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A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier by…

A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier (2007)

by Ishmael Beah

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4,4802431,093 (4.01)1 / 219

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Ismaeh Beah recounts how he was recruited, against his will, to be a child soldier in Sierra Leone. This is a riveting story of how innocent children are exposed to violence and forced to commit horrible acts in order to survive. I was especially horrified at how relentlessly soldiers recruited children to fight their war. The accounts are sometimes graphic but necessary in order to understand the conditions that Beah lived through. This book is recommeded for young adult readers from grade 10 upward. ( )
  AleashaKachel | Feb 19, 2015 |
I remember being young when I first heard about the war in Sierra Leone.. it wasn't long after we had finished discussing the start of the Gulf War "Current Events" class. (long before the war actually started in '98). These wars always perplex me, because it's never truly known why they happen. The RUF and the army were doing the same things and for the same reason, and yet they were enemies. To me, that makes no sense.

There's controversy surrounding this book, as there are with ANY book on a topic such as this. Whether this book is fact or fiction is really irrelevant. The events of the war took place just as described; whether or not the boy named Ishmael in the story is actually the author doesn't matter. This book could have been written by ANYONE who had a place as a soldier in the war. Don't let the controversy take away from the very real problem of militant and rebel armies recruiting young boys (usually between the ages of 7-16) to die for their causes. This is an issue that's been known to our world since before the war in Sierra Leone and will continue to be a problem until there's a way to prevent it from continuing.

This book takes you "behind the scenes". Told through the eyes of a boy who was forced to become a soldier in Sierra Leone. It tells how it happened, what went on while he was a soldier, and how he coped and rediscovered who he really is. The story is heartbreaking and I cried for Ishmael more than once while reading of the things that went on. My heart broke for the childhood so brutally ripped away from him because of the war, and for each and every friend and family member he lost. There were times I smiled to, his first trip to New York is amazing story all on its own, but the reader is quickly reminded that was just a small intermission to the main focus of the story. There are many many tribe stories interwoven in this book, each one is told exactly where it needs to be to help the reader better understand what Ishmael was thinking at that point in time.

I hope Ishmael has found some peace in his heart and his soul after writing his account.. I hope every person who reads this book understands and realizes that Sierra Leone isn't the only country to use children as soldiers.. and that it could just as easily be our country some day.

This book is NOT for the casual reader, obviously given what the book is about, there is a lot of talk about death and how commanders would brainwash the boys into killing the enemy. There are a few very detailed scenes that I wouldn't recommend the weak of heart or mind read as well. This book isn't a walk in the park, it's not going to bring a smile to the reader's face when it ends... But perhaps it will open the reader's eyes to the things people in war torn countries have to endure.

I give this book 5 of 5 paws ( )
  S.CuAnam_Policar | Feb 10, 2015 |
Civil war and government change is taking over region where Ismael lives with family. He is a common teenager and finds listening to hip hop music with friends to reading Shakespeare with his father. Ismael's village is attacked because the revolution is spreading across the area. He and his friends find themselves running so to not be caught and be forced to fight for Government or rebels. He becomes one of many child soldiers and is torn between the family he lost and the new one he becomes part of.
His story is of perseverance and determination because many pieces fall into place for him to end up in America and becomes a spokesman and advocate for piece.
Not a book for young elementary but a chapter book for MIDDLE ( )
  Adrian.Gaytan | Feb 10, 2015 |
Aware of surrounding war in Sierra Leone but not yet affected, Ishmael, along with his brother and several friends, walked to a nearby village carrying hip-hop tapes for a talent show, a bunch of kids anticipating fun. While they were gone, the RUF (Revolutionary United Front) attacked their village, killing some and dispersing others, and the boys were separated from their families. After wandering for months without clear direction, seeking shelter in abandoned villages, foraging for food, losing some companions and gaining others, the remaining boys were collected by the government military and trained as soldiers. Then UNICEF intervened, Ishmael and others were taken to a rehabilitation camp, and from there a combination of luck, charm, and skill got him to the UN and the US.

