A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier

A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier

by Ishmael Beah

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780374531263
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Publication date: 08/05/2008
Edition description: First Edition
Pages: 240
Sales rank: 6,296
Product dimensions: 8.28(w) x 5.62(h) x 0.63(d)
Age Range: 14 - 18 Years

About 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.

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.

(Continues...)



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.
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Reading Group Guide

Advance Praise “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 The Perfect Storm

“This is a beautifully written book. 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

“A Long Way Gone 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 as goodness and courage. It will leave you breathless.” —Walter Isaacson, author of Benjamin Franklin: An American Life

About This Guide

The questions and discussion topics that follow are designed to enhance your reading of Ishmael Beah’s A Long Way Gone. We hope they will enrich your experience as you explore his inspiring, infinitely valuable story.

Introduction

An estimated 300,000 child soldiers now fight in the more than fifty violent conflicts raging around the globe. Far removed from the world of pundits and journalists, policymakers and diplomats, a thirteen-year-old boy named Ishmael Beah became one of these young warriors in Sierra Leone. Now in his mid-twenties, he courageously tells of the horrific road that led him to wield an AK-47 and, fueled by trauma and drugs, commit terrible acts. A Long Way Gone brings a rare voice of frontline realism to a widely publicized (and widely misunderstood) human-rights crisis.

In poignantly clear and dauntless storytelling, Ishmael describes how he fled brutal rebel soldiers, traveling miles from home on foot and gradually being reduced to a life of raw survival instincts. Yet, unlike so many of his peers, Ishmael lived to reclaim his true self, emerging from Sierra Leone as the gentle, hopeful young man he was at heart. His memoir is at once crucial testimony for understanding the tragedy of contemporary war zones, and a testament to the power of peacemakers.

Questions for Discussion

1. How familiar were you with the civil wars of Sierra Leone prior to reading A Long Way Gone? How has Ishmael’s story changed your perception of this history, and of current wars in general?

2. Chapter seven begins with the story of the imam’s death, followed by Ishmael’s recollections of his father and an elder blessing their home when they first moved to Mogbwemo. How do the concepts of faith and hope shift throughout this memoir? What sustains Ishmael emotionally and spiritually?

3. Chapter eight closes with the image of villagers running fearfully from Ishmael and his friends, believing that the seven boys are rebels. How do they overcome these negative assumptions in communities that have begun to associate the boys’ appearance with evil? What lessons could world leaders learn from them about overcoming distrust, and the importance of judging others individually rather than as stereotypes?

4. What did Ishmael’s parents teach him about being a man? How did he define manhood once he began his long walk west? What general life lessons were his parents able to teach him that sustained him during his brutal passage from boyhood, and that he carries with him to this day?

5. Discuss the role of American hip-hop culture in creating a “soundtrack” for Ishmael’s life. Why are rappers so appealing to him?

6. The boys’ discovery of the Atlantic Ocean and their encounter with a cheerful fisherman who heals and feeds them is followed by the tragedy of Saidu’s death after a bird falls ominously from the sky. Discuss Ishmael’s relationship with the natural world. In what way is he guided by the constancy of the earth and sky?

7. When Ishmael arrives at the fortified village of Yele in chapter twelve, what do you discover about the way he began his military career? Was his service, and that of his equally young friends, necessary? What made his conscription different from that of drafted American soldiers serving in previous wars?

8. Ishmael tells us that some of the boys who had been rehabilitated with him later became soldiers again. What factors ensured that he could remain a civilian?

9. Storytelling is a powerful force in Ishmael’s life, even providing a connection to his future mother, Laura Simms. What traits make Ishmael a memorable and unique storyteller? How does his perspective compare to the perspectives of filmmakers, reporters, or other authors who have recently tried to portray Africa’s civil wars?

10. Ishmael describes his use of Krio and many tribal languages to communicate, as well as his ability to quote Shakespeare’s Elizabethan English. What communities and empires are represented in his many speech styles? In which “villages,” from the relatively new UN to the centuries-old Mende and Temne settlements, does the greatest wisdom lie?

11. How does Ishmael’s concept of family change throughout the memoir, from his early life in Mattru Jong, to the uncle with whom he is reunited, to his American family with Laura?

12. It takes many weeks before Ishmael feels comfortable with the relief workers’ refrain that these events are not his fault. What destructive beliefs had he become addicted to? What states of deprivation and euphoria had his body become addicted to?

