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Rückkehr ins Leben : ich war Kindersoldat PDF, ePub eBook At the age of twelve, Ishmael Beah fled attacking rebels in Sierra Leone 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. At sixteen, he was removed from fighting by UNICEF, and through the help of the staff at his rehabilitati At the age of twelve, Ishmael Beah fled attacking rebels in Sierra Leone 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. At sixteen, he was removed from fighting by UNICEF, and through the help of the staff at his rehabilitation center, he learned how to forgive himself, to regain his humanity, and, finally, to heal. This is an extraordinary and mesmerizing account, told with real literary force and heartbreaking honesty.

30 review for Rückkehr ins Leben : ich war Kindersoldat

  1. 4 out of 5

    Jennifer (aka EM)

    I'm sorry, I'm so very sorry for what I am about to do. It seems unbelievably curmudgeonly of me to judge this book harshly given its subject matter. But I can't let the deep empathy I feel for this former Sierra Leonean child soldier cloud my judgement of his memoir. I give him five stars - more! - for his courage, his honesty and the remarkable work he is doing to shed light on the life of child soldiers in Sierra Leone and elsewhere; to raise consciousness and motivate political action to put I'm sorry, I'm so very sorry for what I am about to do. It seems unbelievably curmudgeonly of me to judge this book harshly given its subject matter. But I can't let the deep empathy I feel for this former Sierra Leonean child soldier cloud my judgement of his memoir. I give him five stars - more! - for his courage, his honesty and the remarkable work he is doing to shed light on the life of child soldiers in Sierra Leone and elsewhere; to raise consciousness and motivate political action to put a stop to the brutality and corruption of the regimes that use them. But, this is about the book--did the book work, did the book move me as it had the immense potential to do, did it put me into his world and let me share his trauma and pain at a visceral level - making me angry, sad, guilty, moved to action? And the answer to all of that is, not really. It had three major flaws (really, I blame the editor): 1. The lead-up to Beah's kidnapping into the army lacked the kind of rich detail that made the loss of that life resonate throughout the rest of the story. (for a contrast, see Lawrence Hill's The Book of Negroes aka Someone Knows My Name). 2. The time spent in the army -- the drugs, the brutality of the 'training', the weeks-long missions in the bush, fuelled only by drugs and fear, the orgies of killing, raping and looting -- all that we know happens, we didn't see here. Beah's time in the army was the shortest part of this book. For him, emotionally and psychologically, it's completely understandable--even if he wanted to (unlikely) he probably can't--because of the drugs and trauma--even remember. It's a terrible thing, but this book needed him to. 3. The book ended abruptly with a major piece of the story left hanging -- I guess I can't tell you what. So often, books - especially memoirs - inherently have a built-in problem with the end. We always know the end -- at least in broad strokes, but you still have to take us there, and take us to a point that it makes sense to stop even though obviously, if you're writing it, the story didn't stop. In this case, Beah stopped about two crucial plot points before he should have. What was most effective for me was the rehabilitation section of the story. This is where Beah's detached, almost fugue-like point-of-view seemed to work so well. It's also where his memories of what he experienced were set up in stark relief to the difficulty of his recovery -- that contrast, and the level of detail that then emerged, made for compelling reading. In fact, I'm upping from 2 to 3 stars solely based on the redemption the rehabilitation segment offers the story. It made up - to some extent - for flaws 1 and 2. Maybe the entire story should have been set during the rehabilitation period, with flash forwards and flashbacks? Because of some work I am doing right now for an organization working in the field of international development and poverty reduction, I am particularly interested in how to tell these kinds of stories: how do you avoid exploitation while retaining the emotional power of the story to motivate readers to empathy and action? What form works? What level of detail? What tone and POV? Dave Eggers wrote a jacket blurb (as did Jon Stewart) -- and this book shows me a little why Eggers' approach, as in What Is The What (at its heart, a remarkably similar journey) and in Zeitoun -- works so well, where this one didn't. It takes a deft writer to manage these literary choices: it's about how the story is told as much or even more than what the story is. Maybe that's just me -- maybe I'm asking a memoir to use fictional devices and story-telling techniques and maybe that's just not fair. Maybe that's why Eggers is the epitome for me, because he is able to tread that line perfectly (imho, and brings, too, the journalist's eye to the story). What do you think? Should memoirs be held to the same standards as fiction in terms of plot, pacing, tone, characterization, etc.? All or some of these? Or is there a different set of standards that need to be applied, a different way to experience them?

