I wish I knew what I know now

Verandah. It is my favorite word that the white man taught me. I use it once every few pages -say it to yourself- v-e-r-a-n-d-a-h. In fact, most of the important things in this book happen on or around them. I mention verandahs more times in this book than F. Scott Fitzgerald mentions Daisy in “The Great Gatsby.”In the beginning, my friends and I listen to rap music and struggle to tell what the rappers are saying, but later on it turns out I knew some Shakespeare that I apparently memorized as a child in the bush. Latter I was conscripted to become a boy soldier in Sierra Leone and I killed a lot of people while my story rambled on and on with digressions that made little sense and prose that is awkward and choppy.For most of the book I can’t seem to decide from which perspective to write it; from the standpoint of a college-educated man looking back on the terrible atrocities I committed as a child, or from the perspective of that child. As a result, the reader might grow confused as at times it will seem to him or to her that I, as a child, knew what I know now. After the rebels came and killed everyone, my friends and I wander around pondering the war or the moon or whatever and we weep or giggle, and none of us are three dimensional or have any depth.In the entire manuscript there is not a single instance or moment in which I meditate, or truly consider the acts of which I was a part. I fully and completely accept my role as a victim in this instance, and to some degree I’m sure that I am, but on other levels I have my doubts.Crude turns of phrase turn crudely across the turning pages of my book as I search for what the white men call ‘narrative symmetry.’ My use of similes is tedious and exhausting, like when I said “my head burned as though on fire.” I think my editor got lost in the jungle. I use words like “sonority” and “disconsolate,” letting my education shine through the broken English veneer that my professors probably told me would make my writing sound more authentic, more “African,” which belittles the topic of my book instead of adding to its gravity.I guess that’s the thing about memoirs, there’s no way of telling whether or not something actually happened. On page 35 during a skirmish between rebel and government troops, style and choice of perspective get in the way of fact, “A bullet hit a tree directly above my head and fell on the ground next to me. From where I lay, I saw the red bullets flying through the forest and into the night.” When I was young my grandfather gave me a medicine to let me see bullets in mid flight and control snakes. But one of the side effects of the medicine was that I would never be able to write worth a damn.The two lessons I learned during course of my years in Sierra Leone being “rehabilitated” are: first, if you’re going to be a boy soldier make sure that you have an agent good enough to get your book next to every cash register in every Starbucks in the country. Next, if you’re writing about pain and suffering in Africa you’d better enlist the help of Dave Edgers to tell your story for you. Finally, don’t write about a subject that deserves the attention and consideration of Isiah Berlin in the voice of a child.