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The devastating story of war through the eyes of a child soldier. Beah tells 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 became a soldier. My new friends have begun to suspect I haven’t told them the full story of my life. “Why did you leave Sierra Le The devastating story of war through the eyes of a child soldier. Beah tells 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 became a soldier. 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.” “Cool.” I smile a little. “You should tell us about it sometime.” “Yes, sometime.” 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.


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The devastating story of war through the eyes of a child soldier. Beah tells 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 became a soldier. My new friends have begun to suspect I haven’t told them the full story of my life. “Why did you leave Sierra Le The devastating story of war through the eyes of a child soldier. Beah tells 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 became a soldier. 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.” “Cool.” I smile a little. “You should tell us about it sometime.” “Yes, sometime.” 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.

30 review for A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier

  1. 5 out of 5

    Jennifer (aka EM)

    I'm sorry, I'm so very sorry for what I am about to do. It seems unbelievably curmudgeonly of me to judge this book harshly given its subject matter. But I can't let the deep empathy I feel for this former Sierra Leonean child soldier cloud my judgement of his memoir. I give him five stars - more! - for his courage, his honesty and the remarkable work he is doing to shed light on the life of child soldiers in Sierra Leone and elsewhere; to raise consciousness and motivate political action to put I'm sorry, I'm so very sorry for what I am about to do. It seems unbelievably curmudgeonly of me to judge this book harshly given its subject matter. But I can't let the deep empathy I feel for this former Sierra Leonean child soldier cloud my judgement of his memoir. I give him five stars - more! - for his courage, his honesty and the remarkable work he is doing to shed light on the life of child soldiers in Sierra Leone and elsewhere; to raise consciousness and motivate political action to put a stop to the brutality and corruption of the regimes that use them. But, this is about the book--did the book work, did the book move me as it had the immense potential to do, did it put me into his world and let me share his trauma and pain at a visceral level - making me angry, sad, guilty, moved to action? And the answer to all of that is, not really. It had three major flaws (really, I blame the editor): 1. The lead-up to Beah's kidnapping into the army lacked the kind of rich detail that made the loss of that life resonate throughout the rest of the story. (for a contrast, see Lawrence Hill's The Book of Negroes aka Someone Knows My Name). 2. The time spent in the army -- the drugs, the brutality of the 'training', the weeks-long missions in the bush, fuelled only by drugs and fear, the orgies of killing, raping and looting -- all that we know happens, we didn't see here. Beah's time in the army was the shortest part of this book. For him, emotionally and psychologically, it's completely understandable--even if he wanted to (unlikely) he probably can't--because of the drugs and trauma--even remember. It's a terrible thing, but this book needed him to. 3. The book ended abruptly with a major piece of the story left hanging -- I guess I can't tell you what. So often, books - especially memoirs - inherently have a built-in problem with the end. We always know the end -- at least in broad strokes, but you still have to take us there, and take us to a point that it makes sense to stop even though obviously, if you're writing it, the story didn't stop. In this case, Beah stopped about two crucial plot points before he should have. What was most effective for me was the rehabilitation section of the story. This is where Beah's detached, almost fugue-like point-of-view seemed to work so well. It's also where his memories of what he experienced were set up in stark relief to the difficulty of his recovery -- that contrast, and the level of detail that then emerged, made for compelling reading. In fact, I'm upping from 2 to 3 stars solely based on the redemption the rehabilitation segment offers the story. It made up - to some extent - for flaws 1 and 2. Maybe the entire story should have been set during the rehabilitation period, with flash forwards and flashbacks? Because of some work I am doing right now for an organization working in the field of international development and poverty reduction, I am particularly interested in how to tell these kinds of stories: how do you avoid exploitation while retaining the emotional power of the story to motivate readers to empathy and action? What form works? What level of detail? What tone and POV? Dave Eggers wrote a jacket blurb (as did Jon Stewart) -- and this book shows me a little why Eggers' approach, as in What Is The What (at its heart, a remarkably similar journey) and in Zeitoun -- works so well, where this one didn't. It takes a deft writer to manage these literary choices: it's about how the story is told as much or even more than what the story is. Maybe that's just me -- maybe I'm asking a memoir to use fictional devices and story-telling techniques and maybe that's just not fair. Maybe that's why Eggers is the epitome for me, because he is able to tread that line perfectly (imho, and brings, too, the journalist's eye to the story). What do you think? Should memoirs be held to the same standards as fiction in terms of plot, pacing, tone, characterization, etc.? All or some of these? Or is there a different set of standards that need to be applied, a different way to experience them?

  2. 5 out of 5

    Chris

    I will never. Never. Complain about my childhood again. Okay, that's not true. I will. But when I let out a sad sigh of remorse that I didn't figure out exactly why I really wanted to be friends with that one guy in band in high school until it was way too late to do anything about it, I will at least think, "At least I wasn't killing people and snorting gunpowder." Like most of you reading this, I knew absolutely nothing about what was happening in Sierra Leone in the 1990s. I didn't know there w I will never. Never. Complain about my childhood again. Okay, that's not true. I will. But when I let out a sad sigh of remorse that I didn't figure out exactly why I really wanted to be friends with that one guy in band in high school until it was way too late to do anything about it, I will at least think, "At least I wasn't killing people and snorting gunpowder." Like most of you reading this, I knew absolutely nothing about what was happening in Sierra Leone in the 1990s. I didn't know there was anything to know. For all I knew, we had fixed Africa back in '84 when the First World Lonely Hearts Club Band belted out "We Are The World" and made us all notice the famine in Ethiopia. And anyway, that was in east Africa. West Africa was supposed to be a little better organized. Shows how much I knew. Turns out all hell was breaking loose. After more than a decade of one-party rule, the Sierra Leonean military got into power and behaved pretty much the same way most African military governments did. Badly. In reaction, a rebel group, the Revolutionary United Front (RUF) started rampaging through the country. Their initial cause was to get rid of a corrupt government, but they very quickly went corrupt themselves, burning and slaughtering as they went. The rebels were vicious and bloodthirsty, and one of their most common ways of recruiting was to murder men and woman en masse and bring their sons into the fold. They would manipulate them with fear and drugs and hate, turning boys of ten, eleven, twelve years old into murderers. Ishmael Beah was on the other end of this. His family was killed when the RUF ran over his town, along with most of his friends. He and his schoolmates tried to run away, but were eventually ensnared by the army. The army of Sierra Leone were hard-pressed to fight the rebels, and needed recruits. So they would take in boys who had been left orphaned and rootless by the war and hook them on fear and drugs and hate, turning boys of ten, eleven, twelve years old into murderers. Hmmm.... This is the story of Beah's descent into horror and his successful return from it. He was one of way too many child soldiers in Africa, and probably one of the very few who came through his experience not only intact, but willing to write about it. I first saw him on The Daily Show, and honestly it is really tough to reconcile what you read in this book with the bright-eyed, smiling young man sitting across from Jon Stewart. Thanks to Dad, for the birthday present.... *smile*

  3. 5 out of 5

    Ahmad Sharabiani

    A Long Way Gone. Memoirs of a Boy Soldier, Ishmael Beah Ishmael Beah (born 23 November 1980) is a Sierra Leonean author and human rights activist who rose to fame with his acclaimed memoir, A Long Way Gone. His novel Radiance of Tomorrow was published in January 2014. His most recent novel Little Family was published in April 2020. The book is a firsthand account of Beah's time as a child soldier during the civil war in Sierra Leone (1990's). Beah was 12 years old when he fled his village after it A Long Way Gone. Memoirs of a Boy Soldier, Ishmael Beah Ishmael Beah (born 23 November 1980) is a Sierra Leonean author and human rights activist who rose to fame with his acclaimed memoir, A Long Way Gone. His novel Radiance of Tomorrow was published in January 2014. His most recent novel Little Family was published in April 2020. The book is a firsthand account of Beah's time as a child soldier during the civil war in Sierra Leone (1990's). Beah was 12 years old when he fled his village after it was attacked by rebels, and he wandered the war-filled country until brainwashed by an army unit that forced him to use guns and drugs. By 13, he had perpetrated and witnessed numerous acts of violence. Three years later, UNICEF rescued him from the unit and put him into a rehabilitation program that helped him find his uncle, who would eventually adopt him. After his return to civilian life he began traveling the United States recounting his story. تاریخ نخستین خوانش: روز نوزدهم ماه فوریه سال 2016میلادی عنوان: راهی طولانی که رفتم، خاطرات یک کودک سرباز؛ نویسنده: اسماعیل بئا (به آ)؛ مترجم: مژگان رنجبر؛ تهران، کوله پشتی، 1394؛ در 240 ص؛ شابک: 9786007642412؛ چاپ دوم 1395؛ شاید بیش از سیصدهزار کودک‌ْ سرباز، نشئه از مواد مخدر، و کلاشنیکف‌ به‌ دست، در بیش از پنجاه منازعه، و جنگ، در سرتاسر دنیا، حضور داشته اند؛ «اسماعیل به‌ آ»، یکی از همین «کودکْ‌ سربازان» بوده، و یکی از نخستین افرادی‌ است، که داستان، و یادمانهای خود را از یکی از مهیب‌ترین جنگ‌های دنیا، بازگو می‌کند؛ «اسماعیل به‌ آ» کتاب «راهی طولانی که رفتم» را در سن 26سالگی به نگارش درآورده، و در آن، داستان خود را روایت می‌کند؛ او در سن دوازده سالگی، به دنبال حمله‌ ی شورشی‌ها، از خانه، و روستای خود می‌گریزد، و آواره‌ ی سرزمین‌هایی می‌شود، که در پی رفتار خشونت‌ آمیز شورشی‌ها، دیگر قابل شناشایی نیستند؛ در سیزده سالگی، در ارتش دولتی، سرباز می‌شود؛ «به‌ آ» که قلبا انسان ملایم، و مهربان است، متوجه می‌شود، که توانایی انجام چه کارهای هولناکی را دارد؛ او توسط نیروهای «یونیسف» آزاد، و به مرکز بازپروری می‌رود، و تلاش می‌کند تا دوباره انسانیت خود را، بازیابد، و به جامعه‌ ی بشری، که اینک به او به دیده‌ ی ترس، و بدگمانی می‌نگرد، بازگردد؛ «راهی طولانی که رفتم» داستانی‌ درباره ی «امید» و «رستگاری بشر» است تاریخ بهنگام رسانی 20/07/1399هجری خورشیدی؛ ا. شربیانی