  2. 4 out of 5

    Chris

    I will never. Never. Complain about my childhood again. Okay, that's not true. I will. But when I let out a sad sigh of remorse that I didn't figure out exactly why I really wanted to be friends with that one guy in band in high school until it was way too late to do anything about it, I will at least think, "At least I wasn't killing people and snorting gunpowder." Like most of you reading this, I knew absolutely nothing about what was happening in Sierra Leone in the 1990s. I didn't know there w I will never. Never. Complain about my childhood again. Okay, that's not true. I will. But when I let out a sad sigh of remorse that I didn't figure out exactly why I really wanted to be friends with that one guy in band in high school until it was way too late to do anything about it, I will at least think, "At least I wasn't killing people and snorting gunpowder." Like most of you reading this, I knew absolutely nothing about what was happening in Sierra Leone in the 1990s. I didn't know there was anything to know. For all I knew, we had fixed Africa back in '84 when the First World Lonely Hearts Club Band belted out "We Are The World" and made us all notice the famine in Ethiopia. And anyway, that was in east Africa. West Africa was supposed to be a little better organized. Shows how much I knew. Turns out all hell was breaking loose. After more than a decade of one-party rule, the Sierra Leonean military got into power and behaved pretty much the same way most African military governments did. Badly. In reaction, a rebel group, the Revolutionary United Front (RUF) started rampaging through the country. Their initial cause was to get rid of a corrupt government, but they very quickly went corrupt themselves, burning and slaughtering as they went. The rebels were vicious and bloodthirsty, and one of their most common ways of recruiting was to murder men and woman en masse and bring their sons into the fold. They would manipulate them with fear and drugs and hate, turning boys of ten, eleven, twelve years old into murderers. Ishmael Beah was on the other end of this. His family was killed when the RUF ran over his town, along with most of his friends. He and his schoolmates tried to run away, but were eventually ensnared by the army. The army of Sierra Leone were hard-pressed to fight the rebels, and needed recruits. So they would take in boys who had been left orphaned and rootless by the war and hook them on fear and drugs and hate, turning boys of ten, eleven, twelve years old into murderers. Hmmm.... This is the story of Beah's descent into horror and his successful return from it. He was one of way too many child soldiers in Africa, and probably one of the very few who came through his experience not only intact, but willing to write about it. I first saw him on The Daily Show, and honestly it is really tough to reconcile what you read in this book with the bright-eyed, smiling young man sitting across from Jon Stewart. Thanks to Dad, for the birthday present.... *smile*

  3. 4 out of 5

    Elyse Walters

    I read this book in 2007 when this book was first released. It was a year when local High School kids in our area were assigned to read this book. Then later in the year --Ishmael came to speak at our local state University to a room of more than 1,000 people. It was a powerful night! Ismael Beach was 26 years old when this book came out. He tells his story of becoming a child soldier in Sierra Leone and of his later rehabilitation. Heartbreaking -(horrors) - children in war..fighting, killing, d I read this book in 2007 when this book was first released. It was a year when local High School kids in our area were assigned to read this book. Then later in the year --Ishmael came to speak at our local state University to a room of more than 1,000 people. It was a powerful night! Ismael Beach was 26 years old when this book came out. He tells his story of becoming a child soldier in Sierra Leone and of his later rehabilitation. Heartbreaking -(horrors) - children in war..fighting, killing, dying. A riveting disturbing memoir. Ishmael became a spokesperson for the welfare of children caught in the brutality of war. He opened the eyes for many --while building his own life -thriving and living in the United States. Thankful for all the support he received --having survived. **The beauty of connecting with new Goodreads members --is re-visiting books we have read! Thank you *Ike* for the reminder that this was a valuable book to read. It only takes a few hours to read...but its a story one can never forget!

