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

4.4 588
by Ishmael Beah

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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


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

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.

Editorial Reviews

By now, nearly every habitual news watcher knows that child soldiers are being used as human pawns in dozens of conflicts around the world. Indeed, the figures are staggering: As many as 300,000 children are currently fighting in wars. Behind these distressing figures, of course, are real-life children, some as young as 8. Journalistic reconstructions can take us only so far into the lives of these boys; we had to wait for this firsthand account by Sierra Leone native Ishmael Beah to truly understand this ghastly, life-shattering practice. Beah was only 13 when he was handed an AK-47 and sent off to the killing fields. A bracing memoir about a survivor in a world gone mad.
Publishers Weekly
This absorbing account by a young man who, as a boy of 12, gets swept up in Sierra Leone's civil war goes beyond even the best journalistic efforts in revealing the life and mind of a child abducted into the horrors of warfare. Beah's harrowing journey transforms him overnight from a child enthralled by American hip-hop music and dance to an internal refugee bereft of family, wandering from village to village in a country grown deeply divided by the indiscriminate atrocities of unruly, sociopathic rebel and army forces. Beah then finds himself in the army-in a drug-filled life of casual mass slaughter that lasts until he is 15, when he's brought to a rehabilitation center sponsored by UNICEF and partnering NGOs. The process marks out Beah as a gifted spokesman for the center's work after his "repatriation" to civilian life in the capital, where he lives with his family and a distant uncle. When the war finally engulfs the capital, it sends 17-year-old Beah fleeing again, this time to the U.S., where he now lives. (Beah graduated from Oberlin College in 2004.) Told in clear, accessible language by a young writer with a gifted literary voice, this memoir seems destined to become a classic firsthand account of war and the ongoing plight of child soldiers in conflicts worldwide. (Feb.) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
VOYA - Rayna Patton
This remarkable firsthand account shows how civil strife destroys lives. Ishmael Beah was twelve years old in 1993 when insurrection tore apart his native country of Sierra Leone. Separated from his family, Ishmael joined up with other traumatized young boys wandering the countryside, looking for family, food, and shelter. Often they were cruelly treated by frightened villagers, but occasionally they encountered selfless kindness. Day after day, they witnessed atrocities and narrowly escaped death. Months later, the starving thirteen-year-old was recruited into a government militia, and for the next two years, fought alongside other child soldiers. Equipped with an AK-47 and morally anaesthetized with hard drugs, Beah became a remorseless killer. The horrors he saw or perpetrated still haunt him and will be difficult for the reader to forget. By great good fortune, he was rescued by a UNICEF team and slowly rehabilitated in a group home for child soldiers. A lucky visit to the United States to address a UN committee gave him a friend in New York and an eventual refuge when Sierra Leone was again wracked by a military coup in 1997. Beah writes his story with painful honesty, horrifying detail, and touches of remarkable lyricism. This young writer has a bright future. Unfortunately his second-language English is still sometimes clumsy and syntactically awkward; more skillful editing might have made the book a classic. As children fight on in dreadful wars around the globe, Beah's story is a must for every school collection.
Kirkus Reviews
The survivor of a dirty war in starkest Africa recounts his transition from 12-year-old orphan to killing machine. To emerge from Sierra Leone's malignant civil conflict and eventually graduate from college in the U.S. marks Beah as very unusual, if not unique. His memoir seeks to illuminate the process that created, and continues to create, one of the most pitiable yet universally feared products of modern warfare: the boy soldier. It illustrates how, in African nations under the stress of open civil war, youthful males cluster in packs for self-protection, fleeing the military forces of all sides, distrusted and persecuted by strangers they encounter, until they are killed or commandeered as recruits. Nearly half the text deals with Beah's life as a fugitive after marauding rebel troops ravaged his home village. He fled with several other boys, but they were separated during another attack and he was forced to spend several weeks alone in the bush; the loneliness there instilled a craving for human companionship of any type. The regular military finally snared Beah and some new companions, telling them they must train as soldiers or die. The rebels, they were assured, were responsible for killing their families and destroying their homes; as soldiers, they would exact manly revenge and serve the nation. Cocaine, marijuana and painkillers became the boys' mind-numbing daily diet. They were indoctrinated by practicing mayhem on tethered prisoners and became willing experts at lying in ambush with their aging AK-47 rifles. For them, killing human beings had replaced ordinary child's play. Beah's halting narrative has confusing time shifts, but it's hideously effective in conveying theessential horror of his experiences.
From the Publisher

“Actor Dominic Hoffman's restrained voice, edged with sadness and poignancy, conveys Beah's difficult emotional state.” —Library Journal

“This absorbing account by a young man who, as a boy of 12, gets swept up in Sierra Leone's civil war goes beyond even the best journalistic efforts in revealing the life and mind of a child abducted into the horrors of warfare...Told in clear, accessible language by a young writer with a gifted literary voice, this memoir seems destined to become a classic firsthand account of war and the ongoing plight of child soldiers in conflicts worldwide.” —Publishers Weekly (starred review)

“Beah's memoir, A Long Way Gone (Farrar, Straus and Giroux), is unforgettable testimony that Africa's children--millions of them dying and orphaned by preventable diseases, hundreds of thousands of them forced into battle--have eyes to see and voices to tell what has happened. And what voices! How is it possible that 26-year-old Beah, a nonnative English speaker, separated from his family at age 12, taught to maim and to kill at 13, can sound such notes of ­family happiness, of friendship under duress, of quiet horror? No outsider could have written this book, and it's hard to imagine that many ­insiders could do so with such acute vision, stark language, and tenderness. It is a heart-rending achievement.” —Melissa Fay Greene, Elle Magazine