13. What universal truths does Ishmael teach us about surviving loss and hunger, and overcoming isolation?

14. Ishmael’s dramatic escape during the later waves of revolution concludes with the riddle of the monkey. Is his dream of obliterating the monkey—and its violent endgames—closer to being fulfilled in these early years of the twenty-first century? What would it take for all of humanity to adopt Ishmael’s rejection of vengeance?

15. Ishmael gives credit to relief workers such as Esther, in conjunction with organizations such as UNICEF, for rescuing him. He has dedicated his life to their cause, studying political science and speaking before a broad variety of groups, ranging from the Council on Foreign Relations to the Center for Emerging Threats and Opportunities at the Marine Corps Warfighting Laboratory. What steps has he inspired you to take to help end the use of child soldiers? How can each of us join Ishmael’s cause?

16. After reading the chronology of Sierra Leone’s history, what reasons can you propose for the coups in Ishmael’s homeland? Did the arrival of Portuguese slave traders, or the later colonization by the British, contribute to Sierra Leone’s twentieth-century woes? What did you discover about the motivations of the army soldiers versus those of the rebels? In your opinion, what made the leaders of the RUF so ruthless for so long?

About the Author

Ishmael Beah came to the United States when he was seventeen. A 2004 graduate of Oberlin College, he is now a member of Human Rights Watch Children’s Division Advisory Committee and has spoken before the United Nations on several occasions. He lives in New York City.