  4. 5 out of 5

    Whitney Atkinson

    4.5 Stars TW: Violence/gore, rape, drug abuse This book reminded me of Between Shades of Grey by Ruta Sepetys, not because their subject matter is anything alike, but because I had the same reaction to both books. Throughout the duration of the book it was very impactful and heavy, and I may have shed a tear or two, but as soon as I closed the book the weight of it just fell upon me and it made me start crying in full. Wow. This book is truly unlike anything I've read before. I can't even fathom t 4.5 Stars TW: Violence/gore, rape, drug abuse This book reminded me of Between Shades of Grey by Ruta Sepetys, not because their subject matter is anything alike, but because I had the same reaction to both books. Throughout the duration of the book it was very impactful and heavy, and I may have shed a tear or two, but as soon as I closed the book the weight of it just fell upon me and it made me start crying in full. Wow. This book is truly unlike anything I've read before. I can't even fathom the life that Ishmael has lived through, and his bravery for telling his story. This book was educational, this book was heart-wrenching, this book was touching, this book was amazing. As far as memoirs go, this will definitely be a memorable one.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Praj

    Dear Ms. Naomi Campbell, I have always been an ardent aficionado of your work; from your heydays sashaying the YSL runaways along with Linda Evangelista to crooning in George Michael’s Freedom video. Your numerous sexual trysts with celebrated oligarchs and other questionable chaps were highly fascinating although not marvelous. But lately, you seem to forego your sadistic tantrums and suffer from a transient global amnesia. Is it due to those numerous chalky dust lines running through your nasal Dear Ms. Naomi Campbell, I have always been an ardent aficionado of your work; from your heydays sashaying the YSL runaways along with Linda Evangelista to crooning in George Michael’s Freedom video. Your numerous sexual trysts with celebrated oligarchs and other questionable chaps were highly fascinating although not marvelous. But lately, you seem to forego your sadistic tantrums and suffer from a transient global amnesia. Is it due to those numerous chalky dust lines running through your nasal septum? I do not know whom to believe You, Carol White or Mia Farrow? Are you familiar with a certain Mr. Charles Taylor, the benefactor to your gift of “dirty-little-stones”? Aww! My apologies if I’m being a twinge to you ruptured temporal lobe. Anyhow, as an admirer of your never ending legs, I enclose a pill to your deteriorated hippocampus. Let me introduce:-Ishmael Beah(now don’t you get that dirty little mind working), Beah is a regular teen, trying to make sense of his life with his stepmother, a father who appears to have lost track of Beah’s life, harbors a dream of being a rapper by aping the likes of Run-DMC, MC Hammer and loves playing soccer with his brother Junior.Oh! I forgot to mention Beah is a child soldier recruited to battle against the rebels. Dreadful isn't it? Beah’s story travels to a quaint village of Mattru Jong in Sierra Leone. Circa 1993, Beah travels with a couple of his friends to enter a talent competition for upcoming rap artists. On his return, the once picturesque Mattru Jong has been ravaged by the rebels, massacring every human soul in sight. The prospect of seeing an old man resting in a armchair is pleasant, except once Beah went nearer there was not an inch of flesh untouched by bullet wounds, a little closer and the man’s limbs were scattered with sprinkles of blood patterned on the wall. Sierra Leone was under an ongoing dastardly active civil war. A war that showed no mercy to any living being, slashing every inhaling lungs. Control of Sierra Leone's diamond industry was a primary objective for the war. Although endowed with abundant natural resources, Sierra Leone was ranked as the poorest country. With the breakdown of all state structures, wide corridors of Sierra Leonean society were opened up to the trafficking of arms and ammunition, and an illegal trade in recreational drugs from Liberia and Guinea. Seeing his family perished Beah runs to save himself from being caught by the rebels in fear of being recruited in the camps. For over a year, Beah wanders through several villages; passing through dense forests walking for endless miles with hunger corroding his sanity and being alive was a burden itself. Running was not a sport for Beah but a gift to remain alive. A year after his deathly escapes he unfortunately gets recruited by RUF at a tender age of 13. Beah life’s takes a turn making his daily chores of annihilation, toting Ak-47s and grenades appear mundane for a killing machine. His diet now consists of mind numbing tablets, snorting cocaine and brown-brown(a mix of gun-powder& cocaine). The early day soccer practice is replaced by guarding posts avenging every intruder. Following a period of three years as a combatant Beah is lastly rescued by the UNICEF and NGOs giving his life a new lease. Ishmael Beah is now a speaker at the UN against war crimes relating to child atrocities and resides in NYC. In May 2000 the situation of Sierra Leone was deteriorated to such an extent that insurgency of British Troops was ordered to evacuate foreign nationals and locals. The 11-year war finally came to an end in May 2002 with President Kabbah taking the sovereignty of the nation. Even after the end of the Liberian War carnage culminating in the arrest of former President Charles Taylor, regrettably more than 50% of the diamond mines are unlicensed and used for illegal smuggling of ammunitions. Therefore you comprehend Naomi, even as you mull for the authority of your dirty donation and disembark your yacht frolics whilst acquiring a 10-page lavish spread of your chastisement on the coveted W Magazine; there will be festering of thousands other Ishmaels not that privileged to escape the unspeakable perils due to your lacerated amnesia. Thanking you, A keen observer eagerly waiting for your upcoming crabbiness and monotonous whoring of testimonies.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Nandakishore Varma

