A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier

A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier

4.4 577
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

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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 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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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.

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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.

The wind had stopped moving and daylight seemed to be quickly giving in to night. As sunset neared, more people passed through the village. One man carried his dead son. He thought the boy was still alive. The father was covered with his son's blood, and as he ran he kept saying, "I will get you to the hospital, my boy, and everything will be fine." Perhaps it was necessary that he cling to false hopes, since they kept him running away from harm. A group of men and women who had been pierced by stray bullets came running next. The skin that hung down from their bodies still contained fresh blood. Some of them didn't notice that they were wounded until they stopped and people pointed to their wounds. Some fainted or vomited. I felt nauseated, and my head was spinning. I felt the ground moving, and people's voices seemed to be far removed from where I stood trembling.

The last casualty that we saw that evening was a woman who carried her baby on her back. Blood was running down her dress and dripping behind her, making a trail. Her child had been shot dead as she ran for her life. Luckily for her, the bullet didn't go through the baby's body. When she stopped at where we stood, she sat on the ground and removed her child. It was a girl, and her eyes were still open, with an interrupted innocent smile on her face. The bullets could be seen sticking out just a little bit in the baby's body and she was swelling. The mother clung to her child and rocked her. She was in too much pain and shock to shed tears.

Junior, Talloi, and I looked at each other and knew that we must return to Mattru Jong, because we had seen that Mogbwemo was no longer a place to call home and that our parents couldn't possibly be there anymore. Some of the wounded people kept saying that Kabati was next on the rebels' list. We didn't want to be there when the rebels arrived. Even those who couldn't walk very well did their best to keep moving away from Kabati. The image of that woman and her baby plagued my mind as we walked back to Mattru Jong. I barely noticed the journey, and when I drank water I didn't feel any relief even though I knew I was thirsty. I didn't want to go back to where that woman was from; it was clear in the eyes of the baby that all had been lost.

Excerpted from A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier by Ishmael Beah. Copyright © 2007 by Ishmael Beah. Published in February 2007 by Sarah Crichton Books, a division of Farrar, Straus and Giroux, LLC. All rights reserved.