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A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 722 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
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 9 days ago
In the book, A long way gone, written by Ismael bean, Ishmael the main character was 12 year old boy who love hip pop and would participate in the talent shows at the village he live in, Mattru Jong. In his family was his mother with two younger brothers, Ishmael however didn't get to see his dad very much. Ishmael’s friends and him had start their own rap group when Ishmael was at the age of eight. He even possessed a cassette player for their rap music. Furthermore, when the war broke loose, Ishmael was only 12 years old and had been separated from both family and friends. When Ishmael was running away from the war by himself. he was soon joined again with his friends. Moreover, Ishmael had encounter many challenges such as having to deal with gathering food and just looking for a place to stay. The rebels have conquered many masses of land, this including Ishmael village. When Ishmael joined the army he was to train for a while, however one day the troops were sent to do a raid. After Ishmael first raid, the rest were so easy that it was like “drinking water” as Ishmael uttered. At one point Ishmael was sent to a place to be care for after the lieutenant send him out. Confused and mad he went on, After so time being there he was to visit a mini hospital. Ishmael's body was fight back from stop of drugs usage. He would stay up alot and even pass out or run to the field to try to remember his childhood but couldn't. In the book there were many things I love in the book. One being that the the main character was to facing his fear of fighting back. Also on how very details Ishmael is about what happen and what he had seen in the war. An example in the book would be when he was explaining how he received bullet scars by being shot yet not feeling any because of carelessly amount of drugs he used. Also another example is when Ishmael would make the prisoners who they had captured, bury themself. If any prisoners would slowed down, Then shots were fired near them to work faster. What I had disliked about this book was the situation. I did not like that Ishmael had went through war. I felt horrible that his innocence was taken way. I thought it was unfair that Ishmael got caught up into grown man’s war. An example about this situation would be that's Ishmael after every raid he would take “brown brown” which was cocaine mix with gunpowder. I would recommend this book because if you love to hear about war stories then this is a book for you. Also because it feels like your talking with Ishmael with every twisted thing he had experience.
Anonymous 10 days ago
This novel has quite a lot of characters, some of them are; Junior, Talloi, Gibrilla, Kaloko, Khalilou, Esther, and the main character Ishmael Beah. Each character has a really complex personality, they all have one thing in common though, they all have had their own hardships. A lot these characters fates and realities were changed when they were younger, one boy witnessed his sisters get raped while the dad was knocked out and the mom cried and apologized to the daughters for bringing them into the world. Ishmael Beah dealt with some of the worst problems he watched many of his friends die, he had to run from his own village when it was attacked he watched as people were shot and their limbs flew off from RPG’s. He would walk with little friends he had left no food, no water, no matter where he went to whatever village rebels would destroy it. Soon enough Ishmael scared, joins the army he is put to fight the next few day and is given drugs, his friend dies and begins to kill the rebel soldiers. Ishmael was given drugs daily and became addicted to them and soon found himself killing rebel soldiers almost daily. What I really liked about this book is that it really puts you into the feeling that you’re family is gone and you only have yourself. The book really makes you feel sadness when Ishmael is sad such as when he watches his village burn down with all his friends inside. I also really liked this book because i’m a fan of action novels and books that have to with main character going through a hard time. It makes you feel for the characters and how they have lost friends and family and even makes you wonder what would happen if that was you. What I enjoyed the most was that Ishmael did what he could to help his friends and sacrificed whatever he could to help his friends. I would definitely recommend this book because of how amazing and thrilling but also how sad it is. This book really made me think about how awful these childrens and adults lives are it is an amazing book.
Anonymous 10 days ago
This novel has quite a lot of characters, some of them are; Junior, Talloi, Gibrilla, Kaloko, Khalilou, Esther, and the main character Ishmael Beah. Each character has a really complex personality, they all have one thing in common though, they all have had their own hardships. A lot these characters fates and realities were changed when they were younger, one boy witnessed his sisters get raped while the dad was knocked out and the mom cried and apologized to the daughters for bringing them into the world. Ishmael Beah dealt with some of the worst problems he watched many of his friends die, he had to run from his own village when it was attacked he watched as people were shot and their limbs flew off from RPG’s. He would walk with little friends he had left no food, no water, no matter where he went to whatever village rebels would destroy it. Soon enough Ishmael scared, joins the army he is put to fight the next few day and is given drugs, his friend dies and begins to kill the rebel soldiers. Ishmael was given drugs daily and became addicted to them and soon found himself killing rebel soldiers almost daily. What I really liked about this book is that it really puts you into the feeling that you’re family is gone and you only have yourself. The book really makes you feel sadness when Ishmael is sad such as when he watches his village burn down with all his friends inside. I also really liked this book because i’m a fan of action novels and books that have to with main character going through a hard time. It makes you feel for the characters and how they have lost friends and family and even makes you wonder what would happen if that was you. What I enjoyed the most was that Ishmael did what he could to help his friends and sacrificed whatever he could to help his friends. I would definitely recommend this book because of how amazing and thrilling but also how sad it is. This book really made me think about how awful these childrens and adults lives are it is an amazing book.
Anonymous 10 days ago