    This is a very important book, though not an easy one to read. Ishmael's style leaves a lot to be desired, and he is especially weak, I feel, when he tries to be philosophical. But he makes up for that with the descriptions of war, to the depravity which human beings can descend to. The fact that he does this with a child's candour, unemotionally, makes it even more disturbing. Children can be easily moulded. And cruelty comes easily to children, because they do not think of it as "cruel" in the This is a very important book, though not an easy one to read. Ishmael's style leaves a lot to be desired, and he is especially weak, I feel, when he tries to be philosophical. But he makes up for that with the descriptions of war, to the depravity which human beings can descend to. The fact that he does this with a child's candour, unemotionally, makes it even more disturbing. Children can be easily moulded. And cruelty comes easily to children, because they do not think of it as "cruel" in the adult sense. These child soldiers bury men alive with the same enthusiasm and curiosity as a child pulling wings off a butterfly and watching it squirm. Values such as the difference between "kindness" and "cruelty" have to be taught to children-but these boy soldiers of Sierra Leone, most of whom have seen their family and friends massacred mercilessly, have been fed only drugs and hatred. War is their religion, and their gods are Rambo and Shwarznegger. I salute Ishmael for the courage to come out of it. At the same time, I weep for the thousands who did not.

  7. 5 out of 5

    steven

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. The review for this one is a toss-up between one and five stars. It was an amazing story of how a twelve-year-old boy survived the armed conflicts in Sierra Leone in the 1990s. It's well-written, provides vivid imagery, and evokes the horrors of war. The one star is because of the vivid imagery. Let's be perfectly clear about this: people die in this book. Blood spatters everywhere, usually blood that should be kept inside some of the narrator's closest friends. From the very first page to the ve The review for this one is a toss-up between one and five stars. It was an amazing story of how a twelve-year-old boy survived the armed conflicts in Sierra Leone in the 1990s. It's well-written, provides vivid imagery, and evokes the horrors of war. The one star is because of the vivid imagery. Let's be perfectly clear about this: people die in this book. Blood spatters everywhere, usually blood that should be kept inside some of the narrator's closest friends. From the very first page to the very last, you are kept on a rollercoaster ride of emotion, happy one minute and torn with grief the next, until you and the narrator have both attained a kind of wariness to happiness since you know it won't last. There's a constant suspense of waiting for the other shoe to drop, and when it does it hits the ground like a ten-ton hammer. This book is disturbing. It's a good read, but I cannot in good conscience recommend it to anyone who has trouble sleeping; this wont' help at all. Every once in a while my mind will flit to one of the scenes in the book, and I'll wince; it's like I'm having minor flashbacks of things that *never happened to me*. The writing is just that evocative and heart-wrenching. When I was done reading it -- and I wouldn't have picked it up at all, knowing the subject matter, if it wasn't assigned for a class -- I threw it aside. I'm going to do my best to remember only the general overarching story, and to forget the specific details of the hardship. An overview, so that you don't have to read it if you don't want to: Sierra Leone has been war-torn since the discovery of the diamond mines in the 1960s; in the 90s things really hit the fan. Children as young as seven were pressed into military service, hopped up on cocaine and other various drugs, and sent out to kill. This happened on both sides of the war; the rebels and the "formal" army. Civilians merely provided a target-rich environment, their villages good only for forceful resupply of ammunition and food. The narrator's village is attacked, and he and a couple of his friends manage to escape and wander the country, moving from village to village. They can never settle down, because everyone is wary of children, worried that they may be brainwashed militants. Eventually, after much hardship and losing his friends to gunfire, the narrator is "trained" as a soldier and sent out to fight. Only through the intervention of UNICEF was he given an opportunity to be rehabilitated and managed to regain some semblance of a normal life, but there could be no hope of that lasting while he lived in Sierra Leone. So he escaped to New York, where he's been more or less living ever since.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Rebecca McNutt