“Hideously effective in conveying the essential horror of his experiences.” —Kirkus Reviews

Extraordinary . . . A ferocious and desolate account of how ordinary children were turned into professional killers.” —The Guardian UK

A Long Way Gone is one of the most important war stories of our generation. The arming of children is among the greatest evils of the modern world, and yet we know so little about it because the children themselves are swallowed up by the very wars they are forced to wage. Ishmael Beah has not only emerged intact from this chaos, he has become one of its most eloquent chroniclers. We ignore his message at our peril.” —Sebastian Junger, author of A Death in Belmont and A Perfect Storm

This is a beautifully written book about a shocking war and the children who were forced to fight it. Ishmael Beah describes the unthinkable in calm, unforgettable language; his memoir is an important testament to the children elsewhere who continue to be conscripted into armies and militias.” —Steve Coll, author of Ghost Wars: The Secret History of the CIA, Afghanistan, and Bin Laden, from the Soviet Invasion to September 10, 2001, winner of the 2005 Pulitzer Prize for general Nonfiction

This is a wrenching, beautiful, and mesmerizing tale. Beah's amazing saga provides a haunting lesson about how gentle folks can be capable of great brutalities as well goodness and courage. It will leave you breathless.” —Walter Isaacson, author of Benjamin Franklin: An American Life

A Long Way Gone hits you hard in the gut with Sierra Leone's unimaginable brutality and then it touches your soul with unexpected acts of kindness. Ishmael Beah's story tears your heart to pieces and then forces you to put it back together again, because if Beah can emerge from such horror with his humanity in tact, it's the least you can do.” —Jeannette Walls, author of The Glass Castle: A Memoir

Library Journal
★ 01/01/2016
It is common in war memoirs to read stories of soldiers leaving for war as 18-year-old boys and returning aged. In the case of savage wars occurring in Africa, children who are forced into service and often drugged are used as pawns in urban combat. Beah portrays a particularly ugly side of battle.

Product Details

Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Publication date:
Edition description:
First Edition
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
8.28(w) x 5.62(h) x 0.63(d)
Age Range:
14 - 18 Years

Read an Excerpt

A Long Way Gone

Memoirs of a Boy Soldier
By Ishmael Beah

Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Copyright © 2007 Ishmael Beah All right reserved.

Chapter One

There were all kinds of stories told about the war that made it sound as if it was happening in a faraway and different land. It wasn't until refugees started passing through our town that we began to see that it was actually taking place in our country. Families who had walked hundreds of miles told how relatives had been killed and their houses burned. Some people felt sorry for them and offered them places to stay, but most of the refugees refused, because they said the war would eventually reach our town. The children of these families wouldn't look at us, and they jumped at the sound of chopping wood or as stones landed on the tin roofs flung by children hunting birds with slingshots. The adults among these children from the war zones would be lost in their thoughts during conversations with the elders of my town. Apart from their fatigue and malnourishment, it was evident they had seen something that plagued their minds, something that we would refuse to accept if they told us all of it. At times I thought that some of the stories the passersby told were exaggerated. The only wars I knew of were those that I had read about in books or seen in movies such as Rambo: First Blood, and the one in neighboring Liberia that I had heard about on the BBC news. My imagination at ten years old didn't have the capacity to grasp what had taken away the happiness of the refugees.

The first time that I was touched by war I was twelve. It was in January of 1993. I left home with Junior, my older brother, and our friend Talloi, both a year older than I, to go to the town of Mattru Jong, to participate in our friends' talent show. Mohamed, my best friend, couldn't come because he and his father were renovating their thatched-roof kitchen that day. The four of us had started a rap and dance group when I was eight. We were first introduced to rap music during one of our visits to Mobimbi, a quarter where the foreigners who worked for the same American company as my father lived. We often went to Mobimbi to swim in a pool and watch the huge color television and the white people who crowded the visitors' recreational area. One evening a music video that consisted of a bunch of young black fellows talking really fast came on the television. The four of us sat there mesmerized by the song, trying to understand what the black fellows were saying. At the end of the video, some letters came up at the bottom of the screen. They read "Sugarhill Gang, 'Rapper's Delight.'" Junior quickly wrote it down on a piece of paper. After that, we came to the quarters every other weekend to study that kind of music on television. We didn't know what it was called then, but I was impressed with the fact that the black fellows knew how to speak English really fast, and to the beat.

Later on, when Junior went to secondary school, he befriended some boys who taught him more about foreign music and dance. During holidays, he brought me cassettes and taught my friends and me how to dance to what we came to know as hip- hop. I loved the dance, and particularly enjoyed learning the lyrics, because they were poetic and it improved my vocabulary. One afternoon, Father came home while Junior, Mohamed, Talloi, and I were learning the verse of "I Know You Got Soul" by Eric B. & Rakim. He stood by the door of our clay brick and tin roof house laughing and then asked, "Can you even understand what you are saying?" He left before Junior could answer. He sat in a hammock under the shade of the mango, guava, and orange trees and tuned his radio to the BBC news.

"Now, this is good English, the kind that you should be listening to," he shouted from the yard.

While Father listened to the news, Junior taught us how to move our feet to the beat. We alternately moved our right and then our left feet to the front and back, and simultaneously did the same with our arms, shaking our upper bodies and heads. "This move is called the running man," Junior said. Afterward, we would practice miming the rap songs we had memorized. Before we parted to carry out our various evening chores of fetching water and cleaning lamps, we would say "Peace, son" or "I'm out," phrases we had picked up from the rap lyrics. Outside, the evening music of birds and crickets would commence.

