Sierra Leone. The surviving residents begin to return to rebuild and start over. The first to arrive are dismayed to find the bones of their families and friends scattered throughout the ruins. Change comes slowly but surely in the face of courage and determination. Things are beginning to look hopeful until the big mining company comes in with its ways of corruption and pollution.

Beah writes soulfully in the descriptive style of his ancestors about the difficult journey to find the new normal in a world gone mad. There are so many roadblocks in their path that it is hard to imagine how their will continues. Some in our small group found the story incredibly dismal while others focused more on the indomitable spirit of the villagers. That spirit was expressed in these words by a young man who did not give up: "I learned that you are not free until you stop others from making you feel worthless. Because if you do not, you will eventually accept that you are worthless." (125)

I highly recommend this book to lovers of historical fiction. It is a thoughtfully written account of the way things often work in Africa. It gave me a better understanding of the civil war in Sierra Leone in recent times and the incredible obstacles they face in rebuilding their country. ( )
  Donna828 | Mar 7, 2015 |
For the people of Sierra Leone the last few decades have been horrific, the war has demolished villages, killed many people and sent others to makeshift displacement camps. Now at last the war is over, and the people of Impari are returning to their village, to the only place they know as home. At first it is just two elders who find few houses standing and many, many dead bodies. They have no idea how many of the villagers survived, even those of their own families. More and more arrive, almost daily and they slowly start rebuilding their homes, their lives and their traditions.

So this novel exemplifies the adaptability of the people, as a mine moves in and starts mining routine and while it provides jobs, it takes away more than it gives. Once again the people must adapt, until that is no longe3r possible. It is a novel of home, of reclaiming and trying to hold on to what one values.

I loved these people, all of the villager, the elders, the children, the school teachers who must make an unbearable choice. My favorite though, was a young man called :"The Colonel" who is not willing to let injustices go by, but uses any means at his disposal to right a wrong.

The prose is lyrical in cadence, many of the sentences have a musicality to them that is beautiful.
For example, "Again," Bockarie pointed his ruler at the boy, whose voice the wind carried until the appointed time when nature began its call for the departure of that day's blues sky," There are many sentences such as this one.

It shows us the importance of storytelling, which keeps the past alive, but also teaches. When the people do not survive, the story does. It showing town caught in the middle of progress, not even supported by their own government.

One can look at this as a book that says progress is bad, the west is the enemy, with their quest to make money, and maybe to a point it is, but life must progress, people must adapt. This happens in many, many, places all throughout time and will continue to do so So in the final part of the book, we see will survive the changes and go on and who could not and The Colonel makes his last appearance. Ultimately one cannot always live in the same place, the same life but they can always take a part of it with them

For me, this was a very memorable read. ( )
  Beamis12 | Mar 15, 2014 |
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For Priscilla, my wife, best friend, and soul mate. Thank you for infusing my life with love and joy that I never knew existed.
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She was the first to arrive where it seemed the wind no longer exhaled.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0374246025, Hardcover)

A haunting, beautiful first novel by the bestselling author of A Long Way Gone

When Ishmael Beah’s A Long Way Gone was published in 2007, it soared to the top of bestseller lists, becoming an instant classic: a harrowing account of Sierra Leone’s civil war and the fate of child soldiers that “everyone in the world should read” (The Washington Post). Now Beah, whom Dave Eggers has called “arguably the most read African writer in contemporary literature,” has returned with his first novel, an affecting, tender parable about postwar life in Sierra Leone.
     At the center of Radiance of Tomorrow are Benjamin and Bockarie, two longtime friends who return to their hometown, Imperi, after the civil war. The village is in ruins, the ground covered in bones. As more villagers begin to come back, Benjamin and Bockarie try to forge a new community by taking up their former posts as teachers, but they’re beset by obstacles: a scarcity of food; a rash of murders, thievery, rape, and retaliation; and the depredations of a foreign mining company intent on sullying the town’s water supply and blocking its paths with electric wires. As Benjamin and Bockarie search for a way to restore order, they’re forced to reckon with the uncertainty of their past and future alike.
     With the gentle lyricism of a dream and the moral clarity of a fable, Radiance of Tomorrow is a powerful novel about preserving what means the most to us, even in uncertain times.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:11:44 -0400)

"In the aftermath of the war in Sierra Leone, a village comes together to regain the beauty of life as it was in the past"--

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