    For anyone out there who thinks war is "exciting" or "cool", that it's like a videogame or a film, this harrowing account from a former child soldier will make you think twice, no doubt about it. As he recalls the fear, grief and horror of the situation, his story becomes really powerful and one that hopefully people will remember for a long time.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Lain

    As an over-privileged white American, it can be tough to even begin to fathom the struggles and atrocities that Africans face. When I started reading this book, I wondered if the stories Ishmael Beah would tell would be so horrific that I couldn't continue to read, much less comprehend, them. However, Meah tells his tale with a blend of humor, distance, and insight that took me right to the edge. Any further, and I think I would have shut down. Any less far, and I believe I wouldn't have gotten As an over-privileged white American, it can be tough to even begin to fathom the struggles and atrocities that Africans face. When I started reading this book, I wondered if the stories Ishmael Beah would tell would be so horrific that I couldn't continue to read, much less comprehend, them. However, Meah tells his tale with a blend of humor, distance, and insight that took me right to the edge. Any further, and I think I would have shut down. Any less far, and I believe I wouldn't have gotten the severity of his plight. As a rule, I resist saying, "this is a book everyone should read," as it sounds so hyperbolic. But this is definitely a book everyone should read.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Sarah Arlen

    This is one of those uber-rare books that everyone in the world should be required to read. If I can cry while reading it on a train full of strangers and feel lifted up at the end of its conclusion, than I think it's touching in all the best ways. It is one of the most sincere books I've ever read in my life and contains chronicling of a type of human experience that I've never seen and find too easy to ignore, that of the child in a war state on the front lines. For those of you who love stori This is one of those uber-rare books that everyone in the world should be required to read. If I can cry while reading it on a train full of strangers and feel lifted up at the end of its conclusion, than I think it's touching in all the best ways. It is one of the most sincere books I've ever read in my life and contains chronicling of a type of human experience that I've never seen and find too easy to ignore, that of the child in a war state on the front lines. For those of you who love stories, not only is this a riveting first-hand account of war, but it also contains a number of African tribal stories that we don't often hear about in our (western) culture. Please read this book.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Diane

    "If you are alive, there is hope for a better day and something good to happen." This is an amazing memoir about a child soldier in Sierra Leone. In 1993, when Ishmael was 12, rebels attacked his village and he fled, never to see his parents again. After weeks of walking and scrounging for food, he was picked up by the government military, given an AK-47 and was trained how to fight. The boys were given drugs, including cocaine and amphetamines, and sent into battle. Ishmael spent years fighting "If you are alive, there is hope for a better day and something good to happen." This is an amazing memoir about a child soldier in Sierra Leone. In 1993, when Ishmael was 12, rebels attacked his village and he fled, never to see his parents again. After weeks of walking and scrounging for food, he was picked up by the government military, given an AK-47 and was trained how to fight. The boys were given drugs, including cocaine and amphetamines, and sent into battle. Ishmael spent years fighting in his country's civil war, but then one day, he and his fellow child soldiers were rescued by UNICEF. How do you rehabilitate boys who fought in such a war? Ishmael doesn't want to talk about what happened and he gets into fights with other children. Eventually he makes friends with one of the nurses who lets him listen to rap and reggae music. Slowly, Ishmael comes out of his shell, and he is selected to go to the United Nations in New York City and speak about his experience as a child soldier. It is there that he meets the woman who will eventually become his foster mother. While the book sounds grim, there is also joy and humor. Before his village was attacked, Ishmael and his friends had started their own rap group, performing covers of American rap songs in local talent shows. Ishmael carried some of his cassettes in his pocket, and his ability to dance and entertain strangers helped him survive his journey. I liked how Ishmael admitted that he didn't understand the words he sang -- he was just imitating what he saw on music videos. Another favorite scene was the first time Ishmael heard the Atlantic Ocean -- the crashing of the waves was so loud that the boys hid because they thought it was an attack. And when he visited New York, he saw snow for the first time and had no idea what it was. I am so thankful that Ishmael survived the fighting to tell this story, and that he finally found some peace.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Marc