On the morning that we left for Mattru Jong, we loaded our backpacks with notebooks of lyrics we were working on and stuffed our pockets with cassettes of rap albums. In those days we wore baggy jeans, and underneath them we had soccer shorts and sweatpants for dancing. Under our long-sleeved shirts we had sleeveless undershirts, T-shirts, and soccer jerseys. We wore three pairs of socks that we pulled down and folded to make our crapes* look puffy. When it got too hot in the day, we took some of the clothes off and carried them on our shoulders. They were fashionable, and we had no idea that this unusual way of dressing was going to benefit us. Since we intended to return the next day, we didn't say goodbye or tell anyone where we were going. We didn't know that we were leaving home, never to return.

To save money, we decided to walk the sixteen miles to Mattru Jong. It was a beautiful summer day, the sun wasn't too hot, and the walk didn't feel long either, as we chatted about all kinds of things, mocked and chased each other. We carried slingshots that we used to stone birds and chase the monkeys that tried to cross the main dirt road. We stopped at several rivers to swim. At one river that had a bridge across it, we heard a passenger vehicle in the distance and decided to get out of the water and see if we could catch a free ride. I got out before Junior and Talloi, and ran across the bridge with their clothes. They thought they could catch up with me before the vehicle reached the bridge, but upon realizing that it was impossible, they started running back to the river, and just when they were in the middle of the bridge, the vehicle caught up to them. The girls in the truck laughed and the driver tapped his horn. It was funny, and for the rest of the trip they tried to get me back for what I had done, but they failed.

We arrived at Kabati, my grandmother's village, around two in the afternoon. Mamie Kpana was the name that my grandmother was known by. She was tall and her perfectly long face complemented her beautiful cheekbones and big brown eyes. She always stood with her hands either on her hips or on her head. By looking at her, I could see where my mother had gotten her beautiful dark skin, extremely white teeth, and the translucent creases on her neck. My grandfather or kamor-teacher, as everyone called him-was a well-known local Arabic scholar and healer in the village and beyond.

At Kabati, we ate, rested a bit, and started the last six miles. Grandmother wanted us to spend the night, but we told her that we would be back the following day.

"How is that father of yours treating you these days?" she asked in a sweet voice that was laden with worry.

"Why are you going to Mattru Jong, if not for school? And why do you look so skinny?" she continued asking, but we evaded her questions. She followed us to the edge of the village and watched as we descended the hill, switching her walking stick to her left hand so that she could wave us off with her right hand, a sign of good luck.

We arrived in Mattru Jong a couple of hours later and met up with old friends, Gibrilla, Kaloko, and Khalilou. That night we went out to Bo Road, where street vendors sold food late into the night. We bought boiled groundnut and ate it as we conversed about what we were going to do the next day, made plans to see the space for the talent show and practice. We stayed in the verandah room of Khalilou's house. The room was small and had a tiny bed, so the four of us (Gibrilla and Kaloko went back to their houses) slept in the same bed, lying across with our feet hanging. I was able to fold my feet in a little more since I was shorter and smaller than all the other boys.

The next day Junior, Talloi, and I stayed at Khalilou's house and waited for our friends to return from school at around 2:00 p.m. But they came home early. I was cleaning my crapes and counting for Junior and Talloi, who were having a push-up competition. Gibrilla and Kaloko walked onto the verandah and joined the competition. Talloi, breathing hard and speaking slowly, asked why they were back. Gibrilla explained that the teachers had told them that the rebels had attacked Mogbwemo, our home. School had been canceled until further notice. We stopped what we were doing.

According to the teachers, the rebels had attacked the mining areas in the afternoon. The sudden outburst of gunfire had caused people to run for their lives in different directions. Fathers had come running from their workplaces, only to stand in front of their empty houses with no indication of where their families had gone. Mothers wept as they ran toward schools, rivers, and water taps to look for their children. Children ran home to look for parents who were wandering the streets in search of them. And as the gunfire intensified, people gave up looking for their loved ones and ran out of town.

"This town will be next, according to the teachers." Gibrilla lifted himself from the cement floor. Junior, Talloi, and I took our backpacks and headed to the wharf with our friends. There, people were arriving from all over the mining area. Some we knew, but they couldn't tell us the whereabouts of our families. They said the attack had been too sudden, too chaotic; that everyone had fled in different directions in total confusion.

For more than three hours, we stayed at the wharf, anxiously waiting and expecting either to see our families or to talk to someone who had seen them. But there was no news of them, and after a while we didn't know any of the people who came across the river. The day seemed oddly normal. The sun peacefully sailed through the white clouds, birds sang from treetops, the trees danced to the quiet wind. I still couldn't believe that the war had actually reached our home. It is impossible, I thought. When we left home the day before, there had been no indication the rebels were anywhere near.

"What are you going to do?" Gibrilla asked us. We were all quiet for a while, and then Talloi broke the silence. "We must go back and see if we can find our families before it is too late."

Junior and I nodded in agreement.

Just three days earlier, I had seen my father walking slowly from work. His hard hat was under his arm and his long face was sweating from the hot afternoon sun. I was sitting on the verandah. I had not seen him for a while, as another stepmother had destroyed our relationship again. But that morning my father smiled at me as he came up the steps. He examined my face, and his lips were about to utter something, when my stepmother came out. He looked away, then at my stepmother, who pretended not to see me. They quietly went into the parlor. I held back my tears and left the verandah to meet with Junior at the junction where we waited for the lorry. We were on our way to see our mother in the next town about three miles away. When our father had paid for our school, we had seen her on weekends over the holidays when we were back home. Now that he refused to pay, we visited her every two or three days. That afternoon we met Mother at the market and walked with her as she purchased ingredients to cook for us. Her face was dull at first, but as soon as she hugged us, she brightened up. She told us that our little brother, Ibrahim, was at school and that we would go get him on our way from the market. She held our hands as we walked, and every so often she would turn around as if to see whether we were still with her.