This novel has quite a lot of characters, some of them are; Junior, Talloi, Gibrilla, Kaloko, Khalilou, Esther, and the main character Ishmael Beah. Each character has a really complex personality, they all have one thing in common though, they all have had their own hardships. A lot these characters fates and realities were changed when they were younger, one boy witnessed his sisters get raped while the dad was knocked out and the mom cried and apologized to the daughters for bringing them into the world. Ishmael Beah dealt with some of the worst problems he watched many of his friends die, he had to run from his own village when it was attacked he watched as people were shot and their limbs flew off from RPG’s. He would walk with little friends he had left no food, no water, no matter where he went to whatever village rebels would destroy it. Soon enough Ishmael scared, joins the army he is put to fight the next few day and is given drugs, his friend dies and begins to kill the rebel soldiers. Ishmael was given drugs daily and became addicted to them and soon found himself killing rebel soldiers almost daily. What I really liked about this book is that it really puts you into the feeling that you’re family is gone and you only have yourself. The book really makes you feel sadness when Ishmael is sad such as when he watches his village burn down with all his friends inside. I also really liked this book because i’m a fan of action novels and books that have to with main character going through a hard time. It makes you feel for the characters and how they have lost friends and family and even makes you wonder what would happen if that was you. What I enjoyed the most was that Ishmael did what he could to help his friends and sacrificed whatever he could to help his friends. I would definitely recommend this book because of how amazing and thrilling but also how sad it is. This book really made me think about how awful these childrens and adults lives are it is an amazing book.
Anonymous 10 days ago
This novel has quite a lot of characters, some of them are; Junior, Talloi, Gibrilla, Kaloko, Khalilou, Esther, and the main character Ishmael Beah. Each character has a really complex personality, they all have one thing in common though, they all have had their own hardships. A lot these characters fates and realities were changed when they were younger, one boy witnessed his sisters get raped while the dad was knocked out and the mom cried and apologized to the daughters for bringing them into the world. Ishmael Beah dealt with some of the worst problems he watched many of his friends die, he had to run from his own village when it was attacked he watched as people were shot and their limbs flew off from RPG’s. He would walk with little friends he had left no food, no water, no matter where he went to whatever village rebels would destroy it. Soon enough Ishmael scared, joins the army he is put to fight the next few day and is given drugs, his friend dies and begins to kill the rebel soldiers. Ishmael was given drugs daily and became addicted to them and soon found himself killing rebel soldiers almost daily. What I really liked about this book is that it really puts you into the feeling that you’re family is gone and you only have yourself. The book really makes you feel sadness when Ishmael is sad such as when he watches his village burn down with all his friends inside. I also really liked this book because i’m a fan of action novels and books that have to with main character going through a hard time. It makes you feel for the characters and how they have lost friends and family and even makes you wonder what would happen if that was you. What I enjoyed the most was that Ishmael did what he could to help his friends and sacrificed whatever he could to help his friends. I would definitely recommend this book because of how amazing and thrilling but also how sad it is. This book really made me think about how awful these childrens and adults lives are it is an amazing book.
Anonymous 6 months ago
This book is amazing
Anonymous 6 months ago
Haunting, Hopeful, A Long Way Gone, a memoir written by a young boy from Sierra Leone. Whose life is spent fighting and killing in their Civil War as he tries to find hope, and tell his story for all the others who go through the same thing and can’t tell theirs.
umkaaaa on LibraryThing 8 months ago
Oh my. A very tough read. A great read too. This is the true story of Ishmael Beah, who was a pre-teen at the beginning of the war in Sierra Leone. After a long period spent escaping the violence, he became a child soldier. This is not an easy read because there are descriptions of atrocities. I have the impression that Beah held back on those descriptions and didn't say everything, which is just as well. He says enough to drive the point home. I thought the ending was too short: I would have liked to know more about how he ended up in the States and how he adapted. I didn't know anything about the conflict in Sierra Leone before reading this book. I now know a little bit more and want to find out much more.
debs4jc on LibraryThing 8 months ago
I listened to this account of Ishmael's experiences growing up in Sierra Leone and becoming entangled in the fierce civil war that tore up his country. His early descriptions of his life as an 11 year old boy, concerned with his family life, friends, and rap music make the horror of what follows heartbreaking. After rebel soldiers attack his village, Ishmael is seperated from his family and forced to band together with whatever group of boys he can find. They roam the country, scavenging for food and seeing atrocity after atrocity until eventually Ishmael is captured and forced to become a soldier--at 12 years old. His initial reluctance is easily overcome by the drugs and the strict treatment of his captors, and he soon becomes proud of his ability to kill. Thankfully, he is eventually taken in by some UN workers who are rounding up the boys and trying to rehabilitate them. This does not always go well, such as in an incident where boys from the opposing sides of the war manage start fighting with smuggled in bayonets and grenades and guns they take from the guards. Ishmael does eventually become rehabilitated, and is able to move on to a better life.This was a hard book to listen to in spots because of the subject matter, but I felt it is very worthwhile. As Americans we can be very focused on our selves and our own country, but it is so valuable and important to know about the struggled faced by those in other parts of the world. I appreciated being able to listen to Beah's own narration of his tale, as his accent and voice made it all the more authentic. I loved the way he would describe things and he used details well to draw the reader into his story. I highly recommend listening to or reading this book.
Lilac_Lily01 on LibraryThing 8 months ago
I listened to the audio book version of "A long way gone" and found it a very interesting and worthwhile listening experience. The author Ishmael Beah shares his traumatic experience of surviving the civil war in Sierra Leone. He had a normal childhood until his village got attacked by rebels and all of his family got displaced. After seeing a lot of horrific scenes and coming very close to death Ishmael finally finds his family in a far away village but before their reunion the rebels attack once more, this time killing the whole village including the authors family. After this Ishmael is changed forever and eventually joins up with the army as a child soldier to ensure his own survival. It's heartbreaking to see how a basically good kid is turned into a killer by his environment. Thankfully Ismael gets a second chance and is selected for a rehabilitation program that helps him to become a child again. Unfortunately the war catches up with him once more. But instead of turning into a soldier again he decides to flea to America. To my disappointment this was where the story left off. I would have really liked to hear more about how he actually made it to the States and what life was like for him in the new and strange place. Overall, a good read and I would recommend it.
adt112 on LibraryThing 8 months ago
A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier by Ishmael Beah is about his life, at the age of 13 and surviving while living each day in violence and warcraft in Sierra Leone. He is trying to get revenge for his family it seems like. It is a very touching story, although heartbreaking. I feel as if Beah told his story as it was actually happening. Sometimes I felt as if I were there. This book provides a good understanding of any war from the eyes of a soldier. I think this book should be recommended for 11-12 grades in either History or English, and even adults.