Slice of Life 7: On Reading Radiance of Tomorrow
By Janice Ewing
I’m reading Radiance of Tomorrow by Ismael Beah. I never read A Long Way Gone, his memoir of a childhood interrupted by fighting in war-torn Sierra Leone. I had heard nothing but rave reviews of the authenticity, the writing style, and the importance of the book in understanding the ravages of modern-day civil wars. I just couldn’t bring myself to read it, in the same way that I’ve avoided other highly acclaimed books, both fiction and nonfiction, that present compelling and graphic depictions of atrocities.
So why am I reading Radiance of Tomorrow, Beah’s realistic novel set in a in post-war African town? I received the book as a gift from a good friend. She was in the midst of reading it at the time and she explained that she loved the lyrical language that the writer used to weave his story, which is both disturbing and inspiring at the same time. I was touched and intrigued. Here was a book chosen for me by a cherished friend, who, reading it and savoring the language, thought of me. I brought the book home and left it in the bag for two weeks. After all, I had to finish the book I was currently reading, I had professional reading to catch up on, it just wasn’t the right time…
On Thursday, as the snow blanketed our house, it was the right time. I took the book out of the bag. It is as my friend described it. It is hard to read and hard to put down. The characters and plot, torn from tragedies that hover around our consciousness, are haunting. The language is beautiful and reflects the sensibility of the setting. The theme is universal – recognizing what is of value and holding on to it, in spite of great obstacles. This is a hard book to read, because it confronts us with truths that we would rather keep in the background. It is also a book that reminds us of how interconnected we truly are.
* This “Slice of Life” post is part of a larger blog series, hosted by the blog site, Two Writing Teachers: A Meeting Place for a World of Reflective Writers.
Janice Ewing is an adjunct for Cabrini College and a co-director for the Pennsylvania Writing & Literature Project. Janice co-facilitates PAWLP’s “Continuity Days” and this blog. She is an avid reader and writer, and especially enjoys writing poems.
The way you describe this book makes me want to get it. A friend and I often share books with each other. If a book reminds us of the other, or we think the other will like it, we will buy it for the other. I can’t think of a better gift than a good book. 🙂
What an amazing review! I know it may have seemed an odd gift at the time but now I think you understand why I gave you Radiance of Tomorrow. Beah stopped me in my tracks with the beauty of his language and his dark story — he made me pause, ponder, and think about the importance of understanding others and their experiences — just the way you do. I couldn’t help but think of you when I was reading Beah’s book. Your thoughtfulness, wit, and your gift for saying so much with such economy of words are just some of the many elements I admire about your writing — you always push my thinking. Thank you for sharing —
I have “A Long Way Gone” on my classroom bookshelf, but like you I have not been able to read it myself. Perhaps I need to take a second look at it…… Thank your for sharing your thoughts about the other book.
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Describing the book as “It is hard to read and hard to put down,” reflects the tug-of-war feelings you had about beginning the book. Thanks for sharing the story behind the read!
I’m adding this book to my holds at the library. Spring break is coming soon and I am traveling out west to visit family. Thanks for the share. D 🙂
I’m glad you found just the right time to engage in reading a book of this nature. I’ll add it to my TBR list.
Thank you for passing this on…I have marked it as Want To Read on my Goodreads account!
You have me interested. I certainly don’t need another book on my TBR list but will have to check this one out. Thanks for sharing.