As we walked to our little brother's school, Mother turned to us and said, "I am sorry I do not have enough money to put you boys back in school at this point. I am working on it." She paused and then asked, "How is your father these days?"

"He seems all right. I saw him this afternoon," I replied. Junior didn't say anything.

Mother looked him directly in the eyes and said, "Your father is a good man and he loves you very much. He just seems to attract the wrong stepmothers for you boys."

When we got to the school, our little brother was in the yard playing soccer with his friends. He was eight and pretty good for his age. As soon as he saw us, he came running, throwing himself on us. He measured himself against me to see if he had gotten taller than me. Mother laughed. My little brother's small round face glowed, and sweat formed around the creases he had on his neck, just like my mother's. All four of us walked to Mother's house. I held my little brother's hand, and he told me about school and challenged me to a soccer game later in the evening. My mother was single and devoted herself to taking care of Ibrahim. She said he sometimes asked about our father. When Junior and I were away in school, she had taken Ibrahim to see him a few times, and each time she had cried when my father hugged Ibrahim, because they were both so happy to see each other. My mother seemed lost in her thoughts, smiling as she relived the moments.

Two days after that visit, we had left home. As we now stood at the wharf in Mattru Jong, I could visualize my father holding his hard hat and running back home from work, and my mother, weeping and running to my little brother's school. A sinking feeling overtook me.

Junior, Talloi, and I jumped into a canoe and sadly waved to our friends as the canoe pulled away from the shores of Mattru Jong. As we landed on the other side of the river, more and more people were arriving in haste. We started walking, and a woman carrying her flip-flops on her head spoke without looking at us: "Too much blood has been spilled where you are going. Even the good spirits have fled from that place." She walked past us. In the bushes along the river, the strained voices of women cried out, "Nguwor gbor mu ma oo," God help us, and screamed the names of their children: "Yusufu, Jabu, Foday ..." We saw children walking by themselves, shirtless, in their underwear, following the crowd. "Nya nje oo, nya keke oo," my mother, my father, the children were crying. There were also dogs running, in between the crowds of people, who were still running, even though far away from harm. The dogs sniffed the air, looking for their owners. My veins tightened.

We had walked six miles and were now at Kabati, Grandmother's village. It was deserted. All that was left were footprints in the sand leading toward the dense forest that spread out beyond the village.

As evening approached, people started arriving from the mining area. Their whispers, the cries of little children seeking lost parents and tired of walking, and the wails of hungry babies replaced the evening songs of crickets and birds. We sat on Grandmother's verandah, waiting and listening.

"Do you guys think it is a good idea to go back to Mogbwemo?" Junior asked. But before either of us had a chance to answer, a Volkswagen roared in the distance and all the people walking on the road ran into the nearby bushes. We ran, too, but didn't go that far. My heart pounded and my breathing intensified. The vehicle stopped in front of my grandmother's house, and from where we lay, we could see that whoever was inside the car was not armed. As we, and others, emerged from the bushes, we saw a man run from the driver's seat to the sidewalk, where he vomited blood. His arm was bleeding. When he stopped vomiting, he began to cry. It was the first time I had seen a grown man cry like a child, and I felt a sting in my heart. A woman put her arms around the man and begged him to stand up. He got to his feet and walked toward the van. When he opened the door opposite the driver's, a woman who was leaning against it fell to the ground. Blood was coming out of her ears. People covered the eyes of their children.

In the back of the van were three more dead bodies, two girls and a boy, and their blood was all over the seats and the ceiling of the van. I wanted to move away from what I was seeing, but couldn't. My feet went numb and my entire body froze. Later we learned that the man had tried to escape with his family and the rebels had shot at his vehicle, killing all his family. The only thing that consoled him, for a few seconds at least, was when the woman who had embraced him, and now cried with him, told him that at least he would have the chance to bury them. He would always know where they were laid to rest, she said. She seemed to know a little more about war than the rest of us.


Excerpted from A Long Way Gone by Ishmael Beah Copyright © 2007 by Ishmael Beah. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Meet the Author

Ishmael Beah was born in 1980 in Sierra Leone, West Africa. His writing has appeared in The New York Times Magazine, Vespertine Press, LIT, Parabola, and numerous academic journals. He is a UNICEF Ambassador and Advocate for Children Affected by War; a member of the Human Rights Watch Children's Rights Advisory Committee; an advisory board member at the Center for the Study of Youth and Political Violence at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville; visiting scholar at the Center for International Conflict Resolution at Columbia University; visiting Senior Research Fellow at the Center for the Study of Genocide, Conflict Resolution, and Human Rights at Rutgers University; cofounder of the Network of Young People Affected by War (NYPAW); and president of the Ishmael Beah Foundation. He has spoken before the United Nations, the Council on Foreign Relations, and many panels on the effects of war on children. His book A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier has been published in over thirty languages and was nominated for a Quill Award in 2007. Time magazine named the book as one of the top ten nonfiction books of 2007, ranking it at number three. Ishmael Beah is a graduate of Oberlin College with a B.A. in Political Science and resides in Brooklyn, New York. He is currently completing a novel set in his home country of Sierra Leone.