    Gut-wrenching and virtually unbelievable to a modern, Western-minded suburban sheltered life, this compelling first hand account of contemporary struggle and tragedy landed like a thud in my soul. I read the book in about three days, and unfortunately it tempered my view of the people around me, wondering what atrocities they were capable of committing, what sort of terror these faces or even my own hands could carry out under the right circumstances. In the end, though, it is a tale of individu Gut-wrenching and virtually unbelievable to a modern, Western-minded suburban sheltered life, this compelling first hand account of contemporary struggle and tragedy landed like a thud in my soul. I read the book in about three days, and unfortunately it tempered my view of the people around me, wondering what atrocities they were capable of committing, what sort of terror these faces or even my own hands could carry out under the right circumstances. In the end, though, it is a tale of individual redemption, and hopefully a glimpse of possibilities on a national scale. 'Memoirs' provides a helpful introductory glimpse to the ravages of war: it does not discriminate and it is a hideous prospect. And what of the manipulative irony used by leaders from both sides to motivate young minds and hearts: they killed your parents, your siblings. I find this a plausible explanation for some of the enduring squabbles not just for child soldiers within nations, but between whole societies and nations as well (perhaps the phraseology is different, but the underlying sentiment is the same - revenge and fear). My main critique, apart from the occasional stilted writing, was the unresolved ending. We knew enough of Ishmael to desire an account of his transition to the States, of his ongoing work, and of some sense of how we can be involved to help in the efforts he promotes. Can we? I'd like to know, and the perfect time to present the information is with an epilogue of some sort.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Kristy K

    Another tragic, eye-opening read. Chronicles Beah's childhood/teenage years in Sierra Leone.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Lucy

    Heartbreaking. I can't believe people have life experiences like Ishmael Beah. Ishmael, a 27 year-old refugee from Sierra Leone now living in New York City, left his home with his brother and some friends to practice a new rap routine in a neighboring village. He was twelve years old. He never saw his home or his parents again. Rebel forces attacked his village, killing most, and causing the rest to flee. Without a home to return to, he and his peers managed to spend several months wandering from Heartbreaking. I can't believe people have life experiences like Ishmael Beah. Ishmael, a 27 year-old refugee from Sierra Leone now living in New York City, left his home with his brother and some friends to practice a new rap routine in a neighboring village. He was twelve years old. He never saw his home or his parents again. Rebel forces attacked his village, killing most, and causing the rest to flee. Without a home to return to, he and his peers managed to spend several months wandering from village to village but eventually, as they were old enough to be mistaken as soldiers themselves, they became objects of fear. Left starving and hiding in the forests, Ishmael and his group were eventually captured and forced to become soldiers. A boy whose favorite thing was to perform rap songs for people was suddenly cutting throats and shooting anyone that moved. He became a drug addict, as higher ups encouraged the boys to swallow white capsules and sniff cocaine to "give them more energy". Years later, he was fortunate to be chosen by his lieutenant and UNICEF workers and was enrolled in a rehabilitation unit. It took him eight months to fight the drugs out of his system and to turn into a child again. His agony and nightmares about what he had done are intense. He was only fifteen years old. When the fighting moved from the villages into the city, Ishamel knew that he could not become a soldier again. Earlier in the year, after he had completed his rehabilitation, he traveled to New York to represent UNICEF and the youth in Sierre Leone at the UN. From this experience, he contacted one of the women he had met in New York to ask if she would be willing to allow him to stay with her if he could get out of his country. Amazingly, he managed, got to New York and has since graduated from the UN's International School and graduated from a university. What amazes me when I read books like this, because I don't really enjoy them, is how deplorable certain areas of our world really are. We are often told of the blessings we enjoy from living where we live: freedom, prosperity, security. We worry about losing zero percent interest for credit cards and avoiding trans fat, while other people in the world literally watch their best friends get blown up. Certainly our problems and worries are real, but when put into perspective, they are molehills compared to mountains. I'm grateful this boy got another chance. I'm horrified that most do not.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Henry Martin

