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Child Soldier

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Child Soldier By (author) China KeitetsiWhat is it about misery that makes for such compelling reading? Tales of miserable childhoods fill the shelves of the nation’s bookshelves. Remember ‘Angela’s Ashes’, filled with grubby little Irish children picking coal off the streets and drinking their tea out of jam jars? Or Dave Peltzer kicking off a glut of impassioned shock-lit, stuffed full of physical, mental and sexual abuse, each book striving to be more shocking than the one before? It reminds those of us old enough to remember of the Monty Python sketch in which a bunch of northerners compete over who had the worst childhood – “We were so poor we lived in a paper bag at the bottom of a lake!”

These books all cry out “My mum/dad/gran/school/priest/social worker treated me worse than a dog …… but I’m a survivor” and the public laps them up in a frenzy of voyeuristic fascination. How many autobiographies can you think of about happy childhoods? I can’t think of any but then I don’t suppose “My mum and dad were fantastic and my childhood was full of love and comfort” shifts the mountains of paperbacks that publishers are looking to sell.

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