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A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier 4.4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 588 reviews.
iluvvideo More than 1 year ago
This book chronicles the childhood of young Ishmael in Sierra Leone. A fairly normal childhood until he is forced to run into the jungle as soldiers attack his village killing everyone they can catch and looting and burning the rest. For a short while flanked by others his age in similar situations he survives life constantly on the run. Then he is captured by a group of soldiers and retrained to think right and to be a soldier in the conflict. Some of the 'retrainee' soldiers are only 8 or 9 years old! Are these rebels trying to overthrow the government? Or the army protecting the citizens? Turns out not to matter. Each side is equally brutal and vicious. There is no good guys, only bad. He learns to fight, shoot and kill as well as the real soldiers. And to help avoid any feelings or reflection on his activities he is given access to various drugs to 'amp' him up further. By the grace of whatever higher power you choose to believe in, he gets selected for deprogramming and entry back into society. Not an easy task, but due to the incredible efforts of UNICEF and others it is finally done. Find out what has become of this young man and his new life. It is an unbelievable story. If it all wasn't the truth. No punches spared. No letting himself off easy after his actions. Most poignantly the story is clearly written by a child.No ghostwriters to neaten it up. You get the whole horrible story from the raw emotional perspective of a 12 year old! I know I would not have survived as well as he has did. You can't help but cry as you turn the pages and confront one terror after another. Everyone should read this book!
drummerboy More than 1 year ago
In Ishmael Beah’s A Long Way Gone, he presents the ideas of living in poverty in Sierra Leone, Africa, as well as finding a method to survive in times of hardship. Beah has an approach to the writing that leans toward expository, though he still crafts a well-written memoir. Beah’s purpose of writing this novel is to let us feel his emotion through the perilous events rather than having the emotion given to us. A Long Way Gone is a memoir (pointed out in the novel’s subtitle Memoirs of a Boy Soldier), though the writing does not express a full rendition of a memoir. Beah often lingers off into expository writing, where he informs us of impactful situations instead of showing us true feelings about them. Even though Beah feels strong opposition towards the war, he approaches it in the calmest of ways when he writes. Of course, A Long Way Gone is not for the sensitive reader; it should appeal more to readers who have read a similar book about poverty or hardship in the past. For me personally, A Long Way Gone sends some mixed messages when it comes to reading a piece of writing revolving around war and the extreme efforts to survive through it. However, this novel has a powerful impact on the way I think of discrimination and the terrible lives of the crippled and poor. As the author, Ishmael Beah’s premises for A Long Way Gone are wrapped around his amazement at how he managed to survive or transport to the United States alive. It was his willingness and urge to write about his experiences that gave us A Long Way Gone. To sum it up, the story raises issues such as constant depression in the war, where people are forced to survive in harsh conditions while being savagely treated by their enemies. This is a common theme in the book. Quite accordingly, the author emphasizes this theme through the description of hard-to-bear situations such as not being fed, not being protected, and not being the hunter of the game, but the hunted. The clearness of A Long Way Gone is good enough so that you can recognize characters and their personalities, as well as events, themes, patterns, and significant information. It is also clear enough to see that the book’s life-threatening situations are having an impact on Beah. If Beah’s ultimate goal in writing this book was to expose the injustice of the war and leave it exposed, then I’d say he achieved that goal.
jlasagna More than 1 year ago
A long way gone is an amazing story about a 12 year old boy named Ishmael Beah, who wants to be a rapper, living in a war torn country. He experience many hard ships through his life including graphic killings, horrific scenery, drug use, and lose of his family members. He is being chased by the ruthless rebels who want to take over the country and is backed into a corner. With hard times and with little combat training by the government he takes his gun and decides to fight back. His only options are kill or be killed. This book was an amazing book. It opened my eyes to how real and horrible some countries are. Young kids not even teenagers being forced to fight, snort cocaine mixed with gun powder, and watch people they love die gruesome deaths on a regular basis is just mind blowing to me. This book is not your average fairy tale. It is a very graphic and real book but if you are looking for something to open your eyes to what is really going on out there, this is the book for you
SciFiHighFive More than 1 year ago
I read this book and found Beah's experience quite amazing; I have come to realize that in every aspect of life, it depends on the next generation to preserve a healthy society, and the terrorists in Sierra-Lione or in any other place for that matter aren't making it any easier.
donnareads911 More than 1 year ago
This story was heartbreakingly sad and shockingly true in this memoir of war, seen through a child's eyes; not just seeing it and living it, but also killing in it. This brings a view of war to a totally different level. Of course, war is never "pretty", but shown from this 13 year old childs eyes, it caused this mom to shudder at what he had seen and lived through. I was also touched that a stranger here would also become this childs new mentor and parent. It renewed my hope in mankind, and drops me to me knees, praying for peace not only for children but for all of us. And to see what this young man has become... Awe-inspiring.
MrsPearson25 More than 1 year ago
I highly recommend this book it was a touching and horrible-to-imagine-this-happens-to-people memoir. Read for yourself!
khayman1 More than 1 year ago
Khayman Nunez Sautner/P6 May 1, 2013 Book Review A Long Way Gone Review                 This nerve-racking novel accounts for the life of a young boy, Ishmael Beah, surrounded by friends and family, living a happy life, practicing his dancing to his American rap cassettes, suddenly gets it all taken away. Forced to flee his home into some unrecognized land, he struggles to stay away and hidden from the rebels, he gets recruited by the national army and becomes a twelve year old soldier. Taught to use an AK 47, he was trained to kill any rebel he saw, whether it was shooting them or stabbing them multiple times until they were for sure dead.                 Countless days of fighting went on between the army and the rebels, raiding each other’s camps for food and water, Ishmael was shot for the first time in the foot, barely feeling because of the drugs, Ishmael made it back to his base safely. Luckily he was saved by the United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF), from the murder and drugs he was dragged into. Ishmael was sent to a rehabilitation center to get him off drugs and become a normal teenager. Ishmael had a lot of anger built up in him, but with the help of the nurse was able to let it go and become happy again. Ishmael has seen the worst of humanity as a twelve year old boy and still managed to live a regular life.  Ishmael changed a significant amount in the span of this book, which is the theme of the book. War changes people, Ishmael went from a young innocent boy to a killing machine, and addicted to drugs. When people saw him they got afraid and ran away in terror. This book teaches everyone who reads it about the real world and how violent it can get. Humans can do some really bad things to each other and this book shows and teaches you all about it. This book is written so perfectly, it feels like you are there with him, experiencing what he did. Through his good memories and close to death events, the details are so riveting it feels like you are seeing all of it with your own eyes. “In the sky there are always answers and explanations for everything: every pain, every suffering, joy and confusion.”