    This book is the subject of my final project for Human Development psych class, and as such I will be updating the review at a later date. While this story is an important one, for me the book did not go deep inside the issue enough to make any real impact. I had known about child soldiers before, and I expected to read more about the psychological impact, et cetera. I may be too hard on this, because I do not read biographies often, and whenever I read biographies from Africa, I tend to compare This book is the subject of my final project for Human Development psych class, and as such I will be updating the review at a later date. While this story is an important one, for me the book did not go deep inside the issue enough to make any real impact. I had known about child soldiers before, and I expected to read more about the psychological impact, et cetera. I may be too hard on this, because I do not read biographies often, and whenever I read biographies from Africa, I tend to compare them to Nelson Mandela's Long Walk to Freedom. I'll be rereading this soon to dissect the material further. Well, here is what I have to say about it: Armed conflicts around the world have many faces. From insurgent groups and terrorists, to veteran militants and professional combatants, over the years the presence of ongoing wars has left its mark on many generations. The most unfortunate aspect of which, however, is the use of child soldiers in estimated 14 countries around the globe. Currently, the United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF) defines a child soldier as any child under the age of eighteen who takes part in any regular or irregular armed conflict. Previously, this definition only applied to children under the age of fifteen; however, this was amended in 2002. Children and adolescents who participate in armed conflicts, whether voluntarily or involuntarily, are not only exposed to severe violence, but also struggle later on in life once the armed conflict ends. In A Long Way Gone by Ishmael Beah, the author, a former child soldier himself, presents a haunting narrative chronicling his early adolescence years in Sierra Leone armed forces where he participated in the fight against rebel forces from the age of thirteen until the age of sixteen. His subsequent rehabilitation and reintegration into society was, perhaps, more difficult than the armed conflict itself. At the age of twelve, Beah survived a rebel forces attack on a village he was visiting with his friends. Unable to connect with his family members, he, along with a group of other children, embarked on a foot journey across Sierra Leone towards the last remaining safe zone, staying at random villages along the way, where he exchanged labor for food. After several months of traveling marked by imminent peril, he learned that his family was safe at a nearby village, but by the time he arrived there, it was already under attack by the rebels, who executed everyone in sight. The boys, however, manage to escape and seek refuge at another village protected by the national army. Several days later, with the rebels approaching, the army general in charge made all able bodies to join the fight, and Beah, along with his friends, was no exception. Thus, at the age of thirteen, Beah became a child soldier. Already traumatized by the violence he had witnessed from the onset of the war, Beah had seen first-hand what the rebels did to civilians, and he saw the need to take up arms not only as a way to survive, but as a tool of revenge as well. While initially apprehensive and disgusted by the atrocities he participated in, Beah quickly lost empathy and devalued human life. After losing several ‘friends’ during combat, what could have been perceived as PTSD was replaced by indifference and rage, aided by the seemingly endless supply of drugs provided by the army. In between attacks, he lived in a perpetual state of high, smoking marijuana, and sniffing cocaine mixed with gunpowder. The drugs not only numbed his senses and his humanity, they gave him the energy to keep fighting. Over the next three years, he became proficient in killing, and enjoyed executing prisoners of war as he eventually rose to the rank of Junior Lieutenant. In charge of a small unit of fellow soldiers, he organized food raids to nearby villages, and engaged in the same atrocities he despised in the rebels, effectively switching from being a victim of war to becoming the aggressor. In 1996, in an intervention by UNICEF, Beah was removed from active army service at the age of sixteen, and sent to a rehabilitation center in Freetown, the capital of Sierra Leone. Surrounded by fellow child soldiers from both sides of the conflict, he engaged in frequent fights amidst the former enemies. Dealing with drug withdrawals, he shut himself off from the efforts of counselors and the medical staff at the center, longing to return to the frontlines. Through the tireless work of one nurse at the center, Esther, Beah finally accepted that the war was over for him, and started making progress towards rehabilitation. It was at that time that he began to have nightmares of the atrocities he committed. Esther, together with other staff members, helped