Briggs, Jimmie 1968(?)-
Briggs, Jimmie 1968(?)-
Born c. 1968; children: Mariela. Education: Graduated from Morehouse College, 1991.
Home—New York, NY.
Journalist. Washington Post, Washington, DC, mail clerk, 1992; Village Voice, New York, NY, intern, 1993; Emerge, assistant editor, 1993; Life, reporter, 1993-98. United Nations Goodwill Ambassador and Special Envoy for Children and Armed Conflict. Has worked for the United Nations Special Session on Children and Seeds of Peace, and as an adjunct professor at the New School for Social Research.
John Bartlow Martin Award, Northwestern University, for a Life story on the Gulf War's impact on children, 1998; commendation, Congressional Black Caucus, 1999, for coverage of AIDS in the black community.
Innocents Lost: When Child Soldiers Go to War, Basic Books (New York, NY), 2005.
Contributor to periodicals, including New York Times Magazine, People, Vibe, Bust, and Fortune.
Jimmie Briggs earned a degree in philosophy from Morehouse College in 1991, and with no training in journalism, he began working as a mail clerk at the Washington Post. From there, he worked his way up the ranks until he was employed as a staff reporter at Life. During his five years as a reporter there, Briggs began to cover the stories that would ultimately lead to his book-length project on child soldiers. Indeed, Briggs left Life in 1998 and then spent six years traveling the globe, conducting research for what would eventually become his first book, Innocents Lost: When Child Soldiers Go to War.
Innocents Lost is a work of popular journalism and, as such, it has received much media attention. Briggs focused his study on Rwanda, Uganda, Colombia, Sri Lanka, and Afghanistan, traveling to each country and interviewing former child soldiers and the people affected by them. Rather than take a more scholarly approach to the book, Briggs wrote Innocents Lost in the first-person, relaying his adventures, encounters, and interviews, as well as his impressions of his subjects. Fatima Quraishi, writing in Bullpen, reported that Briggs made the decision to write in the first person because of the "emotional impact of his experiences." Briggs felt that "only first-person narrative could convey the emotions he felt as a chronicler" of other people's stories.
In an interview in Satya, the interviewer noted that despite, or perhaps because of, the first-person narrative, "through it all Briggs writes with respect and humility." Briggs told the interviewer that he wrote Innocents Lost because "my naïve hope is that my contribution as a journalist will make people look at war in a different way." Briggs also admitted that traveling throughout the war-torn countries was not as romantic as many may think. Indeed, Briggs stated: "I was severely traumatized from doing this book and it really damaged my personal life. And really, I'm still sort of recovering from it." Regardless of the traumatic experience, as of 2008, Briggs was continuing his work about child soldiers and war, developing a movie about child soldiers and completing a second book on rape as a weapon of war. Also as a result of his work, Briggs became the first African American appointed as the United Nations Special Envoy for Children and Armed Conflict.
Critical reception of the book has been almost entirely positive. Indeed, Clarence V. Reynolds, reviewing Innocents Lost in the Black Issues Book Review, com- mented that "Briggs's sedulous reportage is eye-opening." The first-person accounts given by child soldiers "will haunt … and surprise the reader," stated Reynolds, "their voices … draw on one's heartstrings." Reynolds also said of the book: "Briggs has touched on a subject that few reporters have written about in such a broad sense," further concluding that Briggs's "daring to embark on and share such a project is definitely worth taking notice." Observing that one-tenth of the world's soldiers are under the age of eighteen, a Publishers Weekly contributor remarked that "Briggs does not lack for material." The contributor, like Reynolds, commented on the stories told by the child soldiers, but felt that "some stories are so gruesome, it is difficult to keep one's eyes on the page."
It is notable that, as of 2006, Briggs was working with Amnesty International to write a high-school curriculum surrounding Innocents Lost, thus raising students' awareness of the social issues surrounding child soldiers.
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Black Issues Book Review, January 1, 2006, Clarence V. Reynolds, review of Innocents Lost: When Child Soldiers Go to War.
Choice, June 1, 2006, A. Mahdi, review of Innocents Lost, p. 1878.
Crisis, September 1, 2005, "Casualties of War: Exposing the Plight of Child Soldiers."
Kirkus Reviews, May 15, 2005, review of Innocents Lost, p. 571.
National Catholic Reporter, June 16, 2006, "Jimmie Briggs: America's Voice for the Child Soldier," p. 13.
Publishers Weekly, May 16, 2005, review of Innocents Lost, p. 49.
Bullpen,http://journalism.nyu.edu/pubzone/bullpen/ (May 20, 2008), Fatima Quraishi, "Lecture: Jimmie Briggs."
Perseus Book Group Web site,http://www.perseusbooksgroup.com/ (May 20, 2008), author profile.
Satya,http://www.satyamag.com/ (May 20, 2008), "Kids in Conflict: When Children Become Soldiers: The Satya Interview with Jimmie Briggs."
University of Winnipeg Web site,http://www.uwinnipeg.ca/ (May 20, 2008), author profile.