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They Poured Fire on Us From the Sky: The Story of Three Lost Boys from Sudan

They Poured Fire on Us From the Sky: The Story of Three Lost Boys from Sudan

5.0 1
by Benjamin Ajak, Alephonsion Deng, Benson Deng, Judy A. Bernstein

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Benjamin, Alepho, and Benson were raised among the Dinka tribe of Sudan. Their world was an insulated, close-knit community of grass-roofed cottages, cattle herders, and tribal councils. The lions and pythons that prowled beyond the village fences were the greatest threat they knew.

All that changed the night the government-armed Murahiliin began attacking their


Benjamin, Alepho, and Benson were raised among the Dinka tribe of Sudan. Their world was an insulated, close-knit community of grass-roofed cottages, cattle herders, and tribal councils. The lions and pythons that prowled beyond the village fences were the greatest threat they knew.

All that changed the night the government-armed Murahiliin began attacking their villages. Amid the chaos, screams, conflagration, and gunfire, five-year-old Benson and seven-year-old Benjamin fled into the dark night. Two years later, Alepho, age seven, was forced to do the same. Across the Southern Sudan, over the next five years, thousands of other boys did likewise, joining this stream of child refugees that became known as the Lost Boys. Their journey would take them over one thousand miles across a war-ravaged country, through landmine-sown paths, crocodile-infested waters, and grotesque extremes of hunger, thirst, and disease. The refugee camps they eventually filtered through offered little respite from the brutality they were fleeing.

In They Poured Fire on Us From the Sky, Alepho, Benson, and Benjamin, by turn, recount their experiences along this unthinkable journey. They vividly recall the family, friends, and tribal world they left far behind them and their desperate efforts to keep track of one another. This is a captivating memoir of Sudan and a powerful portrait of war as seen through the eyes of children. And it is, in the end, an inspiring and unforgettable tribute to the tenacity of even the youngest human spirits.

Editorial Reviews

Emily Wax Washington Post Book World 8/21/05
"In this tender and lyrical story, the world of... Africa's most desperate children-running away from war...is vividly evoked."
Publishers Weekly
Raised by Sudan's Dinka tribe, the Deng brothers and their cousin Benjamin were all under the age of seven when they left their homes after terrifying attacks on their villages during the Sudanese civil war. In 2001, the three were relocated to the U.S. from Kenya's Kakuma refugee camp as part of an international refugee relief program. Arriving in this country, they immediately began to fill composition books with the memoirs of chaos and culture shock collected here. Well written, often poetic essays by Benson, Alepho and Benjamin, who are now San Diego residents in their mid-20s, are arranged in alternating chapters and recall their childhood experiences, their treacherous trek and their education in the camp ("People were learning under trees"). Other pieces remember the rampant disease and famine among refugees, and the tremendous hardship of day-to-day living ("Refugee life was like being devoured by wild animals"). When the boys arrived in America, Benson, upon seeing a Wal-Mart for the first time, remarked, "This is like a king's palace." Although some readers may wish for more commentary on what life in America is like for these transplants, this collection is moving in its depictions of unbelievable courage. Agent, Joni Evans at William Morris. (June 13) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Three "lost boys" of Sudan remember lives lived far away from the torrents of history. The boys, now young men in their mid-20s, were members of the Dinka tribe, pastoralists who live in the south of the Sudan. The Dinka and their Nuer cousins, whom Benson Deng characterizes as "the tallest and blackest people in Africa," excited much jealousy among the Arab rulers of the Sudan-rulers who, by Deng's account, wanted the fertile lands between the Blue Nile and White Nile for themselves and, in the bargain, demanded that the Dinka convert to Islam. It was not an attractive offer; "as cattle keepers," Benson adds, "we didn't have time to be meditating with the Qu'ran five times a day." Soon government planes came to bomb Dinka villages whose inhabitants tried to fight back with spears; when better-armed rebel soldiers arrived, they guided the survivors to refugee camps in Ethiopia, where, Benson recounts, food and medicine were in constant shortage and "many of the boys got sick and died from eating grass soups, but it was often all we had." Over the next decade, the boys moved among refugee and rebel camps in Kenya and along the Sudanese border, a life that, Alephonsion writes, "was like being devoured by wild animals." That was little better than being one of the rebel soldiers, Benson adds: Once they strapped on AK-47s, they were controlled as tightly as dogs and sent off to die. Finally, their plight to come to the attention of international relief organizations, and thereafter private American efforts, brought the three boys to the U.S., "the land of many gorgeous goods" and of promises that, one hopes, are being kept. Well-meaning, and valuable as a document of the refugee experience.The boys' narrative, however, would have been better served by a commentary explaining the ongoing Sudanese crisis and otherwise adding more depth to this child's-eye view of events.
From the Publisher