  4. 5 out of 5

    Elyse Walters

    I read this book in 2007 when this book was first released. It was a year when local High School kids in our area were assigned to read this book. Then later in the year --Ishmael came to speak at our local state University to a room of more than 1,000 people. It was a powerful night! Ismael Beach was 26 years old when this book came out. He tells his story of becoming a child soldier in Sierra Leone and of his later rehabilitation. Heartbreaking -(horrors) - children in war..fighting, killing, d I read this book in 2007 when this book was first released. It was a year when local High School kids in our area were assigned to read this book. Then later in the year --Ishmael came to speak at our local state University to a room of more than 1,000 people. It was a powerful night! Ismael Beach was 26 years old when this book came out. He tells his story of becoming a child soldier in Sierra Leone and of his later rehabilitation. Heartbreaking -(horrors) - children in war..fighting, killing, dying. A riveting disturbing memoir. Ishmael became a spokesperson for the welfare of children caught in the brutality of war. He opened the eyes for many --while building his own life -thriving and living in the United States. Thankful for all the support he received --having survived. **The beauty of connecting with new Goodreads members --is re-visiting books we have read! Thank you *Ike* for the reminder that this was a valuable book to read. It only takes a few hours to read...but its a story one can never forget!

  5. 5 out of 5

    Whitney Atkinson

    4.5 Stars TW: Violence/gore, rape, drug abuse This book reminded me of Between Shades of Grey by Ruta Sepetys, not because their subject matter is anything alike, but because I had the same reaction to both books. Throughout the duration of the book it was very impactful and heavy, and I may have shed a tear or two, but as soon as I closed the book the weight of it just fell upon me and it made me start crying in full. Wow. This book is truly unlike anything I've read before. I can't even fathom t 4.5 Stars TW: Violence/gore, rape, drug abuse This book reminded me of Between Shades of Grey by Ruta Sepetys, not because their subject matter is anything alike, but because I had the same reaction to both books. Throughout the duration of the book it was very impactful and heavy, and I may have shed a tear or two, but as soon as I closed the book the weight of it just fell upon me and it made me start crying in full. Wow. This book is truly unlike anything I've read before. I can't even fathom the life that Ishmael has lived through, and his bravery for telling his story. This book was educational, this book was heart-wrenching, this book was touching, this book was amazing. As far as memoirs go, this will definitely be a memorable one.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Praj

    Dear Ms. Naomi Campbell, I have always been an ardent aficionado of your work; from your heydays sashaying the YSL runaways along with Linda Evangelista to crooning in George Michael’s Freedom video. Your numerous sexual trysts with celebrated oligarchs and other questionable chaps were highly fascinating although not marvelous. But lately, you seem to forego your sadistic tantrums and suffer from a transient global amnesia. Is it due to those numerous chalky dust lines running through your nasal Dear Ms. Naomi Campbell, I have always been an ardent aficionado of your work; from your heydays sashaying the YSL runaways along with Linda Evangelista to crooning in George Michael’s Freedom video. Your numerous sexual trysts with celebrated oligarchs and other questionable chaps were highly fascinating although not marvelous. But lately, you seem to forego your sadistic tantrums and suffer from a transient global amnesia. Is it due to those numerous chalky dust lines running through your nasal septum? I do not know whom to believe You, Carol White or Mia Farrow? Are you familiar with a certain Mr. Charles Taylor, the benefactor to your gift of “dirty-little-stones”? Aww! My apologies if I’m being a twinge to you ruptured temporal lobe. Anyhow, as an admirer of your never ending legs, I enclose a pill to your deteriorated hippocampus. Let me introduce:-Ishmael Beah(now don’t you get that dirty little mind working), Beah is a regular teen, trying to make sense of his life with his stepmother, a father who appears to have lost track of Beah’s life, harbors a dream of being a rapper by aping the likes of Run-DMC, MC Hammer and loves playing soccer with his brother Junior.Oh! I forgot to mention Beah is a child soldier recruited to battle against the rebels. Dreadful isn't it? Beah’s story travels to a quaint village of Mattru Jong in Sierra Leone. Circa 1993, Beah travels with a couple of his friends to enter a talent competition for upcoming rap artists. On his return, the once picturesque Mattru Jong has been ravaged by the rebels, massacring every human soul in sight. The prospect of seeing an old man resting in a armchair is pleasant, except once Beah went nearer there was not an inch of flesh untouched by bullet wounds, a little closer and the man’s limbs were scattered with sprinkles of blood patterned on the wall. Sierra Leone was under an ongoing dastardly active civil war. A war that showed no mercy to any living being, slashing every inhaling lungs. Control of Sierra Leone's diamond industry was a primary objective for the war. Although endowed with abundant natural resources, Sierra Leone was ranked as the poorest country. With the breakdown of all state structures, wide corridors of Sierra Leonean society were opened up to the trafficking of arms and ammunition, and an illegal trade in recreational drugs from Liberia and Guinea. Seeing his family perished Beah runs to save himself from being caught by the rebels in fear of being recruited in the camps. For over a year, Beah wanders through several villages; passing through dense forests walking for endless miles with hunger corroding his sanity and being alive was a burden itself. Running was not a sport for Beah but a gift to remain alive. A year after his deathly escapes he unfortunately gets recruited by RUF at a tender age of 13. Beah life’s takes a turn making his daily chores of annihilation, toting Ak-47s and grenades appear mundane for a killing machine. His diet now consists of mind numbing tablets, snorting cocaine and brown-brown(a mix of gun-powder& cocaine). The early day soccer practice is replaced by guarding posts avenging every intruder. Following a period of three years as a combatant Beah is lastly rescued by the UNICEF and NGOs giving his life a new lease. Ishmael Beah is now a speaker at the UN against war crimes relating to child atrocities and resides in NYC. In May 2000 the situation of Sierra Leone was deteriorated to such an extent that insurgency of British Troops was ordered to evacuate foreign nationals and locals. The 11-year war finally came to an end in May 2002 with President Kabbah taking the sovereignty of the nation. Even after the end of the Liberian War carnage culminating in the arrest of former President Charles Taylor, regrettably more than 50% of the diamond mines are unlicensed and used for illegal smuggling of ammunitions. Therefore you comprehend Naomi, even as you mull for the authority of your dirty donation and disembark your yacht frolics whilst acquiring a 10-page lavish spread of your chastisement on the coveted W Magazine; there will be festering of thousands other Ishmaels not that privileged to escape the unspeakable perils due to your lacerated amnesia. Thanking you, A keen observer eagerly waiting for your upcoming crabbiness and monotonous whoring of testimonies.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Nandakishore Varma

    This is a very important book, though not an easy one to read. Ishmael's style leaves a lot to be desired, and he is especially weak, I feel, when he tries to be philosophical. But he makes up for that with the descriptions of war, to the depravity which human beings can descend to. The fact that he does this with a child's candour, unemotionally, makes it even more disturbing. Children can be easily moulded. And cruelty comes easily to children, because they do not think of it as "cruel" in the This is a very important book, though not an easy one to read. Ishmael's style leaves a lot to be desired, and he is especially weak, I feel, when he tries to be philosophical. But he makes up for that with the descriptions of war, to the depravity which human beings can descend to. The fact that he does this with a child's candour, unemotionally, makes it even more disturbing. Children can be easily moulded. And cruelty comes easily to children, because they do not think of it as "cruel" in the adult sense. These child soldiers bury men alive with the same enthusiasm and curiosity as a child pulling wings off a butterfly and watching it squirm. Values such as the difference between "kindness" and "cruelty" have to be taught to children-but these boy soldiers of Sierra Leone, most of whom have seen their family and friends massacred mercilessly, have been fed only drugs and hatred. War is their religion, and their gods are Rambo and Shwarznegger. I salute Ishmael for the courage to come out of it. At the same time, I weep for the thousands who did not.

