Starbucks to sell memoir about child soldier in Sierra Leone


Published: Sunday, January 14, 2007 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, January 13, 2007 at 11:32 p.m.

Oprah Winfrey's book club, on hold for nearly a year, will have a new selection later this month. Meanwhile, another industry sales maker has announced its latest pick.

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A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier By Ishmael Beah; Farrar, Straus and Giroux; 240 pages; $22 A memoir of Beah's years as a child soldier during the civil war in Sierra Leone, in the 1990s, when his parents were killed and the author was carrying a gun by age 13.

Starbucks, which has sold nearly 100,000 copies of Mitch Albom's "For One More Day" at its coffee houses nationwide, will soon be offering "A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier," by Sierra Leone native Ishmael Beah.

"The commitment we have is to provide our customers with the opportunity to discover quality books," Starbucks Entertainment president Ken Lombard told The Associated Press on Wednesday. "It's going to be an approach that will provide opportunities for well-known authors such as Mitch Albom as well as an emerging author like Ishmael Beah."

Beyond the Starbucks endorsement, Beah's book has virtually nothing in common with Albom's. "For One More Day" is a sentimental novel by a brand-name author about a son and his late mother. "A Long Way Gone" is a debut book about Beah's years as a child soldier during the civil war in Sierra Leone, in the 1990s, when his parents were killed and the author was carrying a gun by age 13.

Beah, now 26, fled Sierra Leone in 1997 and a year later emigrated to the United States. He graduated from Oberlin College in 2004 and lives in New York.

"This is a marvelous chance for any writer. I am pleased to work with Starbucks to share my story," Beah, whose book will be published in mid-February by Farrar, Straus & Giroux, said in a statement issued by Starbucks Corp. "I look forward to bringing this message to readers across the country."

"Instead of picking a big best seller, they've chosen something totally new and totally out of the blue," Farrar, Straus & Giroux publisher Jonathan Galassi told the AP. "It's a very courageous choice."

Starbuck's Lombard said that Albom's book had sold more than 92,000 copies at Starbucks since coming out in October, but declined to say how many copies the coffee house chain had ordered. Neither Lombard nor Galassi would comment on how many copies of "A Long Way Gone" would be shipped to Starbucks.

Beah's memoir, which already features blurbs from "A Perfect Storm" writer Sebastian Junger and Pulitzer Prize winner Steve Coll of "Ghost Wars," will be released in mid-February and will be backed by an author tour at Starbucks stores in 10 cities. Starbucks will donate $2 to UNICEF from each sale of the $22 book, with a minimum donation of $100,000.

"UNICEF played a key role in the rehabilitation of Beah," Lombard said of the United Nations Children's Fund.

Starbucks also sells CDs and DVDs and officially launched its book promotion last fall with the Albom novel.

On Wednesday, a spokeswoman for Winfrey said that a new book club pick would be made later this month, the first since last Jan. 16, when she selected Elie Wiesel's "Night." Her pick before Wiesel was James Frey's "A Million Little Pieces," which Winfrey chose in September 2005, only to learn in early 2006 that substantial portions of the memoir had been fabricated.

Wiesel's Holocaust memoir, also released by Farrar, Straus, had been decided upon before the allegations emerged against "A Million Little Pieces," Galassi confirmed, adding that at least 1.5 million copies of "Night" had sold because of Winfrey. Publishers are usually alerted several weeks in advance that one of their books has been selected.

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