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I cannot even begin to describe just how much i loved this book I feel as though all people of all nations should read it
Anonymous 5 months ago
Daniel Saldana Mrs. Brown English 9(H) 22nd January 2017 Book Review “A Long Way Gone” This book is very nerve racking and introduces a variety of characters throughout. The author Ishmael was a young boy holding on to his childhood until he was forced to partake in the war he was running away from. He changes from being scared to hold a gun to killing with ease,”The idea of death didn’t cross my mind at all and killing had become as easy as drinking water. (...) I didn't feel a thing for him, didn't think that much about what I was doing.”(122,124). Ishmael developed into a warrior without mercy when he joined the “army”. Another character is Ishmael's older brother Junior who comforted him when he needed it,”Junior was in front of me and his hands didn't swing as they used to when he strolled across the yard on his way back from school. I wanted to know what he was thinking, but everyone was too quiet (…)”(26). Ishmael looked toward his brother for reassurance and someone to talk to. He is the only person left out of his whole family. The main conflict of the story is the war which results in him joining the army. The events leading to him joining the army is the when rebels attack his home town so him and his brother scavenge for sanctuary. Also a leading event is when he finds out his family is alive in a village but he only finds the village ransacked and everyone dead. I thought this was an incredible book, and I can’t believe it’s actually true. One instance I found especially terrifying was when rebels were chasing and shooting at Ishmael and his friends for a long time without getting shot. This also happens when they run away from the village Ishmael's parents were last seen and Gasemu a friend was shot. Another event that is hair-raising is when they are put in a line to get executed but the army comes and they are able to escape. I would recommend this book even though it is quite gruesome. I believe it's an amazing book that's hard to put down. The childhood of Ishmael Beah is nothing like I've read before.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book was really good. I had to read it for global & I hoped it was as good as the comments I read said it was. I was not disappointed. I even got upset when I was reading this book because I really wanted the author to be reunited with his family. The only thing I did not like about this book is that the chaps were too long. Thats the only reason I did'nt complete the book after 3 days.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book is a very true depiction of war that most americans dont see. It especially toutched me since i have a brother from africa who had simalar exeriences with death.i recomend this to anyone who wants to know about the bad stuff that happens ib other countrys. If you want to know more about things like this look up the anuak genocide in ethiopia.it is a truely terrible thing that isnt that far off from the holocost just in smaller numers
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier by Ishmael Beah is a personal narrative about his experience in Sierra Leone's civil war. He tries to escape the rebels, is taken in as a boy soldier, and is rehabilitated by UNICEF. The book has a strong message about the child fighting in Africa. Beah hives accurate descriptions of his day to day life. Some of the events are horrific and scar him for life, such as seeing dead bodies all over invaded and burning villages. His personal feelings and his psychological troubles that are told provide great insight into the effects of the turmoil continuously happening in African countries. While some of the story seems repetitive and drawn out, it is the truth as it happened and as people need to know it. Most people know of at least some of the things that take place in these hostile environments, but they often do not realize the full impact the battles and killings have on the people, especially the children. This book gives an accurate, well done description of what it is like, and while things like this have to be experienced to understand all of the fear and anger; it reveals some of the truths and horrors to try to stop the injustices.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book is one of the most mesmerizing books that I have picked up in quite a while. The author's shocking descriptions and vivid imagery can only contribute to this wonderfully narrated and expertly crafted novel. Anyone looking for a good, thought-provoking read--whether interested in the socioeconomic state in Africa or not--will undoubtedly find this book enjoyable. I did!
Guest More than 1 year ago
I have not read the book I just bought it and I will read it as soon as it arrives. I saw the young man on John Stewart's show, 'The Daily Show' and was immediately a taken by his story. I am a believer in his story before I even read the book because I too grew up in a war torn country and I could immediately relate. Everything he said, about living in a war state and still come out whole is true. I was born and raised in South Africa during apartheid. In the 80s I was a child who saw death with her own eyes. People ask me how I survived the traumatic experience of seeing a person who has been burned beyong recognition and is lying on the street in front of me. I tell them, simply, I was a child who simply grew up and never looked back. His story is remarkable. I will make sure my children read this book so they can see what other children in third world countries live like. My children are fortunate because they grow up in a first world country, and they cannot begin to understand what their parents went through, and hopefully it will empower them to work for the human race, to be better adults and understand the people on the receiving end of wars.
Anonymous 11 days ago