  8. 4 out of 5

    steven

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. The review for this one is a toss-up between one and five stars. It was an amazing story of how a twelve-year-old boy survived the armed conflicts in Sierra Leone in the 1990s. It's well-written, provides vivid imagery, and evokes the horrors of war. The one star is because of the vivid imagery. Let's be perfectly clear about this: people die in this book. Blood spatters everywhere, usually blood that should be kept inside some of the narrator's closest friends. From the very first page to the ve The review for this one is a toss-up between one and five stars. It was an amazing story of how a twelve-year-old boy survived the armed conflicts in Sierra Leone in the 1990s. It's well-written, provides vivid imagery, and evokes the horrors of war. The one star is because of the vivid imagery. Let's be perfectly clear about this: people die in this book. Blood spatters everywhere, usually blood that should be kept inside some of the narrator's closest friends. From the very first page to the very last, you are kept on a rollercoaster ride of emotion, happy one minute and torn with grief the next, until you and the narrator have both attained a kind of wariness to happiness since you know it won't last. There's a constant suspense of waiting for the other shoe to drop, and when it does it hits the ground like a ten-ton hammer. This book is disturbing. It's a good read, but I cannot in good conscience recommend it to anyone who has trouble sleeping; this wont' help at all. Every once in a while my mind will flit to one of the scenes in the book, and I'll wince; it's like I'm having minor flashbacks of things that *never happened to me*. The writing is just that evocative and heart-wrenching. When I was done reading it -- and I wouldn't have picked it up at all, knowing the subject matter, if it wasn't assigned for a class -- I threw it aside. I'm going to do my best to remember only the general overarching story, and to forget the specific details of the hardship. An overview, so that you don't have to read it if you don't want to: Sierra Leone has been war-torn since the discovery of the diamond mines in the 1960s; in the 90s things really hit the fan. Children as young as seven were pressed into military service, hopped up on cocaine and other various drugs, and sent out to kill. This happened on both sides of the war; the rebels and the "formal" army. Civilians merely provided a target-rich environment, their villages good only for forceful resupply of ammunition and food. The narrator's village is attacked, and he and a couple of his friends manage to escape and wander the country, moving from village to village. They can never settle down, because everyone is wary of children, worried that they may be brainwashed militants. Eventually, after much hardship and losing his friends to gunfire, the narrator is "trained" as a soldier and sent out to fight. Only through the intervention of UNICEF was he given an opportunity to be rehabilitated and managed to regain some semblance of a normal life, but there could be no hope of that lasting while he lived in Sierra Leone. So he escaped to New York, where he's been more or less living ever since.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Lain

    As an over-privileged white American, it can be tough to even begin to fathom the struggles and atrocities that Africans face. When I started reading this book, I wondered if the stories Ishmael Beah would tell would be so horrific that I couldn't continue to read, much less comprehend, them. However, Meah tells his tale with a blend of humor, distance, and insight that took me right to the edge. Any further, and I think I would have shut down. Any less far, and I believe I wouldn't have gotten As an over-privileged white American, it can be tough to even begin to fathom the struggles and atrocities that Africans face. When I started reading this book, I wondered if the stories Ishmael Beah would tell would be so horrific that I couldn't continue to read, much less comprehend, them. However, Meah tells his tale with a blend of humor, distance, and insight that took me right to the edge. Any further, and I think I would have shut down. Any less far, and I believe I wouldn't have gotten the severity of his plight. As a rule, I resist saying, "this is a book everyone should read," as it sounds so hyperbolic. But this is definitely a book everyone should read.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Diane

    "If you are alive, there is hope for a better day and something good to happen." This is an amazing memoir about a child soldier in Sierra Leone. In 1993, when Ishmael was 12, rebels attacked his village and he fled, never to see his parents again. After weeks of walking and scrounging for food, he was picked up by the government military, given an AK-47 and was trained how to fight. The boys were given drugs, including cocaine and amphetamines, and sent into battle. Ishmael spent years fighting "If you are alive, there is hope for a better day and something good to happen." This is an amazing memoir about a child soldier in Sierra Leone. In 1993, when Ishmael was 12, rebels attacked his village and he fled, never to see his parents again. After weeks of walking and scrounging for food, he was picked up by the government military, given an AK-47 and was trained how to fight. The boys were given drugs, including cocaine and amphetamines, and sent into battle. Ishmael spent years fighting in his country's civil war, but then one day, he and his fellow child soldiers were rescued by UNICEF. How do you rehabilitate boys who fought in such a war? Ishmael doesn't want to talk about what happened and he gets into fights with other children. Eventually he makes friends with one of the nurses who lets him listen to rap and reggae music. Slowly, Ishmael comes out of his shell, and he is selected to go to the United Nations in New York City and speak about his experience as a child soldier. It is there that he meets the woman who will eventually become his foster mother. While the book sounds grim, there is also joy and humor. Before his village was attacked, Ishmael and his friends had started their own rap group, performing covers of American rap songs in local talent shows. Ishmael carried some of his cassettes in his pocket, and his ability to dance and entertain strangers helped him survive his journey. I liked how Ishmael admitted that he didn't understand the words he sang -- he was just imitating what he saw on music videos. Another favorite scene was the first time Ishmael heard the Atlantic Ocean -- the crashing of the waves was so loud that the boys hid because they thought it was an attack. And when he visited New York, he saw snow for the first time and had no idea what it was. I am so thankful that Ishmael survived the fighting to tell this story, and that he finally found some peace.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Marc

    Gut-wrenching and virtually unbelievable to a modern, Western-minded suburban sheltered life, this compelling first hand account of contemporary struggle and tragedy landed like a thud in my soul. I read the book in about three days, and unfortunately it tempered my view of the people around me, wondering what atrocities they were capable of committing, what sort of terror these faces or even my own hands could carry out under the right circumstances. In the end, though, it is a tale of individu Gut-wrenching and virtually unbelievable to a modern, Western-minded suburban sheltered life, this compelling first hand account of contemporary struggle and tragedy landed like a thud in my soul. I read the book in about three days, and unfortunately it tempered my view of the people around me, wondering what atrocities they were capable of committing, what sort of terror these faces or even my own hands could carry out under the right circumstances. In the end, though, it is a tale of individual redemption, and hopefully a glimpse of possibilities on a national scale. 'Memoirs' provides a helpful introductory glimpse to the ravages of war: it does not discriminate and it is a hideous prospect. And what of the manipulative irony used by leaders from both sides to motivate young minds and hearts: they killed your parents, your siblings. I find this a plausible explanation for some of the enduring squabbles not just for child soldiers within nations, but between whole societies and nations as well (perhaps the phraseology is different, but the underlying sentiment is the same - revenge and fear). My main critique, apart from the occasional stilted writing, was the unresolved ending. We knew enough of Ishmael to desire an account of his transition to the States, of his ongoing work, and of some sense of how we can be involved to help in the efforts he promotes. Can we? I'd like to know, and the perfect time to present the information is with an epilogue of some sort.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Adina

    The story is about, as the title says, a boy soldier that fought in the civil war in Sierra Leone. It tells the story of his journey on foot to escape the rebels who attacked his village, how he ended up as a soldier and how he managed to be saved and rehabilitated. It is a haunting and a vivid story about the atrocities of war.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Kristy K

    Another tragic, eye-opening read. Chronicles Beah's childhood/teenage years in Sierra Leone. Another tragic, eye-opening read. Chronicles Beah's childhood/teenage years in Sierra Leone.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Kristine

    Good book- short, simple, he describes his experience as a child soldier. Pretty amazing, bc you figure not that many of those child soldiers have the opportunity or inkling to write about it. I do wish the book had a clearer timeline and sense of the history and politics surrounding his personal experience in the conflict, but hey- the guy is not a historian, so I am not gonna bitch about that. The topic of the Sierra Leone conflict though is FASCINATING, not to mention disgusting when you see w Good book- short, simple, he describes his experience as a child soldier. Pretty amazing, bc you figure not that many of those child soldiers have the opportunity or inkling to write about it. I do wish the book had a clearer timeline and sense of the history and politics surrounding his personal experience in the conflict, but hey- the guy is not a historian, so I am not gonna bitch about that. The topic of the Sierra Leone conflict though is FASCINATING, not to mention disgusting when you see what forces caused it, and I've been seeing the subject around a lot recently: - the documentary "Refugee All-Stars" which I review below -this book -the movie Blood Diamond with Leo DeCaprio and (horrible) Jennifer Connelly, both of their weird accents totally annoying me -the documentary "Diamond Road" on National Geographic, which was actually too sad and depressing for me to watch. Unlike the concise yet powerful "Refugee All-Stars," the Diamond Road series was 3 parts, 2 hours each, covering the Diamond Industry from start to finish, the start being the diamond mines of Sierra Leone, and the end being the industry's attempts to make themselves not look like criminals who take diamonds out of a country whose citizens are among the poorest in the world. Movie Review of "Refugee All Stars" I wasn't excited "Long Way Gone" until I realized it was about the same country as this freakin AMAZING documentary I just saw on POV about refugees from Sierra Leone. It's called "Refugee All-Stars" and it's about 6 or 7 refugees from S.L. forming a band in the refugee camp in neighboring Guinea. It's hard to capture what this documentary does in a mere three hours, hard to believe that I could feel so much for these people after such a short time. And, it's not one of those "bawl your eyes out I feel so sorry for these people things" where you leave just feeling BAD. Although I do feel bad, that's not what the story evokes- it evokes the power of the human spirit, the drive to make something positive out of a horrible situation and horrible memories, and the power of music.