The events of the narrative are controversial. The attack on his village definitely happened, but apparently two years after he claims, which changes his age at the time and changes the duration of his stint as child soldier. An incident at the rehabilitation camp, when former child soldiers of the warring factions were naively put together and got into a murderous brawl, is unverified and suspect. A hopes-dashed-at-the-last-minute opportunity to reconnect with family seems, in this context, a tad too conveniently dramatic. There is still enough truth confirmed for compelling if gruesome reading: children who had to survive and couldn’t afford to grieve, compartmentalized brutality with random moments of compassion. The political turmoil behind the war is minimized (an appendix presents the chronology); these were children, not political sophisticates, who were plied with drugs and motivated by revenge: the Other Side killed your family.
1 vote qebo | Dec 21, 2014 |
Nicely written book with subtle psychological uses of imagery. Nonetheless I'm dubious of its accuracy. According to Slate, "No former child soldiers who served directly with Beah have come forward to back him. Several characters, including a caring nurse who helped Beah recuperate and find his voice as a storyteller, haven't been identified at all." Other issues such as allegations that he wrote it originally as fiction and then changed it to nonfiction. Problems with timelines.

It's notable the millions of copies sold, worldwide, making it one of the most successful books of the decade. It's also touched many lives - someone reportedly adopted a child from Sierra Leone because of the book - and it has made Beah a literary superstar in his home country. If all this ends up doing good maybe the truth is not so important, mere details. ( )
2 vote Stbalbach | Sep 10, 2014 |
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To the memories of Nya Nje, Nya Keke, Nya Ndig-ge isa, and Kaynya. Your spririts and presence within me give me strength to carry on,

to all the children of Sierra Leone who were robbed of their childhoods,

and to the memory of Walter (Wally) Scheuer for his generous and compassionate heart and for teaching me the etiquette of being a gentleman
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My high school friends have begun to suspect I haven't told them the full story of my life.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Disturbing, but powerful book that deals with the horrible effects of violence and desperation. The author was lucky to be chosen to be "rehabilitated", but so many others were not. It actually seems like a miracle that he could be rehabilitated- his mentors showed incredible persistence in the face of extreme resistance. The memoir also demonstrates the power of the group to influence the behavior of the individual. It staggers the mind to try to grasp how much effort it would take to rehabilitate all the violent members of the world.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0374531269, Paperback)

This is how wars are fought now: by children, hopped-up on drugs and wielding AK-47s. Children have become soldiers of choice. In the more than fifty conflicts going on worldwide, it is estimated that there are some 300,000 child soldiers. Ishmael Beah used to be one of them.

What is war like through the eyes of a child soldier? How does one become a killer? How does one stop? Child soldiers have been profiled by journalists, and novelists have struggled to imagine their lives. But until now, there has not been a first-person account from someone who came through this hell and survived.

In A Long Way Gone, Beah, now twenty-five years old, tells a riveting story: how at the age of twelve, he fled attacking rebels and wandered a land rendered unrecognizable by violence. By thirteen, he'd been picked up by the government army, and Beah, at heart a gentle boy, found that he was capable of truly terrible acts.
This is a rare and mesmerizing account, told with real literary force and heartbreaking honesty.

"My new friends have begun to suspect I haven't told them the full story of my life.
'Why did you leave Sierra Leone?'
'Because there is a war.'
'You mean, you saw people running around with guns and shooting each other?'
'Yes, all the time.'
I smile a little.
'You should tell us about it sometime.'
'Yes, sometime.'"

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:24:33 -0400)

(see all 5 descriptions)

A human rights activist offers a firsthand account of war from the perspective of a former child soldier, detailing the violent civil war that wracked his native Sierra Leone and the government forces that transformed a gentle young boy into a killer as a member of the army.… (more)

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