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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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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 |
Terribly sad but one of the best memoirs I have read in a long, long time. ( )
  yougotamber | Aug 22, 2014 |
Ishmael Beah leaves his village in Sierra Leonne one day for a short trip with friends to practice dancing. Fortunately, he happens to put on all of his 3 sets of clothes, because while he is gone, rebels destroy his village. In the wake of this brutal civil war, he experiences the loss of family, the horror of violence all around, being on the run for his life ,lost in jungles and caught in the middle of rebel fighters and the goverment army. In all of this tragedy though, hope is not lost. A shocking, true story that you won't want to put down, this 228 page book is appropriate for adults and teens. ( )
  sgrame | Aug 5, 2014 |
Intense story of a young boy soldier who overvcame the odds to become a us citizen and author. ( )
  frenchmama | Jul 23, 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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