  15. 5 out of 5

    James

    I finally got around to reading the highly lauded A Long Way Gone. “Africa breaks your heart.” That’s what David Denby of The New Yorker concluded at the very beginning of his review for “Blood Diamond,” drawing on the then recent releases of “Hotel Rwanda,” “The Constant Gardener,” “And The Last King of Scotland.” I concur, having read Ishmael Beah’s memoir relatively close on the heels of Dave Eggers’ What is the What and Beasts of No Nation. I suppose I could complete the cycle with This Voice I finally got around to reading the highly lauded A Long Way Gone. “Africa breaks your heart.” That’s what David Denby of The New Yorker concluded at the very beginning of his review for “Blood Diamond,” drawing on the then recent releases of “Hotel Rwanda,” “The Constant Gardener,” “And The Last King of Scotland.” I concur, having read Ishmael Beah’s memoir relatively close on the heels of Dave Eggers’ What is the What and Beasts of No Nation. I suppose I could complete the cycle with This Voice in My Heart, and The Devil Came on Horseback, among others, but my heart is already fragile enough. Beah’s book of tragic descent into war as a 12-year-old is striking for many reasons on several levels. It seems to be placed somewhere between Keroauc’s “On the Road” and McCarthy’s “The Road.” It illuminates an unsettling postmodern world highly influenced by drugs and western war movies. It is a road novel, but very much more about coming of age and a loss of innocence in a demented, perverse, unfortunate, shameful (I can’t stop!) modern world. Reminiscent of the scene in Jarhead when the marines whoop and holler to Apocalypse Now, Beah relates that, “We watched movies at night. War movies, Rambo: First Blood, Rambo II, Comando, and so on, with the aid of a generator or sometimes a car battery. We all wanted to be like Rambo; we couldn’t wait to implement his techniques. When we ran out of food, drugs, ammunition, and gasoline to watch war films, we raided rebel camps, in towns, villages, and forests. We also attacked civilian villages to capture recruits and whatever else we could find.” Beah’s prose is dominated by plain and simple descriptive language, a style that portrays one of the story’s more interesting elements: the amazing ability of people to quickly adapt. It is truly an admirable quality for a usually deficient species: “Oh. We’re being raided. Our way of life that we’ve known for years is over and our entire family is dead. We better move on.” Survival. It is captivating. Especially the way Beah shares it. He does so with simple eloquence and an appropriate and refreshing lack of sentimentality and drama that does not betray any severity and immediacy. Whereas Beasts of no Nation has a very stylized voice to accompany the similarly frenzied content, and What is the What takes a more straightforward collage-combining-Memphis Belle-esque everything goes into it approach, Long Way Gone has a very simple narrative voice and structure that realistically compliments the haunting, intense events portrayed. While this approach is abrupt, disjointed, and rough around the edges at times, it rings as absolutely authentic. As in What is the What and Beasts of No Nation, Beah’s story is impressive in how it raises the stakes. Just when you, the reader, think things have gotten so bad that they couldn’t possibly get any worse, they do. And it breaks your heart. All over again.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Lucy

    Heartbreaking. I can't believe people have life experiences like Ishmael Beah. Ishmael, a 27 year-old refugee from Sierra Leone now living in New York City, left his home with his brother and some friends to practice a new rap routine in a neighboring village. He was twelve years old. He never saw his home or his parents again. Rebel forces attacked his village, killing most, and causing the rest to flee. Without a home to return to, he and his peers managed to spend several months wandering from Heartbreaking. I can't believe people have life experiences like Ishmael Beah. Ishmael, a 27 year-old refugee from Sierra Leone now living in New York City, left his home with his brother and some friends to practice a new rap routine in a neighboring village. He was twelve years old. He never saw his home or his parents again. Rebel forces attacked his village, killing most, and causing the rest to flee. Without a home to return to, he and his peers managed to spend several months wandering from village to village but eventually, as they were old enough to be mistaken as soldiers themselves, they became objects of fear. Left starving and hiding in the forests, Ishmael and his group were eventually captured and forced to become soldiers. A boy whose favorite thing was to perform rap songs for people was suddenly cutting throats and shooting anyone that moved. He became a drug addict, as higher ups encouraged the boys to swallow white capsules and sniff cocaine to "give them more energy". Years later, he was fortunate to be chosen by his lieutenant and UNICEF workers and was enrolled in a rehabilitation unit. It took him eight months to fight the drugs out of his system and to turn into a child again. His agony and nightmares about what he had done are intense. He was only fifteen years old. When the fighting moved from the villages into the city, Ishamel knew that he could not become a soldier again. Earlier in the year, after he had completed his rehabilitation, he traveled to New York to represent UNICEF and the youth in Sierre Leone at the UN. From this experience, he contacted one of the women he had met in New York to ask if she would be willing to allow him to stay with her if he could get out of his country. Amazingly, he managed, got to New York and has since graduated from the UN's International School and graduated from a university. What amazes me when I read books like this, because I don't really enjoy them, is how deplorable certain areas of our world really are. We are often told of the blessings we enjoy from living where we live: freedom, prosperity, security. We worry about losing zero percent interest for credit cards and avoiding trans fat, while other people in the world literally watch their best friends get blown up. Certainly our problems and worries are real, but when put into perspective, they are molehills compared to mountains. I'm grateful this boy got another chance. I'm horrified that most do not.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Kavita

    This has to be one of the best-written and engaging memoirs I have ever read. This is my second read of this intensely difficult and heart-rending book and the rating remains the same. The author writes excessively well and despite his wasted years as a child soldier, his erudition and grasp of good language comes through. A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier is a wonderful book that describes the life of a child soldier in Sierra Leone during the Civil War that lasted from 1991 to 2002 (11 This has to be one of the best-written and engaging memoirs I have ever read. This is my second read of this intensely difficult and heart-rending book and the rating remains the same. The author writes excessively well and despite his wasted years as a child soldier, his erudition and grasp of good language comes through. A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier is a wonderful book that describes the life of a child soldier in Sierra Leone during the Civil War that lasted from 1991 to 2002 (11 years!). Beah was only 12 years old at the time. Born in 1980, he was just one year older than I was at the time, which brings it into perspective. While I was enjoying my life, he was losing his entire family and going on the run when rebels suddenly attacked his village. He eventually has to join the army to survive and also had the illusion of taking revenge for his family's death. After three years of being a child soldier, Beah becomes a killer. Filled with drugs, he has no compunctions about killing the enemy and loves to see fear in the eyes of adults. But he is rescued by a children's organisation and given therapy and schooling. He gets lucky that he is welcomed back to the family's fold, but so many of his friends were not and had to go back to the war! The narrative keeps far away from the politics and the 'important' men and women at the centre, and talks more about how common people were affected by civil war in various small ways, each small thing increasing discomfort and danger. Ishmael Beah survives so much that it seems a miracle in itself that he is still alive at all. Beah escapes Sierra Leone to Guinea. My only complaint is that he did not describe the last part of his journey to safety from Guinea to USA. However, the book is totally worth reading and is a powerful showcase of what war can do. There were some intensely moving scenes in the memoir. It was especially wrenching when Beah was so close to seeing his mother and the village was attacked while he watched from a distance. He lost so many friends in the war. I felt sad not just for Beah who ultimately managed to escape the war, but for so many of his friends and comrades about whom we have no information. Those who were left behind as soldiers and those who went back to the war when Freetown was attacked. Did they survive the war? Are they at peace today?

