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A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier

A children's right advocate's account of his own experiences growing up in the midst of a violent civil war in Sierra Leone by Ishmael Beah

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"Children have the resilience to outlive their sufferings . . .

  • Nov 30, 2008
  • by
". . . if given a chance." 

Ishmael Beah, author of this remarkable and very disturbing memoir, is living proof of this statement. It was a statement initially prepared for him as a spokesperson on the issue of child soldiers during his rehabilitation period, and one he learned to repeat again and again, as he outlived not only this wartime sufferings, but also all of his family members and most of his friends. 

"Why does everyone keep dying except me?" is a question that plagues him, and plagues the reader as well upon reading brutal account after brutal account of rebel attacks on otherwise peaceful villages in the West African country of Sierra Leone. It takes a strong stomach to read his gut-wrenching descriptions of the killings. But Beah is a gifted writer with a clear memory and the ability to relate vivid visual descriptions and express his feelings. This book gives new meaning to the phrase: "living to tell the tale." 

For example: "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. Very soon I will completely die and all that will be left is my empty body walking with you. It will be quieter than I am." These were the words of a friend from a time before Beah and his group of teenage boys became drug-addicted, AK-47-carrying soldiers. 

This is an important work about learning to understand not only the mind of a child soldier, but also the reasons behind how and why children become soldiers. Beah includes a chronology of events in Sierra Leone from 1462, when written history for the region began, until March, 2006. Very well written with a lot of rap and reggae music undertones, by a charming, educated, lucky, and grateful young man. Highly recommend.
A Long Way Gone

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review by . October 05, 2010
Pros: Very easy to read, excellent story, heartwarming and intense      Cons: none.      The Bottom Line: If you are looking for a book that will truly make you tremble and cry as you turn each page, Beah creates an incredible story, that you'll love.      I absolutely love a good book written about personal struggles. There is nothing more inspirational than hearing about someone raising above their problems in life and making something …
review by . May 19, 2010
Moving is a word that I hate using because it is so cliche; however, it is the only word that accurately describes my reaction at reading this memoir. It is simply moving. Ishmael Beah's terrifying account of his experiences in Sierra Leone will made me shiver, laugh, weep, get angry, and want to do something to help. I won't spoil the story by describing what happens to Beah, but I will say that it is more insane than you could possibly imagine. What is remarkable is that Beah is able to describe …
review by . November 11, 2009
I saw the ads for this book when it came out and was curious, but somehow never got round to reading it. Then I found it cheap and made up for lost time. It's an incredible read and unputdownable just doesn't begin to describe it.      The world of the first chapter is close enough to ours to be easily imagined, but far enough away to fascinate. Boys play American music tapes and practice dance moves in the street and life is good. Then it all falls apart.   …
review by . June 29, 2007
I like to say that "A Long Way Gone" is quite a depressing story but very inspiring. Ishmael Beah tells the story of becoming a boy soldier in Sierra Leone and of his later rehabilitation. This was a heartbreaking story and very difficult to read from an emotional standpoint. I read the book over a short period of time as it is so gripping that I did not want to put it down, but at the same time it brought an overwhelming sense of sorrow. The horror that Beah so well describes, was unbelievably …
review by . June 20, 2007
No matter how you slice it, Ishmael Beah is an amazing man.    This autobiographical account of his life details how a happy, cheerful young boy became a merciless soldier at the age of thirteen (and was not the oldest by far). How he went form living with his family in a small village in Sierra Leone to being a drug-addicted killer, ready to gun down anyone who got in the way. Not just killing people, but often doing so in especially brutal ways.    Most …
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Michele VanOrt Cozzens ()
Ranked #260
I am the mother of two daughters--a tween and a teen. Need I say more about my current state of mind?
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Starred Review.This absorbing account by a young man who, as a boy of 12, gets swept up in Sierra Leone's civil war goes beyond even the best journalistic efforts in revealing the life and mind of a child abducted into the horrors of warfare. Beah's harrowing journey transforms him overnight from a child enthralled by American hip-hop music and dance to an internal refugee bereft of family, wandering from village to village in a country grown deeply divided by the indiscriminate atrocities of unruly, sociopathic rebel and army forces. Beah then finds himself in the army—in a drug-filled life of casual mass slaughter that lasts until he is 15, when he's brought to a rehabilitation center sponsored by UNICEF and partnering NGOs. The process marks out Beah as a gifted spokesman for the center's work after his "repatriation" to civilian life in the capital, where he lives with his family and a distant uncle. When the war finally engulfs the capital, it sends 17-year-old Beah fleeing again, this time to the U.S., where he now lives. (Beah graduated from Oberlin College in 2004.) Told in clear, accessible language by a young writer with a gifted literary voice, this memoir seems destined to become a classic firsthand account of war and the ongoing plight of child soldiers in conflicts worldwide.(Feb.)
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ISBN-10: 0374105235
ISBN-13: 978-0374105235
Author: Ishmael Beah
Genre: History
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
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