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A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier 4.4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 577 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 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 6 months 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.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Ishmael Beah’s life has been normal with routines of rapping with his friends, dancing, and having fun like a normal boy should do. Just as easy as it is for you to acquire something, the same thing can be said about losing something too, and that’s what happened to Ishmael as his whole life changed that day.  It was just another fun day for Ishmael as he traveled to the city to hang out with his friends, but his plans are altered dramatically as rebels attacked and separated Ishmael from his family forever. “Often, my shadow would scare me and cause me to run for miles. Everything felt awkwardly brutal. Even the air seemed to want to attack me and break my neck.” (49). War can do many things to you, especially traumatize you with images of killing and fear. Ishmael has witnessed rebels killing women, children, and men without even flinching and these sights he saw has caused fear in him. To him, everything is out to get and hurt him and nothing in the world he lives in is safe anymore. “”Every time people come at us with the intention of killing us, I close my eyes and wait for death. Even though I am still alive, I feel like each time I accept death, part of me dies.”” (70). The boys that Ishmael survives with feel as if every time they escape death and survive longer, the hope or innocence inside of them dies a little because the things they witness are too much to handle. War may seem all fun and exciting in movies and books but in real life war, it does more damage to you than you can ever imagine. When the perspective of war is told in a boy soldier’s eyes, maybe then people will finally see how grand and exciting war really is. “My squad was my family, my gun was my provider and protector, and my rule was to kill or be killed.” (126). I really like and recommend this book because it shows clearly how Ishmael Beah was really thinking when he was part of the war, killing innocent people and rebels. The book shows how war has damaged and changed him, but it also shows that he still has a little bit of his childhood left in him that has kept him from changing into a ruthless killer. “The sounds of branches snapping off trees became my music. There were certain days when the sounds of the branches breaking made a consistent rhythm that I would enjoy very much {…}” (54). Even though Ishmael was stuck in a forest and fighting to survive, he still finds peace and remembers part of his childhood in that forest. He’s able to make the branches breaking off turn into a rhythm in his head as he remembers the music and rap he use to listen too. As he remembers music, his mind is at peace and the killing around him isn’t there anymore. “Whenever I get a chance to observe the moon now, I still see those same images I saw when I was six, and it pleases me to know that that part of my childhood is still embedded in me.” (17). The war may have changed him and scarred him for life, but there are pieces in his childhood that cannot be taken or torn away from him. These memories are what puts Ishmael to peace a lot. These memories are embedded in him, and they are part of him. This book deserves every recommendation it gets because it shows clearly how war changes lives, mind, but it also shows that some things can’t be changed. These things that cannot be changed will help you survive whatever storm you’re facing and bring better things to your life at the end. 
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
tragedy of children being useThed in war is told by Ishmael Beah in his book A Long Way Gone. Ishmael and many other innocent civilians are trapped in a civil war near his home in Sierra Leone. After performing rap music with his brother, Junior, and friends he comes back to hear the rebels had attacked their home village with no trace of Ishmael and his brother's family. On their journey back home, they see horrifying scenes such as mother's running with their dead bodies which have been shot and killed. Once settled in Mattru Jong, their home village, for several days, the village is attacked but luckily Ishmael and his group escape. In the struggle for survival they must a clearing full of the bloody deceased. As some of the group reach the other side the alarm goes off, leaving Junior helpless in the middle of the crossing. He is forced to act dead amongst the bodies and eventually makes it across safely. The group begins to change when they are forced to steal food. They even chase a child for his food. They go back to Mattru Jong in an effort to find food and are captured by rebels. They are forced at gunpoint to laugh with the rebels as they torture an elder. They are later divided up, and as part of an initiation Ishmael's group is told to shoot and kill the other group which included his own brother. Thanks to other gunfire scaring the rebels Ishmael and his group escaped. The group is captured by several villages who are cautious that they are rebels. During an attack by the rebels Ishmael is separated by the rest of the group including Junior. Ishmael later finds another group of boys from his school and joins them. Even so, they too struggle for food and often times no one talks to each other. During their travels, they get to a village where a woman claims Junior had passed by the village recently and Ishmael is back on the hunt for his family opposed to food. The group is soon captured by the government army and trained for war. At only thirteen Ishmael is expected to kill other human beings or be sent out with the rebels to die. He begins to become addicted to drugs and violence. "Every time I stopped shooting to change magazines and saw my two young lifeless friends, i angrily pointed my gun into the swamp and killed more pop,e. i shot everything that moved [...]" (119). This quote shows what the war has done to the children. Ishmael who was unable to shoot anyone when he first began, now was motivated by anger and revenge to kill anyone and everyone. Ishmael and other children are taken by the UNICEF where fights break out and Ishmael continues to struggle with his time away from drugs. They bring Ishmael to a rehabilitation center he begins to slowly return to his old childish self. He is later picked to visit New York to share his story. They make contact with Ishmael's uncle and he returns to live with his uncle and his family. After living there for a while, Ishmael awakens to gunshots and is captured by rebels again. A Long Way Gone by Ishmael Beah is a great book with a strong meaning. The book is encouraging to read because it is absolutely eye opening. When Ishmael transforms from a innocent child to a killing machine it makes you really think about how underprivileged the outside world may be. "Peeled flesh hung down and congealed blocks of blood and particles of sand clung to each hanging bit of skin" (61). War brought horrible graphic scenes to twelves while others may never see it in their lifetime. War made men out of these poor children. Ishmael was brought to a heartless life filled with revenge. He attacked villages, killed people, took drugs, and became identical to the rebels he hated so dearly. A Long way Gone is a wonderful book that should be used as a recognition to children forced into war. 
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
amazing book
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
 This book is about the hard life of Ishmael Beah throughout his childhood life. He was a normal boy who's village had been attacked by rebels in the war. He escapes but is soon taken into the army. He's told by the general that and AK-47 " will soon belong to you, so you better learn to not be afraid of it." At the different camps he and the other soldiers, ranging from pre-teens to adults, do drugs such as brown brown, cocaine and gun powder, and torturing and killing hostage rebels. Before he had actually gotten used to being a soldier he"...was able to fall asleep briefly, only to be awoken by nightmares.” The way he lives for a few yeas of his life is heartbreaking, thinking about how he had been ordered to kill people and got a buzz from it. He and a few other boys are chosen to be put back into a rehabilitation program, which helps him immensely.      I really enjoyed this book and I would recommend it. It leaves a feeling in your gut as you read that makes you read and re-read some parts to make sure you read it correctly. “They cocked their guns, and one of them placed the muzzle of his gun to Gibrilla’s chin…” When I red that,I quickly read the continuing pages to find out what happened. “Once, Junior taught me how to skip a stone on a river… When we came home, the first thing he did was ask me if I was hurt from falling.” Reading this showed that even when going through the hard times of running and trying not to get captured, Junior and Ishmael still showed brotherly and family love towards each other.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Trevor_I More than 1 year ago
Living in Hawaii, I never had the experience of being taken away from everything I care about. However, I should still care about people who do lose everything in other places because its a real tragedy. After reading A Long Way Gone, i realize what some people in other countries or states or even army men have to deal with. I was one of millions of children ungrateful for having a family, friends and not having to see things children shouldn't have to see.  Ishmael Beah tell his own penal narrative about how he lost everything. He lost his family, loved ones, and his friends all while being put into the army. I can connect to how he must be feeling because I have lost many friends and a couple of family members wether is was moving schools or the experience of death. In one part of the story, Ishmael is walking along a nearby village after he becomes an army men. HIm and his friends are all fine until suddenly one of them just falls down and dies. He is so conflicted with himself he said "I was so confused." 81. He didn't know what to do or how to react to this news that just hit him.  In our age, we don't know why thousands of children are forced into armies but we do know its cruelty and not right. We need to change our ways and need to be more brave so our children aren't those child's being forced into war. This memoir is a good reminder to me of how lucky I am to be alive and well. I am also lucky to have a family, friends, and loved ones who I won't have to lose for a while. I will always remember how lucky me and my fellow classmates are to be living in Hawaii and away from all this. 
Anonymous More than 1 year ago