  18. 5 out of 5

    Katy

    This is one of those books that has been on my TBR for years. In fact, it would stare at me from my bookshelf every time I passed by. Enough is enough. As it is a short book by many standards I thought I’d read it in one sitting. But it’s intensity and subject matter left me picking it up, reading a couple of chapters and putting it down. Although this is a short story, it is very intense, very descriptive, and very disturbing. The author is quite a good storyteller and as such his memoir is very This is one of those books that has been on my TBR for years. In fact, it would stare at me from my bookshelf every time I passed by. Enough is enough. As it is a short book by many standards I thought I’d read it in one sitting. But it’s intensity and subject matter left me picking it up, reading a couple of chapters and putting it down. Although this is a short story, it is very intense, very descriptive, and very disturbing. The author is quite a good storyteller and as such his memoir is very moving. He has written it some ten or so years after the events during which he is made to become a child soldier in Sierra Leone. His descriptions are very detailed and mostly tragic, but his ability to inject humour or flippant commentary to lighten the mood is quite helpful. The story is about his being forced to become a child soldier, his escape from that group, his rehabilitation, and then his fleeing the country. At the end of the book is a chronology of the history of Sierra Leone which is also very interesting. Central to the author’s story is the concept of “family” and the many forms it takes, particularly after his family is killed. Despite the life of a child soldier who fights and kills, including many innocents, the author has a deep and recurring strength to find and keep a “family”. This book really only covers a short snippet of the author’s life, and while it is very descriptive of the time period covered, I must admit I was expecting more details about the war. The will to survive was central to their plight, but the extensive use of drugs numbed their senses and encouraged the violence. Just all very tragic. The book ended rather abruptly. But for the references in the book to his life now, (and of course the ability to google his name), you are left somewhat wondering how he ended up “here” from “there”. All in all, it was interesting reading and somewhat educational.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Henry Martin

    This book is the subject of my final project for Human Development psych class, and as such I will be updating the review at a later date. While this story is an important one, for me the book did not go deep inside the issue enough to make any real impact. I had known about child soldiers before, and I expected to read more about the psychological impact, et cetera. I may be too hard on this, because I do not read biographies often, and whenever I read biographies from Africa, I tend to compare This book is the subject of my final project for Human Development psych class, and as such I will be updating the review at a later date. While this story is an important one, for me the book did not go deep inside the issue enough to make any real impact. I had known about child soldiers before, and I expected to read more about the psychological impact, et cetera. I may be too hard on this, because I do not read biographies often, and whenever I read biographies from Africa, I tend to compare them to Nelson Mandela's Long Walk to Freedom. I'll be rereading this soon to dissect the material further. Well, here is what I have to say about it: Armed conflicts around the world have many faces. From insurgent groups and terrorists, to veteran militants and professional combatants, over the years the presence of ongoing wars has left its mark on many generations. The most unfortunate aspect of which, however, is the use of child soldiers in estimated 14 countries around the globe. Currently, the United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF) defines a child soldier as any child under the age of eighteen who takes part in any regular or irregular armed conflict. Previously, this definition only applied to children under the age of fifteen; however, this was amended in 2002. Children and adolescents who participate in armed conflicts, whether voluntarily or involuntarily, are not only exposed to severe violence, but also struggle later on in life once the armed conflict ends. In A Long Way Gone by Ishmael Beah, the author, a former child soldier himself, presents a haunting narrative chronicling his early adolescence years in Sierra Leone armed forces where he participated in the fight against rebel forces from the age of thirteen until the age of sixteen. His subsequent rehabilitation and reintegration into society was, perhaps, more difficult than the armed conflict itself. At the age of twelve, Beah survived a rebel forces attack on a village he was visiting with his friends. Unable to connect with his family members, he, along with a group of other children, embarked on a foot journey across Sierra Leone towards the last remaining safe zone, staying at random villages along the way, where he exchanged labor for food. After several months of traveling marked by imminent peril, he learned that his family was safe at a nearby village, but by the time he arrived there, it was already under attack by the rebels, who executed everyone in sight. The boys, however, manage to escape and seek refuge at another village protected by the national army. Several days later, with the rebels approaching, the army general in charge made all able bodies to join the fight, and Beah, along with his friends, was no exception. Thus, at the age of thirteen, Beah became a child soldier. Already traumatized by the violence he had witnessed from the onset of the war, Beah had seen first-hand what the rebels did to civilians, and he saw the need to take up arms not only as a way to survive, but as a tool of revenge as well. While initially apprehensive and disgusted by the atrocities he participated in, Beah quickly lost empathy and devalued human life. After losing several ‘friends’ during combat, what could have been perceived as PTSD was replaced by indifference and rage, aided by the seemingly endless supply of drugs provided by the army. In between attacks, he lived in a perpetual state of high, smoking marijuana, and sniffing cocaine mixed with gunpowder. The drugs not only numbed his senses and his humanity, they gave him the energy to keep fighting. Over the next three years, he became proficient in killing, and enjoyed executing prisoners of war as he eventually rose to the rank of Junior Lieutenant. In charge of a small unit of fellow soldiers, he organized food raids to nearby villages, and engaged in the same atrocities he despised in the rebels, effectively switching from being a victim of war to becoming the aggressor. In 1996, in an intervention by UNICEF, Beah was removed from active army service at the age of sixteen, and sent to a rehabilitation center in Freetown, the capital of Sierra Leone. Surrounded by fellow child soldiers from both sides of the conflict, he engaged in frequent fights amidst the former enemies. Dealing with drug withdrawals, he shut himself off from the efforts of counselors and the medical staff at the center, longing to return to the frontlines. Through the tireless work of one nurse at the center, Esther, Beah finally accepted that the war was over for him, and started making progress towards rehabilitation. It was at that time that he began to have nightmares of the atrocities he committed. Esther, together with other staff members, helped him establish contact with a lost uncle, who agreed to adopt Beah upon his release. Once he was cleared, Beah moved in with the uncle and slowly reintegrated into society and civilian life. At the recommendation of the rehabilitation center’s director, Beah went for an interview at the United Nations building in Freetown, to apply for a speaking position at an upcoming conference on the plight of child soldiers held at the UN headquarters in New York. Once accepted, Beah had traveled to New York where he, along with other former child soldiers and children affected by wars, gave a speech detailing their experiences. Upon his return to Sierra Leone, Beah enrolled in a secondary school to complete his education, which was cut short by the war. Not long after, however, the rebels and a rogue faction of the army invaded Freetown, and overthrew the government in a coup. Faced with the possibility of either becoming a soldier again, or being killed if he were to be recognized by any of his fellow child soldiers, Beah fled the country to Guinea, and eventually to the United States, where he had a contact from his earlier UN visit. Once in the United States, Beah continued to work with the UN and wrote his memoir, and started a charitable foundation aimed at helping children affected by war to reintegrate into society. The content of the book applies to Human Development in multiple ways. When Beah witnessed the first attack and subsequently became on his own at the age of twelve, his cohort effectively changed from that of his family and friends, to the army, which affected his future interactions with civilians at the rehabilitation center whom he perceived as incapable of understanding his experiences. During his formative years, he was affected by several adverse childhood experiences, which made him more susceptible to drug use and violence later on in life, especially since he did not have the support ecosystem that would help him build up his ACEs resilience score. It also confirms Watson’s theory that kids can be taught to love or hate anything – in this case, Beah, influenced by his peers, adapted to love killing and violence. This was further exacerbated by operant conditioning of reward in the form of drugs, when he did his job as a soldier well. It also illustrates Erikson’s theory of Identity versus Role Confusion, when his role changed from that of a carefree child to a sole provider responsible for his own sustenance. Piaget’s principles of accommodation and assimilation could also apply here, as Beah adjusted his standards of right and wrong as the conflict progressed. Having taken part in atrocities, is it possible for an adolescent to develop into a healthy adult capable of leaving the psychological trauma behind? Beah’s first defense mechanisms to deal with his trauma were Dissociation and Displacement. During the war, he displaced his anger at the loss of his family towards both rebels and civilians alike, essentially targeting the weaker ones to ‘punish’ them for his loss. After the war ended, dissociation became clear, because he had lost track of time and events that had taken place during his years in combat. Because of his involvement in armed conflict, Beah would have struggled with his development of identity as well. The first research article, The Guiltless Guilty: Trauma-Related Guilt and Psychopathology in Former Ugandan Child Soldiers (F. Klassen, S. Reissmann, C. Voss, J. Okello – Child Psychiatry Human Development 2015), shows a clear correlation between child soldier experiences and future psychological disorders, mainly PTSD and Major Depressive Disorders. Interestingly, it shows that the majority of former child soldiers (50.8%) see themselves as victims, while only a minority (19.1%) see themselves as perpetrators. A greater number of traumatic experiences as a self-identified perpetrator is associated with the feeling of guilt, which is a predictor for externalizing psychological problems and resulting in aggression, cruelty, law-breaking, property damage, and conflict with others. Self-identified victims, on the other hand, tend to internalize problems, which correlates with a greater occurrence of major depressive disorders. Applying these results to Beah’s case, it confirms his initial aggression at the rehabilitation center, followed by withdrawals from interactions as he began to internalize his trauma. The second research article, When Combat Prevents PTSD Symptoms – results from a survey with former child soldiers in Northern Uganda (R. Weierstall, I. Schalinski, A. Crombach, T. Hecker, T. Elbert – BMC Psychiatry 2012) explores the link between increased exposure to traumatic events and lower occurrence of PTSD. The study found that there is a clear dose-effect correlation between organized violence, as carried out by child-soldier units, and an appetite for aggression. Appetitive Aggression, such as the enjoyment of a victim struggling, has been found to lower PTSD scores in perpetrators. This, applied to Beah’s case, confirms his transition once he started enjoying killing prisoners of war as he went from a victim to a person responsible for violence and, especially, his lack of PTSD. While this study was limited in its sample, I felt it was relevant and important to include here, because it aids in understanding Beah’s mental health.

