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A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier
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.'
Difficult but worthwhile
By Lauraloo Mattox "tumble3"
- February 25, 2007
While I did find this book painful to read, I am very glad I stayed with it. Ishmael tells his story in casual language, almost as if he were sitting next to you, sharing his experiences over (many cups of) tea.
He relays his life to us chronologically, beginning in his home village. He and some friends took a several day trip to a neighboring village to show off their hip-hop skills at a talent show. Little did they know, that little trip probably saved their lives. For while they were away, the rebel army attacked their home village.
From there, we follow Ishmael and his friends as they try to find their families (all had had to flee the village, literally running for their lives) struggling to meet the barest of necessities. It is a long, dangerous road they walk, and they suffer countless difficulties as they try to find somewhere safe to stay. A tunnel with no light. You really feel the desperation, the loneliness and despair that descended upon this poor... read more
Astonishinly introspective and honest!
By W. P. Strange "Bill's shelf"
- February 20, 2007
This is an extraordinary memoir by a young man who has lived and seen the worst of humanity and managed to survive and become a better man for all the tragedy, violence, horror and degradation he was forced to witness as a 12 year old boy. I can see this as required reading in high schools across the country. It is not only that good, it is that important. The writing is honest, straight forward, painfully introspective but never self pitying. Truly an amazing story, and a history lesson we all need be reminded of now and again.
I admire his resilience
By bossy dinosaur
- February 15, 2007
A Long Way Gone was a remarkable book. The narration is divided into three parts--before the war, being a soldier, and learning to become human again. The LL Cool J and Run DMC references surprised me because it showed just how far-reaching music (and media) can be. Sadly, the opposite is not true: little media attention was (is) given to the plight of child soldiers around the world. I hope this book will start the conversation.
I was struck, and almost disturbed, by the matter-of-fact tone Beah used to describe the atrocities he committed, but his overall linguistic elegance made the descriptions of his travels and the reflections on his life uplifting by the end. How he was able to "rehabilitate" himself after living that surreal life demonstrates his strong sense of self. The book ends somewhat suddenly, but then, Beah's life story is still unfolding at age 26. This is a stark, but beautiful, narrative.
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