The book “A Long Way Gone”, is about a young boy’s adventure of a child soldier in Sierra Leone. There is a lot of violence and poverty that makes life hard in his country. The boy, Ishmael Beah, is put through a lot and his courage is challenged throughout the book, but at the end he prevails. Through all the tragedies he has lived through, he has come out with his courage intact. The book shows the horror the civil war has brought upon the country. I would recommend this book to anyone who is oblivious to the horrors of the country. The book shows how bad the people of the country has it. People were no reason and children were separated from their families. Ishmael Beah portrays the gore of Sierra Leone in the book as well. The things people went through as the war passed through their village was unspeakable. People in the United States couldn’t feel the pain of the families in sierra Leone at the time. If you want to learn more about the violence and a great story, read this book.
khary 5 months ago
Khary Muhammad Per. 6 H-english A Long Way Gone : Book review In this book there are many characters however, only a couple of main characters, One of the main characters, is who the story is about; Ishmael Beah. Ishmael is a 12 yr. Old boy who lives in Sierra leone during their civil war. Ishmael was, like ordinary young teenager, who enjoyed rap music and dancing. However, he happened to live in Sierra leone at the wrong time, which caused many issues later on. One key event that occurred in this book was when his village got raided by rebel fighters. When the village got raided, him and some of his friends were forced to flee in the jungle and avoid getting recruited. Ishmael himself knew eventually rising that the rebels would catch up to him and he would be recruited and branded as one of them. The action of this novel would be when, the surrounding tribes captured them and held them captive which caused tension, as the rebels were on the hunt.” The villages that we captured and turned into bases as we went along and the forests that we slept in became my home” Another rising action was when Ishmael and his friends were actually recruited by the rebels and branded to join their army. In my opinion the book A Long way gone was good. The story was a page turner, from plot to plot. Like in the beginning when everything was simple and Ishmael enjoyed hip-hop, but then conflict started to rise when the civil war had occurred. Also enjoyed the moment when one of the local tribes tied them up and almost killed them because they were thought to be rebels. Another part of the plot was when ishmael had split up with the group, found others but then later captured by the rebels only to be trained and branded as one of them. This book in the beginning had a slower pace but picked up as the book went on. In conclusion this novel was very interesting and I recommend to you, because it was a outstanding read.
lordfarquaad 5 months ago
Amrit Gore Mrs.Brown English9h-6 20, January 2017 Book Review Ishmael Beah’s heartbreaking story, “A Long Way Gone”, is depicted as a true story about his life. The story mostly takes place right around a war in 1993. We’re introduced to Ishmael as a twelve year old who’s heard of the war, but he doesn’t expect it to hit his village. He had “thought that some of the stories that the passerby told were exaggerated”; however, he later on knew the extent of what a war can do. The book gives a taste of what his life was like before the war, he’s obsessed with rap music along with his brother Junior and his friend Talloi who go to Mattru Jong to compete in a talent show. His protective brother, Junior is separated from Ishmael during an “attack in the village of Kamator”. Uncle Tommy is a positive, loving man who adopts Ishmael when he comes out of his rehabilitation center. Esther is a nurse who plays a huge part in Ishmael's life, she provides him with love at the rehabilitation center which gets him to open up about his traumatic experiences. The conflict of the story is caused by the maniacal war. The war seems to change Ishmael as he does all types of unfit things such as stealing and killing. It’s the mere survival that Ishmael is doing such vicious acts. The book gives an intriguing look on what a child’s life would look like as a soldier. I like the story’s realism from the beginning. When the rebels come Ishmael Beah does not hold back on gruesome details of the war. Ishmael and his friends at the start see a woman carrying her baby on her back with “blood running down her dress and dripping behind her, making a trail.” Also, they thought they should go back to their hometown but were stopped by a van with dead bodies inside. The book is dark but practical. He was forced to join the army when he was only thirteen years old and that's where he started to kill, steal and do drugs. As time goes on Ishmael gets forced in a rehabilitation center where he learns on how to be with people again and himself. The book is ultimately about a young boy whose life is turned around overnight and on how he finds his way back. I would encourage people to read this book because it gives a huge urgency on how children are being brainwashed to join an army and blindly kill throughout the world.
merve tekcan More than 1 year ago
Before I start to talk about the wonderful book known as A Long Way Gone, turn away if you plan on reading this book in the future since this stream of consciousness will have a lot of spoilers. Before opening this book I was sort of not excited to read it but once I started I just couldn’t put it down. It is about a boy whose home country is ravaged by a civil war that victimizes every single person who inhabits Sierra Leone, a small country in West Africa. He moves through Sierra Leone and enlists as a child soldier who is then rehabilitated into a contributing citizen two years later. One thing that kept him going however was a quote that his dad told him when he was younger. It was that “If you are alive, there is hope for a better day and something good to happen” This quote keeps him going through many losses, including the loss of his family just before he was about to find them. Even later in the story when his newly found uncle dies during the occupation in Freetown, the capital of Sierra Leone, which I only expected because I saw the date in the book and I watched a documentary when I was younger and remembered that Freetown hadn’t been occupied yet. It is quite a sad book that can teach many of the children in our society today to appreciate our parents and everything they do for us. It also shows that we should always fight to get to that better day where we can enjoy life and cherish the moment. In the end shows us how lucky we are that we live a country that doesn’t experience violent struggles for power in which many people die. I really enjoyed this book and would easily recommend it to anyone as it taught me lessons about how war can ravage a country leaving its people bitter and full of sorrow. For more comments and reviews… http://www.storebit.com/books/a-long-way-gone-memoirs-of-a-boy-soldier-paperback/