  20. 4 out of 5

    laur gluchie

    [10th Grade] DNF ~ 40% Found a scene very triggering and had to ask for a different book.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Himanshu Karmacharya

    The book is a memoir of Ishmael Beah who was forced to become a child soldier and participate in the Sierra Leone Civil War (1991-2002). The author gives a vivid description of his life before the war, and especially during the war. The pain and sufferings that he had to suffer and see others suffer are so distressing to read. He tells his story in the most compelling manner that keeps the readers invested in the book. The book is a gut-wrenching portrait of the horrors of war that will crush you The book is a memoir of Ishmael Beah who was forced to become a child soldier and participate in the Sierra Leone Civil War (1991-2002). The author gives a vivid description of his life before the war, and especially during the war. The pain and sufferings that he had to suffer and see others suffer are so distressing to read. He tells his story in the most compelling manner that keeps the readers invested in the book. The book is a gut-wrenching portrait of the horrors of war that will crush you, unsettle you and even make you question humanity at some points. It is a book that will chill readers to their bones and one that I will not forget for a long-long time.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Louise

    By age 16 Ishmael Beah must have had more scrapes with death than 99% of the people on the planet. The first is how he was not at home when rebel forces destroyed his village and an unknown number of people in it and he fled in search of his family. He describes running, foraging and encounters with friends from his village, tribal leaders and animals. He almost finds his family. There are scenes of daily life in an encampment of government forces. As the rebels took control of more area, being By age 16 Ishmael Beah must have had more scrapes with death than 99% of the people on the planet. The first is how he was not at home when rebel forces destroyed his village and an unknown number of people in it and he fled in search of his family. He describes running, foraging and encounters with friends from his village, tribal leaders and animals. He almost finds his family. There are scenes of daily life in an encampment of government forces. As the rebels took control of more area, being a soldier became necessary to preserve the safety of the people who had taken him in. He was trained to think of revenge for his family by slicing banana trees. He forgets how many times he put this into practice. Then to get the food and drugs needed to stay alive and keep free of physical and emotional pain, soldiering became indistinguishable from looting. His eventual assignment to the UN and what seems to be something like a treatment program is vague. Is security really such low that the patients (if this is what they are) can kill each other and guards too? The book ends in a whirlwind. He sketches getting to NY to speak, with other children of war, at the UN. He returns to Sierra Leone only to meet more war and to flee to Ghana where he leaves the reader hanging. How he gets back to the US, gets adopted and educated and starts a career is not covered.. I read this as many in the extreme right are talking about a civil war. They think it will cleanse the nation of those they don’t agree with. As Beah says, he sought revenge, creating families also seeking revenge creating more revenge seekers. Radicalized Americans have no idea that once unleashed this genie doesn’t get back in the bottle easily. Beah shows how civil war leads only to misery and waste.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Tania

    I listened to this on audio, and I adored the author's accent. I struggled to really emphathize with Ishmael for the first half of the book as the horrors of what was happening with him was so far removed from what I know. I can't even imagine children having to deal with these situations - as a victim, and as a perpetrator. The section that dealt with the rehabilitation of the child soldiers were my favorite section in the book. I admire the people who have the heart and the guts to do these am I listened to this on audio, and I adored the author's accent. I struggled to really emphathize with Ishmael for the first half of the book as the horrors of what was happening with him was so far removed from what I know. I can't even imagine children having to deal with these situations - as a victim, and as a perpetrator. The section that dealt with the rehabilitation of the child soldiers were my favorite section in the book. I admire the people who have the heart and the guts to do these amazing jobs.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Donna

    What an incredibly sad story. This book went full circle as it covered the life of a little boy in war-torn Sierra Leone. It starts out with him happily tucked between two families that love him, then he is ripped out of that little piece of reality . This story covers how the limits one sets for himself in life can be eroded away by life experiences that pick away at that line, blurring it, especially when survival and safety are on the line. Such tragedy.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Tj Barnaba

    The world undergoes problems, a whole load honestly. In this book light is shed on one of these problems. A problem that a part of the world might not have a clue about: the life and plight of a childsoldier. Ishmael Beah a Sierra leone boychild brings out his past in this book. the traumas he went through as a childsoldier and his eventual breakthrough.It was alot of heartgetting content in the book. Ishmael undergoes alot, the shine however fares in the end.

