Birnbaum interviews Uzodinma Iweala

Robert Birnbaum interviews Uzodinma Iweala about his debut novel, Beasts of No Nation. In the book, “Agu, a young boy in an unidentified West African country, is conscripted into a rag-tag group of fighters in his nation’s civil war after fleeing his home — this before he witnesses his father’s murder at the hands of militants.”

RB: What did you do to familiarize yourself with child soldiers?

UI: I read a lot of autobiographies…. Books like First They Killed My Father [by Loung Ung] or Child Soldier: Fighting for My Life by China Keitetsi. And there are other books by Sudanese lost boys that chronicle the lives of kids who lived in conflict, not necessarily as a soldier but who experienced conflict and violence and whose life has been dramatically affected by it. Then Human Rights Watch reports and Amnesty International reports, those all have interviews and a lot of information about the lives that child soldiers live and the things they are forced to do and their experiences and how that changes their lives…. I spent time in Nigeria and a lot of time interviewing people who had been through the Nigerian civil war of the 1960s, which was a very gruesome affair.

The novel is excerpted here, and is a contender in this year’s Tournament of Books.


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