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The book A Long Way Gone by Ishmael Beah is about learning to overcome any kind of struggle or hardship you endure in life. Ishmael Beah lived in Sierra Leone during war times and witnessed just about every aspect of war and also lived both sides. During the war he lost his parents and his brother was killed in front of him. After everything and everyone he cared about was ripped from him he was convinced to become a soldier to fight off the people that robbed him of his life and gain some closer. UNICEF took him to a rehabilitation center to get him away from the war and drugs. He overcame the worst life anyone could live and made it to the point where he could give people knowledge about how terrible war really is by sharing his story with them. I really enjoyed the entire book but if I had to choose a part I didn’t like it would be how quick the book goes from crazy to calm. I really liked how it gives readers closer to Ishmael’s life and how he finally got real closer and gained something out of losing so much. This book is actually my favorite book and a great read. It shows that it’s possible to make it through anything in life and to learn from struggles and make them into a lesson to share with others. The book also explains that sometimes revenge is not the best idea.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A Long Way Gone takes place in Sierra Leone during the 1990s. Ishmael Beah’s village was attacked by the rebels and Beah was separated from his family. Ever since that event, he has been running away from the rebels going from village to village. The main character, Ishmael Beah, is good boy who loves his family and gets along with others until he joins the army and becomes a killing machine. The Lieutenant is a temporary father figure for Beah during the war. Esther, another major character, is one of the nurses at the rehabilitation center. She has unconditional love for Beah and is the key to his change. The main conflict in this story is with himself. Beah struggles to develop into a civilized normal boy who does not shoot the first man he sees or relies on marijuana or cocaine. As a result of the conflict, he begins a new lifestyle that will change him forever. One major event in this story was the Lieutenant picking Beah to go to UNICEF, where he will begin a new lifestyle that will change him forever. The second major event is that Esther the nurse buys Beah a cassette and a Walkerman, which is something that he has always wanted ever since it was taken from him during the war. One of my favorite parts was when Esther shows unconditional love to Beah. For example, “Esther put her arms around me and pulled me closer to her… ‘Think of me as your family, your sister’” (Beah 167). Another aspect of the story that I enjoyed was the relationship between Beah and his friends. For instance “That night we went out to Bo Road where street vendors sold food late into the night” (Beah 8). The only part I disliked was the gore. At the beginning of the story, “In the back of the van were three more dead bodies, two girls and a boy, and their blood was all over the seats and the ceiling of the van” (Beah 12). I recommend this book to others because the story is inspiring and humbling. The trials that Beah were able to conquer were not easy. Also, I tend to think that the struggle of traffic or having no wifi is the worst thing in the world. However, after reading A Long Way Gone, I was humbled; it was brought to my attention that children my age are going through much worse than I am, so I need to be more grateful.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I read this book back in 7th grade as part of an assignment... I'm a Junior in High school now and I still haven't been able to forget the impact this book has left on me. The thought of young boys being turned into killing animals in order to survive is absolutely heartbreaking... I reminds us that there worse things going on in the world than a silly feud between pop stars or the latest fashion trends. I would recommend this to anyone who is interested in reading a story about not only heart break but survival.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A long way gone: Memories of a Boy Soldier, written by, Ishmael Beah, is a true story about a 12 year old boy who gets in the mix of the Sierra Leone civil war. This boy goes from a kid who loves American hip hop music to a refugee losing his friends and family and makes new friends when ending up training as a soldier to fight against the rebels. “A breathtaking and unselfpitying account of how a gentle spirit survives a childhood from which all innocence has suddenly been sucked out. It's a truly riveting memoir” (Time Magazine). Also, got a rating of 4.3/5 from Barnes and Noble. This book was also nominated for a quill award in the best debut author. Ishmael Beah gives a great example of his creative writing when he writes, “Some nights the sky wept stars that quickly floated disappeared into the darkness before our wishes could meet them.” This quote shows that Ishmael Beah gives so much detail on the environment that makes the book come to life. This book is recommended for ages 13 and up. Will Ishmael be able to endure the pain and suffering through these difficult times? Join Ishmael Beah as he travels from village to village never knowing what’s going to happen next.
StefanM More than 1 year ago
This memoir of what happened to Ishmeal Beah in the Sierra Leone civil war is truly astounding. It gives real insight to one of the worst things in the world; child soldiers. Ishmeal is from a small village in the countryside of Sierra Leone, and he went to Mattru Jong with some of his friends to perform in a talent show, but when the war came to him, he and his friends had to run away. He never even told his parents he was going because he thought he was going to see them again.  Eventually, he gets forced in the army to fight against the rebels. Every day they smoke marijuana and cocaine and you realize they are just as bad as the rebels, pillaging villages for food. He eventually gets picked to be rehabilitated but it does not go well at first as he tries to fight back and go back to the front. HE gets picked to go to America eventually to represent Sierra Leone in a conference with children from around the world For being a foreigner, Beah has very good English and there was only one or two times when I could not understand a sentence for a little bit, but then I figured it out. He word choice is very describe and his language is very good.  The target audience, in my opinion, is young adults. This is because he himself was a 10 year old through about a 16 year old when this happened to him, and it shows our current generation about the horrors of the war. I have never read a book like this so based off of my limited knowledge I would say it is a very different subject for me so it was nice to read something that wasn’t just the same old type of book. Ishmeal is a very descriptive writer and has an amazing memory. Every scene is depicted in horrifying and gruesome detail to show the true reality of warfare in Africa. We often blow of the hundreds of conflicts in Africa as far away and distant but this memoir brings them close and makes us realize the reality. This book is very unique because not only does it tell of the war, but also of the rehabilitation. It tells how Ishmeal has a very hard time getting back into society, and at the beginning he is very violent, but slowly he gets back to normal. Sometimes there are flashbacks that are awkwardly places so it is often confusing but despite this the book does flow very well. And even though the book is not meant to be a good read but rather informative, I found it entertaining and the best book I have read in a long time.
Charlottes-son More than 1 year ago
I love this book and share it with my struggling clients. Their struggle my not be as graphic or violent, but it reflects on how we do each struggle to survive. The book helps think about the choices we make. The end is most gratifying, when you watch him struggle with the idea of being helped.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I knew about the crisis is searia leone but i had no idea how graphic it was.