The Child's Voice as a Narrative Critique in African Ex-Child Soldier Memoirs

Date of Award


Degree Name

M.A. in English


Department of English


Advisor: Thomas Wendorf


African Ex-Child Soldier Memoirs to some extent have been viewed as humanitarian texts that raise sympathy or even funds from readers to enhance child rights initiatives. Such initiatives have been noble and worthy. However, my literary analysis research goes beyond the humanitarian reception, to examine how the use of the child's voice functions as a narrative critique of a distorted adult world. Exploring Ishmael Beah's A Long Way Gone and Senait Mehari's Heart of Fire, I examine how these authors employ a blend of aesthetic invention, remembered and experienced history inherent in the child's voice within their narratives. My interpretive work involves tracing the political, social and economic histories of authors' native spaces; examining functions and effects of child narrators; and understanding memory reconstruction paradigms and the functions of storytelling in confronting trauma. Displaced identities in children; Child's Safety within a social justice quest; and Violence and trauma on children are some of the major themes arising from my research. The child's voice indicates that adult-led national, international, socio-political and economic networks and practices are responsible for violations of the child's rights. Through the capacity of the child's perspective to cross taboo lines and the adult shame frontier, and to penetrate emotional danger zones easily, my research shows that the child's voice exposes how adults within child soldier spaces and beyond, are flawed and limited by their participation in social, cultural and ideological institutions and discourses.


African Literature, Literature, Child Voice, Child Soldier, Child Narrator, African Literature, Memoir

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