  26. 5 out of 5

    aPriL does feral sometimes

    'A Long Way Gone' by Ishmael Beah describes the horrific wars of Sierra Leone from the point of view of himself when a boy soldier. The wars began for the author after his home village was attacked when he was twelve years old. The wars went on and on. For him, he had a brief lull from the fighting for a year when he turned sixteen, during which time he endured a partial deprogramming and the pain of withdrawal from many drugs, but then the wars began again. He was a refugee once again at age se 'A Long Way Gone' by Ishmael Beah describes the horrific wars of Sierra Leone from the point of view of himself when a boy soldier. The wars began for the author after his home village was attacked when he was twelve years old. The wars went on and on. For him, he had a brief lull from the fighting for a year when he turned sixteen, during which time he endured a partial deprogramming and the pain of withdrawal from many drugs, but then the wars began again. He was a refugee once again at age seventeen. The book is non-fiction. Ismael hides few details. It is a graphic autobiography. Dead bodies were a common sight to the author even before he became a child soldier of Africa while on the run from soldier attacks. At age thirteen Ishmael was starving, having lived for a year by running from village to village in the forest away from the brutal soldiers. He was with a group of children who had all lost their families. Villagers were terrified of roaming children because many of the murderous soldiers were children too, led by military men. So the traveling group of frightened boys stole and hid wherever they could, trying to avoid the rebels and the government soldiers, sleeping often in the forest. But the starving weakened them, the terror wore them down, and they all were grieving, plus, hello, they were children. They didn’t know what the wars were about since most of them had been only in village secondary schools, living with loving parents when the wars started. When Ishmael finally was captured by government soldiers, he became a ‘willing’ soldier at age thirteen, soon killing his first victim by cutting the throat of a rebel in a government boot camp of sorts for child beginners at soldiering. If one of them failed to kill, it was a bullet in the brain immediately, killed in front of the other children. He eventually was killing defenseless babies, children, women and men, but since he was high on drugs 24/7, going without sleep for days, eating irregularly, it was meaningless to him. He attacked civilian villages for food and engaged rebel soldiers in combat, suffering bullet wounds skimming his body all over. Blood and bleeding was a constant. It was nothing to him. He and the other boys laughed at how funny people died and had brutality contests of the worst death. He and his fellow soldiers were fourteen years old, seemingly completely psychotic and mentally ill, under the influence of PTSD and drugs. He was originally raised in a very small village of simple farmers, miners and traders, surrounded by forests and a river, with other small villages nearby (actually, miles apart - people walked a lot, sometimes hitching a ride with the occasional vehicle). They were without steady electricity except that of generators, with some modern conveniences such as radio and tape players, and occasional movies and music videos shown in nearby towns in foreigners’ quarters. Ishmael lived with his father and stepmother, with visits to his mother, and a grandmother also in a nearby village. Everybody knew everybody. They had celebrations, parties, fun nights of storytelling. Ishmael had many school friends near his age, all boys. They played at games, talent shows of dancing and singing. There were feasts of rice and fish soup. They had begun to hear about a war that was happening, but not near them. Occasionally they met refugees, haunted and starving, passing through, warning them to leave. But one day in 1993 when Ishmael had gone to Mattru Jong, a town sixteen miles away from his home for a talent show and dance practice with other boys, rebels attacked his village. The soldiers burned his village and killed or chased away all of the people. After his village was attacked by soldiers, Ishmael was separated from his family. The rebel soldiers went from village to village, killing and burning. He ran and hid in the forest. Eventually he found a brother and four other boys. They did not know if any adults or their other brothers and sisters in their family had lived. Traveling from place to place, stopping wherever to sleep - beneath trees, near villages which were too nervous to accept them or they snuck onto the verandas of nervous strangers, who were fearful of their intentions, to sleep, leaving before dawn. Eventually, the boys were caught at one of the soldier checkpoints which terrorized all who had to pass. Soldiers beat, robbed and shot civilians who were escaping rebel and government raids on their home villages. But they took the children with them unless they were too little. Too little meant younger than eight years old. Ishmael was thirteen. I remember the news stories about these civil wars of Sierra Leone when they were happening. To us Americans, the descriptions of these continuous coups one after another, instigated by military factions in this part of Africa, apparently based on tribal affiliations and led by uneducated psychopathic military sergeants, fought by indoctrinated and drug-stupefied child soldiers from 8 to 15 years old, was freakish and bizarre. Stories of hands being cut off every man in a village as a normal war tactic of these soldiers with machetes sounded beyond insane. This was a real-life dystopia of madness beyond American comprehension. It still is. ‘A Long Way Gone’ sheds insight on how boy soldiers were created and molded into Junior Terminators (but real ones who could easily die). Beah does not describe politics of the wars or why they happened at all. No wonder. These wars, still sporadically erupting here and there in uneasy and impoverished Sierra Leone, are beyond all sanity and reason. From Wikipedia https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sierra_... “Sierra Leone Civil War (1991–2002)” “...in total 1,270 primary schools were destroyed.” In October 1990, owing to mounting pressure from both within and outside the country for political and economic reform, president Momoh set up a constitutional review commission to assess the 1978 one-party constitution. Based on the commission's recommendations a constitution re-establishing a multi-party system was approved by the exclusive APC Parliament by a 60% majority vote, becoming effective on 1 October 1991. There was great suspicion that president Momoh was not serious about his promise of political reform, as APC rule continued to be increasingly marked by abuses of power. The brutal civil war that was going on in neighbouring Liberia played a significant role in the outbreak of fighting in Sierra Leone. Charles Taylor – then leader of the National Patriotic Front of Liberia – reportedly helped form the Revolutionary United Front (RUF) under the command of former Sierra Leonean army corporal Foday Saybana Sankoh, an ethnic Temne from Tonkolili District in Northern Sierra Leone. Sankoh was a British trained former army corporal who had also undergone guerrilla training in Libya. Taylor's aim was for the RUF to attack the bases of Nigerian dominated peacekeeping troops in Sierra Leone who were opposed to his rebel movement in Liberia. On 29 April 1992, a group of young soldiers in the Sierra Leone Army, led by seven army officers — Lieutenant Sahr Sandy, Captain Valentine Strasser, Sergeant Solomon Musa, Captain Komba Mondeh, Lieutenant Tom Nyuma, Captain Julius Maada Bio and Captain Komba Kambo—launched a military coup that sent president Momoh into exile in Guinea, and the young soldiers established the National Provisional Ruling Council (NPRC), with 25-year-old Captain Valentine Strasser as its chairman and Head of State of the country. Sergeant Solomon Musa, a childhood friend of Strasser, became the deputy chairman and deputy leader of the NPRC junta government. Strasser became the world's youngest Head of State when he seized power just three days after his 25th birthday. The NPRC junta established the National Supreme Council of State as the military highest command and final authority in all matters, and was exclusively made up of the highest ranking NPRC soldiers, included Strasser himself and the original soldiers who toppled president Momoh. One of the highest ranking soldiers of the NPRC Junta, Lieutenant Sahr Sandy, a trusted ally of Strasser, was assassinated, allegedly by Major S.I.M. Turay, a key loyalist of ousted president Momoh. A heavily armed military manhunt took place across the country to find Lieutenant Sandy's killer. However, the main suspect, Major S.I.M Turay, went into hiding and fled the country to Guinea, fearing for his life. Dozens of soldiers loyal to the ousted president Momoh were arrested, including Colonel Kahota M. Dumbuya and Major Yayah Turay. Lieutenant Sandy was given a state funeral and his funeral prayers service at the cathedral church in Freetown was attended by many high-ranking soldiers of the NPRC junta, including Strasser himself and NPRC deputy leader Sergeant Solomon Musa. The NPRC Junta immediately suspended the constitution, banned all political parties, limited freedom of speech and freedom of the press and enacted a rule-by-decree policy, in which soldiers were granted unlimited powers of administrative detention without charge or trial, and challenges against such detentions in court were precluded. The NPRC Junta maintained relations with the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and strengthened support for Sierra Leone-based ECOMOG troops fighting in Liberia. On 28 December 1992, an alleged coup attempt against the NPRC government of Strasser, aimed at freeing the detained Colonel Yahya Kanu, Colonel Kahota M.S. Dumbuya and former inspector general of police Bambay Kamara, was foiled. Several Junior army officers led by Sergeant Mohamed Lamin Bangura were identified as being behind the coup plot. The coup plot led to the firing squad execution of seventeen soldiers in the Sierra Leone Army including Colonel Kahota M Dumbuya, Major Yayah Kanu and Sergeant Mohamed Lamin Bangura. Several prominent members of the Momoh government who had been in detention at the Pa Demba Road prison, including former inspector general of police Bambay Kamara, were also executed. On 5 July 1994 the deputy NPRC leader Sergeant Solomon Musa, who was very popular with the general population, particularly in Freetown, was arrested and sent into exile after he was accused of planning a coup to topple Strasser, an accusation Sergeant Musa denied. Strasser replaced Musa as deputy NPRC chairman with Captain Julius Maada Bio, who was instantly promoted by Strasser to Brigadier. The NPRC proved to be nearly as ineffectual as the Momoh-led APC government in repelling the RUF. More and more of the country fell to RUF fighters, and by 1994 they held much of the diamond-rich Eastern Province and were at the edge of Freetown. In response, the NPRC hired several hundred mercenaries from the private firm Executive Outcomes. Within a month they had driven RUF fighters back to enclaves along Sierra Leone's borders, and cleared the RUF from the Kono diamond-producing areas of Sierra Leone. With Strasser's two most senior NPRC allies and commanders Lieutenant Sahr Sandy and Lieutenant Solomon Musa no longer around to defend him, Strasser's leadership within the NPRC Supreme Council of State was not considered much stronger. On 16 January 1996, after about four years in power, Strasser was arrested in a palace coup at the Defence Headquarters in Freetown by his fellow NPRC soldiers. Strasser was immediately flown into exile in a military helicopter to Conakry, Guinea. In his first public broadcast to the nation following the 1996 coup, Brigadier Bio stated that his support for returning Sierra Leone to a democratically elected civilian government and his commitment to ending the civil war were his motivations for the coup. Promises of a return to civilian rule were fulfilled by Bio, who handed power over to Ahmad Tejan Kabbah, of the Sierra Leone People's Party (SLPP), after the conclusion of elections in early 1996. President Kabbah took power with a great promise of ending the civil war. President Kabbah opened dialogue with the RUF and invited RUF leader Foday Sankoh for peace negotiations. On 25 May 1997, seventeen soldiers in the Sierra Leone army led by Corporal Tamba Gborie, loyal to the detained Major General Johnny Paul Koroma, launched a military coup which sent President Kabbah into exile in Guinea and they established the Armed Forces Revolutionary Council (AFRC). Corporal Gborie quickly went to the Sierra Leone Broadcasting Services headquarters in New England, Freetown to announce the coup to a shocked nation and to alert all soldiers across the country to report for guard duty. The soldiers immediately released Koroma from prison and installed him as their chairman and Head of State. Koroma suspended the constitution, banned demonstrations, shut down all private radio stations in the country and invited the RUF to join the new junta government, with its leader Foday Sankoh as the Vice-Chairman of the new AFRC-RUF coalition junta government. Within days, Freetown was overwhelmed by the presence of the RUF combatants who came to the city in thousands. The Kamajors, a group of traditional fighters mostly from the Mende ethnic group under the command of deputy Defence Minister Samuel Hinga Norman, remained loyal to President Kabbah and defended the Southern part of Sierra Leone from the soldiers.” And on and on....