“A moving, beautifully written account, by turns raw and tender…”—Los Angeles Times

“[The authors’] accounts, written first in lesson books and then on computer have been skillfully put together in a narrative, each boy carrying both history and that of their joint flight and reunion forward. The result is both fascinating and immediate, not least because of the guilelessness of the language and the particularly African use of metaphor and imagery….They Poured Fire…conjures up a world of marabou storks, acacia trees, termite mounds taller than men, scorpions and snakes that move in the dark, a world governed by traditions, rituals, seasons, weather, and obligations.”—New York Review of Books

“[T]ender and lyrical…one of the most riveting stories ever told of African childhoods—and a stirring tale of courage….Anyone interested in Africa, its children or the human will to survive should read this book. This beautifully told volume…will remain on my desk for years to come.”—Washington Post

“[L]ovely and unusual….[V]ital stories…that can help readers understand events in Sudan on a human level. But They Poured Fire on Us From the Sky is no mere historical document; it is a wise and sophisticated examination of the arbitrary cruelties and joys of being alive.”—Star Tribune

“Their words speak for those who no longer have a voice. Their story will take the reader on a trip not soon forgotten of spirits unwilling to be broken.”—San Antonio Express-News

“Their serious tone, broken by the occasional wry smile, memorializes their parents, the land and animals that wove the tapestry of their early childhoods… One reviewer called the book ‘deceptively understated,’ But the soft plainness of the young writers’ voices, combined with their moral insight, throws the surreal danger and strife into sharp relief.”—San Diego Union-Tribune

“[They Poured Fire] is an amazing account of boys who managed to survive a terrifying ordeal… there’s a kind of haunting beauty to their story… After reading this book, readers may feel like they’ve been on an adventure—or in hell, depending on your point of view. Whatever the case, this book is an eye-opener.”—Rocky Mountain News

“[T]he book is at once an important addition to the contemporary dialog on world affairs and a surprisingly lyrical account of coming of age under adverse conditions… These folkloric memories—replete with lions and circumcision rituals—describe a world centuries removed from the high-tech industrialization of Western society. But they years of war also have bestowed wisdom, and simple observations of childhood are seen now through different eyes…” —Minneapolis Star-Tribune

“[The book] represent[s] genuine, heartfelt examples of what war does to young people and how they may adjust to life outside the country of their birth, especially the social and intellectual problems they experience.”—Deseret Morning News

“In a harrowing account of the war, three young refugees in California… remember how they were driven from their homes in Southern Sudan in the ethnic and religious conflicts that have left two million dead. They tell their stories quietly with the help of their mentor, coauthor Judy Bernstein, in clear, interwoven, narratives that put a personal face on statistics.”—Booklist

“[W]ell written, often poetic essays…this collection is moving in its descriptions of unbelievable courage.” —Publisher’s Weekly

“The memories of the horrors they faced—from hunger, thirst and desert conditions to the constant terror and death they witnessed—tumble forth, raw and fresh, on the pages.”—MSNBC.com

“[H]eartbreaking, stunning book.”—Good Times Santa Cruz

“As the news of Darfur demonstrates, Sudan is still in crisis. But these authors made it to the US 14 years after their personal horror began. Their lives are still not easy, but they endure.”—Book Page

“[T]he trio’s lyrical eloquence, combined with the gut-wrenching clarity of their recollections, powers this testament to human endurance in the face of overwhelming trauma.”—East Bay Express

Product Details

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5.90(w) x 8.68(h) x 1.10(d)

Meet the Author

Alephonsion and Benson Deng, and their cousin Benjamin Ajak were relocated from the Kakuma refugee camp in Kenya to the United States as part of an international refugee relief program. They arrived in 2001. Now all in their mid-twenties, Benjamin, Benson, and Alephonsion live in San Diego, California.

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They Poured Fire on Us from the Sky: The True Story of Three Lost Boys from Sudan 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Rivoting way to learn about the atrocities taking place in Sudan. 'They Poured Fire on Us from the Sky' is told in the unique voice of three young men who overcame and survived obstacles we can hardly imagine. Very inspirational to see how people can go through so much and still retain their dignity. Once you start the book you will not be able to put it down.