Ishmael Beah

by Caroline from Pickerington

There are lots of different definitions of a hero. I think a hero is somebody who you look up to and envy. This person has certain characteristics that you would like to acquire, such as being honest or trustworthy. For example, my hero would be brave and able to stand up for what they think is right. That is my definition of what a hero is.

Ishmael Beah and his #1 National Bestseller book. (
Ishmael Beah and his #1 National Bestseller book. (

It is extremely important to have a hero. Heroes can help you become who you want to be and what you want your personality to be like. When you look up to someone, it also helps you achieve goals and work harder. For instance, if your hero gets good grades and tries at what they are doing, that can motivate you to do the same. Those are some reasons why having a hero is important.

A character in this novel that portrays characteristics of a hero would be Nurse Esther. She helps Ishmael to regain his humanity after his experiences with being a child soldier. Esther repeatedly says, "What happened is not your fault." (160). After hearing this so many times, Ishmael finally began to believe it and forgave himself. "Anytime you want to tell me anything, I am here to listen." (Esther 165). This let him know that she cared about what happened in his past and wants him to get through it. Lastly, "Think of me as your family, your sister." (179) she told Ishmael. This quote showed the comfort she wanted him to feel when Ishmael was around her and to trust her. Esther had characteristics of a true hero.

If anybody deserves to be inducted into a Hero Hall of Fame, it is Esther. She went out of her way in order to help another person, not for her benefit, but for theirs. Her ability to care for a complete stranger is extraordinary. Esther did everything she could to help Ishmael get over his memories of being a child soldier, include taking him on a trip to the city and buying him a cassette with rap tapes that he loved to listen to. She fixed Ishmael's wounds, the ones on the outside and on the inside with her kindness and care. For those reasons, Esther should definitely be inducted into the Hero Hall of Fame.

UNICEF helped Ishmael regain his humanity. (
UNICEF helped Ishmael regain his humanity. (

Caroline: Hello Ishmael. My name is Caroline and I am going to be interviewing you. Thank you for coming today.

Ishmael: Thank you for having me.

Caroline: Okay, let's get started. What characteristics do you think a hero should have?

Ishmael: I think a hero can have many different characteristics, but some specific ones would be bravery, honesty, trustworthy, and caring.

Caroline: Is it important to have a hero?

Ishmael: Oh, I think it's extremely important to have a hero. Having a hero gives you somebody to look up to and want to be.

Caroline: Who is your hero?

Ishmael: I would have to say my hero is Esther. She helped me so much with forgiving myself and becoming a kid again. As soon as we met, she immediately welcomed me with open arms and cared about what happened in my past. Also, she didn't force me into telling her, but instead made me feel comfortable and like I could trust her.

Caroline: Would you say that you have characteristics to be somebody else's hero?

Ishmael: Umm, I would say yes and no. Yes because I think I am a very trustworthy person and care about other people. I truly believe with my experience, I would try to break down someone's wall just like Esther did to me.

Caroline: You said yes and no to having characteristics of a hero. Why would you say no?

Ishmael: I said no because of the horrible things I have done. Don't get me wrong, I've forgiven myself of the things I did, but I wouldn't want anyone else to have to go through what I did and be like I use to when I was in the army.

Caroline: Before you met Esther and were in the army, who was your hero then?

Ishmael: Honestly, I would have to say my lieutenant was my hero. He was strong and brave and I admired that. I wanted to like him so bad and couldn't wait until the day when I got to have my own army.

Caroline: In your book you talk about having a squad, do you think they looked up to you as you did to your lieutenant?

Ishmael: I hope they looked up to me and they think I showed them bravery and strength, but I hope I didn't teach them how to take the life of another person like the lieutenant did to me.

Caroline: How did you show bravery and strength to your squad and lieutenant?

Ishmael: Back then, the only way I thought to show strength was to kill people. The more people you killed, the more people looked up to you and wanted to be like you. It sounds terrible but that's the truth. I showed bravery by trying not to look scared when we were on our way to raid a village.

Caroline: Who do you think are the most important role models?

Ishmael: I think siblings can sometimes be the most important role models. When I was a kid, I looked up to Junior for a really long time. I think everyone goes through the phases where their parents are their hero and then realize they actually look up to their siblings and want to be like them. Junior and I had so much fun together and I missed rapping and listening to the cassette tapes with him.

Caroline: Lastly, do you think your role model and hero needs to be older than you because they have had more experiences?

Ishmael: I think your role model can be as old as you want them to be. Just because they are older than you, doesn't mean they are more experienced. I have met a ton of people that are a lot older than me that haven't gone through anything like I have. Just like I have met younger people that have experienced something that I haven't. What truly matters is how they act and think, not how old they are or what they look like.

Caroline: Thank you so much for your time. I have learned a lot and enjoyed talking to you. Bye.

Ishmael: It was my pleasure. Bye.

Page created on 4/6/2011 12:00:00 AM

Last edited 4/6/2011 12:00:00 AM

The beliefs, viewpoints and opinions expressed in this hero submission on the website are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the beliefs, viewpoints and opinions of The MY HERO Project and its staff.

Related Links

UNICEF - UNICEF helps child soldiers and children in Africa get the help they need.
A Long Way Gone - This website lets you go even deeper into what happened to Ishmael Beah.


Beah, Ishmael. A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier. New York: Sarah Crichton Books, 2007.


Author Info

Ishmael Beah has told his experiences of being forced out of his home, separated from his family, recruited into the army, and rehabilitated by UNICEF through his book, "A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier". Read about the importance of heroes and Ishmael's opinion on role models in the section below.