  27. 4 out of 5

    Toai Trinh

    Ishmael Beah’s A Long Way Gone tells the story of himself, a young teen in the midst of political upheaval, where rebels everywhere are killing many of the innocent civilians of Africa. The book is set in Sierra Leone, where many African rebels were causing chaos at every town they passed by. Hoping to survive and maybe reunite with his family, Ishmael runs around Sierra Leone, where rebels hope to recruit young Africans like Ishmael himself. Ishmael wanders around Sierra Leone, examining the p Ishmael Beah’s A Long Way Gone tells the story of himself, a young teen in the midst of political upheaval, where rebels everywhere are killing many of the innocent civilians of Africa. The book is set in Sierra Leone, where many African rebels were causing chaos at every town they passed by. Hoping to survive and maybe reunite with his family, Ishmael runs around Sierra Leone, where rebels hope to recruit young Africans like Ishmael himself. Ishmael wanders around Sierra Leone, examining the paranoia that the war has caused for the people, who usually are very peaceful, but at last gets caught by a rebel and forced to become a boy soldier, exposing himself to the savagery of war. The book exposes us to the savagery of war, which causes Ishmael, a previous happy-go-lucky person, into a killing machine, unappalled by the actions he does to innocent civilians. In one memorable moment, after leaving Mattru Jong, Ishmael’s grandmother’s homeland, Ishmael and his group of friends; Junior, Mohomad, and Tulloi; all head home with news that it has been attacked. While walking the six miles home, they hear the sound of a car, believing it to be a rebel, they ide behind a bush. The vehicle stops right in front of them, and the driver vomits blood, crying at the fact that he barely survived the attacks, his arms bleeding as if he had been shot not so long ago. A woman comes, also bloody, and asks for him to stand and opens up the doors of the car, revealing the bodies of his whole family, lifeless with their blood all over the ceiling and seats. Later, a man runs with the body of his son in his arms, rushing to the nearest hospital, uttering the words, “I will get you to the hospital, my boy, and everything will be fine” repeatedly, clinging onto the false sense of hope that kept him running. Lastly, a women walks towards Ishmael with a body on her back, shot dead as the women was running away. She halts at the center of the road, removing her child, a girl with her eyes open and an interrupted innocent smile on her face. With the bullet barely sticking out of the baby, the mother clings onto her child and rocks her, unable to shed tears or utter a single word due to fear and shock. Ultimately, the story of Ishmael is a story of the transformation of a boy, venturing away from his bare and innocent self, turning into an emotionless machine, hurting everyone and everything around him, and finally reverting back to normal through the kind care of people. It all adds up to the tale of the savagery of war, an element that can affect anyone which tells us that not only is war terrible as a whole, but terrible all the way down to the individual level. A Long Way Gone tells that very well, telling us that war causes loneliness and with loneliness comes the need to have revenge, causing people to blinded by rage. People are apathetic to issues outside their own environment, choosing to believe that it doesn’t really affect them. A Long Way Gone shows the people what life is like for them, and how they god through ordeals and how bad their situation is and because of that, I recommend it to anyone that wants to open their eyes to problems outside their community. This book is an eye opener for it shows how horrific the war is in Africa and how it effects the person, causing Ishmael to go from a young boy who loves rap music, into a killing machine while he works for the army as a boy soldier. It shows the terrors of war and that sometimes there is no happy ever after, exemplified when Ishmael never actually reunites with his father, mother and his brother, Junior. It talks about the experiences of being a boy soldier, which introduces Ishmael to the cruel side of the world, making him execute many people and introducing him to drugs. But it also shows of how he got out of the loop, becoming his innocent self once again, with the help of a nurse and UNICEF, and spreading his story to people all over the world to make sure something is done so that no child has to go through what he went through. From reading this book, I learned that life isn’t fair and that I should feel blessed for the childhood I have here in San Jose. People have it worse in other parts of the world, not even having enough resources to feed yourself, let alone your whole family. We’re not always under constant threat of having rebels come into our city and burning it to the ground here in San Jose, but in other parts of the world, children are growing up every day under these circumstances, living in constant fear that maybe tomorrow everything around them could gone. This book has shown me that San Jose isn’t the only city in the world and that there are other places that have it much worse, influencing me to be blessed for having a peaceful childhood, where the only fear I had was the monster under my bed, not the fear of wondering when the next meal would be. This book made me imagine brutal things, the vivid imagery of people dying gruesome deaths, blood spattering everywhere. Countless nights after reading this book I have had these images in my dreams, with the way that Ishmael describes the events burned into my head. I was given the feeling of devastation, being happy one minute and torn with grief the next, as if I was on a rollercoaster ride of emotions. This book drew me in, placing me as Ishmael in his experiences, making me feel as if I was the one facing all of these ordeals and truly experiencing what Ishmael had to go through. It made me feel a wide array of emotions, from heartbreak to joy, laughter to sadness. Throughout all these emotions, I couldn’t put this book down, piquing my interest with every word of the book. I’ve probably read a handful of books in my life, with this one being the one that opened my eyes to the problems of the world and taught me how to be blessed for and cherish everything I have.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Nick

    A glimpse into the world of the child soldier. For two years as a young teenager, the author was forcibly recruited into a Sierra Leonean rebel army which exploited children for use as soldiers. Under age, under equipped and under trained, placed into situations young teenagers should never be placed into, their lives were frequently cut short. Those that survived this brutal and violent universe live with the trauma for the rest of their lives. This important memoir shows the appalling depths h A glimpse into the world of the child soldier. For two years as a young teenager, the author was forcibly recruited into a Sierra Leonean rebel army which exploited children for use as soldiers. Under age, under equipped and under trained, placed into situations young teenagers should never be placed into, their lives were frequently cut short. Those that survived this brutal and violent universe live with the trauma for the rest of their lives. This important memoir shows the appalling depths humans can reach.

  29. 5 out of 5

    BAM Endlessly Booked

    How horrific! The amount of trauma both incurred and inflicted is immeasurable. What these boys have experienced simply to have their needs met is no way to live. Ishmael is the exception not the rule. 2017 Lenten nonfiction Buddy Reading Challenge book # 37

  30. 5 out of 5

    Shannon (Giraffe Days)

    In the 1990s Sierra Leone, a small country in West Africa, found itself sinking into a very bloody internal war between corrupt government soldiers and armed rebels. It lasted at least ten years, and while now the country is stable and has a booming tourism industry, during the war countless innocent civilians were slaughtered and hundreds of boys were recruited by both sides. Ishmael is twelve when the rebels arrive at his small mining town in the south-west, not so far from the ocean. He is wit In the 1990s Sierra Leone, a small country in West Africa, found itself sinking into a very bloody internal war between corrupt government soldiers and armed rebels. It lasted at least ten years, and while now the country is stable and has a booming tourism industry, during the war countless innocent civilians were slaughtered and hundreds of boys were recruited by both sides. Ishmael is twelve when the rebels arrive at his small mining town in the south-west, not so far from the ocean. He is with his older brother, Junior, and their friends at a nearby town when the attack happens, and he is separated from his parents and younger brother, never to see them again. People are mowed down as they run, fleeing one town for another with the rebels not far behind. So begins a long journey for Ishmael as he tries to survive and stay alive. Food is hard to come by, and he has so many near-misses with death - not just at the hands of the rebels, but other villagers who are suspicious of him - that if this weren't a memoir you would never believe it. More than once, the tapes of American rap music save his life. Ironic, huh? He is recruited into the government's army, given an AK-47 and becomes addicted to several kinds of drugs, including cocaine, that the lieutenant hands out. He hardly sleeps, has loads of energy, and his migraines have stopped. He becomes a junior sergeant and leads his small unit of boys - some of these recruited boys are as young as 7 and can barely lift their guns - into laying ambushes and attacks on villages. At one point, he encounters a rebel group of boys just like his, and like all the other squirmishes it is a fight to the death. A Long Way Gone tells Ishmael's story, from the moment his home is destroyed, to being rehabilitated, representing other child soldiers at a UN conference and finally finding a new home in America. It is an interesting read on many levels. It is at the same time both simplistic and complex, distant and intense, coldly factual and emotionally harrowing. Throughout it all I kept reminding myself, "He's twelve"; "He's thirteen" and so on. Sometimes Bael's writing has the mature tone of a reflective adult, but generally the style is reminiscent of a report a 15-year-old might make for school. While this is a simplistic way to write anything, it could also be the only way he could write it. It is fact, not embellishment. He was deeply scarred and traumatised by all the things he'd seen and done during the war, and that's not something you can write fancifully about. It also renders it coldly brutal in its accuracy. Some people have complained that if it had delved into the political etc. situation, the circumstances behind the war, it would have been more interesting. I disagree, though it certainly made me curious about what was going on. This is not that type of memoir, and if that's what they were expecting then they have some very strange expectations of former child soldiers. On the contrary, this is the side of the war you usually don't get to see. It humanises it, in a way, and desensitises it. It's one thing to see this kind of thing on the telly, another to be pulled into a personal story as sad and frightening as this one. The very fact of the often unemotional writing (not dry or dull, but with a protective layer to shield the author) makes it all the more believable and heart-breaking. His speech at the UN conference brought tears to my eyes - not because it was poetic or profound or a great piece of oratory skill, but because it was straight-forward, from the mouth of a child who had lived through a kind of hell. His experiences didn't exactly make him older - not at first - but they certainly made him wild for a time. Bael doesn't dwell too much on his experiences as a soldier, it is more a balanced account of how he got into such a situation, what it did to him, and how he got out of it. Even then, he doesn't really explain how he shook off the mentality of a child soldier and became "rehabilitated". He also doesn't explain how he made it to America the second time - here I, perhaps suspiciously, feel US immigration wouldn't want that in a book; or maybe Bael just didn't feel it had any relevance. Still, I was taken rather by surprised when the story stopped. In short, A Long Way Gone is a powerful, visceral account of what happens when you give a scared but resourceful boy a big fucking gun and teach him how to kill people and be proud of it. It also shows with painful clarity the truly pointless aspects of this kind of war - of any war, true, but this kind especially, where those involved lose their sense of humanity and feel nothing for killing innocent bystanders, or burning people in their homes, or raping, looting and terrifying, all in the name of freeing the country from someone else doing exactly the same things. It makes no sense. It is hell on earth.

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