him establish contact with a lost uncle, who agreed to adopt Beah upon his release. Once he was cleared, Beah moved in with the uncle and slowly reintegrated into society and civilian life. At the recommendation of the rehabilitation center’s director, Beah went for an interview at the United Nations building in Freetown, to apply for a speaking position at an upcoming conference on the plight of child soldiers held at the UN headquarters in New York. Once accepted, Beah had traveled to New York where he, along with other former child soldiers and children affected by wars, gave a speech detailing their experiences. Upon his return to Sierra Leone, Beah enrolled in a secondary school to complete his education, which was cut short by the war. Not long after, however, the rebels and a rogue faction of the army invaded Freetown, and overthrew the government in a coup. Faced with the possibility of either becoming a soldier again, or being killed if he were to be recognized by any of his fellow child soldiers, Beah fled the country to Guinea, and eventually to the United States, where he had a contact from his earlier UN visit. Once in the United States, Beah continued to work with the UN and wrote his memoir, and started a charitable foundation aimed at helping children affected by war to reintegrate into society. The content of the book applies to Human Development in multiple ways. When Beah witnessed the first attack and subsequently became on his own at the age of twelve, his cohort effectively changed from that of his family and friends, to the army, which affected his future interactions with civilians at the rehabilitation center whom he perceived as incapable of understanding his experiences. During his formative years, he was affected by several adverse childhood experiences, which made him more susceptible to drug use and violence later on in life, especially since he did not have the support ecosystem that would help him build up his ACEs resilience score. It also confirms Watson’s theory that kids can be taught to love or hate anything – in this case, Beah, influenced by his peers, adapted to love killing and violence. This was further exacerbated by operant conditioning of reward in the form of drugs, when he did his job as a soldier well. It also illustrates Erikson’s theory of Identity versus Role Confusion, when his role changed from that of a carefree child to a sole provider responsible for his own sustenance. Piaget’s principles of accommodation and assimilation could also apply here, as Beah adjusted his standards of right and wrong as the conflict progressed. Having taken part in atrocities, is it possible for an adolescent to develop into a healthy adult capable of leaving the psychological trauma behind? Beah’s first defense mechanisms to deal with his trauma were Dissociation and Displacement. During the war, he displaced his anger at the loss of his family towards both rebels and civilians alike, essentially targeting the weaker ones to ‘punish’ them for his loss. After the war ended, dissociation became clear, because he had lost track of time and events that had taken place during his years in combat. Because of his involvement in armed conflict, Beah would have struggled with his development of identity as well. The first research article, The Guiltless Guilty: Trauma-Related Guilt and Psychopathology in Former Ugandan Child Soldiers (F. Klassen, S. Reissmann, C. Voss, J. Okello – Child Psychiatry Human Development 2015), shows a clear correlation between child soldier experiences and future psychological disorders, mainly PTSD and Major Depressive Disorders. Interestingly, it shows that the majority of former child soldiers (50.8%) see themselves as victims, while only a minority (19.1%) see themselves as perpetrators. A greater number of traumatic experiences as a self-identified perpetrator is associated with the feeling of guilt, which is a predictor for externalizing psychological problems and resulting in aggression, cruelty, law-breaking, property damage, and conflict with others. Self-identified victims, on the other hand, tend to internalize problems, which correlates with a greater occurrence of major depressive disorders. Applying these results to Beah’s case, it confirms his initial aggression at the rehabilitation center, followed by withdrawals from interactions as he began to internalize his trauma. The second research article, When Combat Prevents PTSD Symptoms – results from a survey with former child soldiers in Northern Uganda (R. Weierstall, I. Schalinski, A. Crombach, T. Hecker, T. Elbert – BMC Psychiatry 2012) explores the link between increased exposure to traumatic events and lower occurrence of PTSD. The study found that there is a clear dose-effect correlation between organized violence, as carried out by child-soldier units, and an appetite for aggression. Appetitive Aggression, such as the enjoyment of a victim struggling, has been found to lower PTSD scores in perpetrators. This, applied to Beah’s case, confirms his transition once he started enjoying killing prisoners of war as he went from a victim to a person responsible for violence and, especially, his lack of PTSD. While this study was limited in its sample, I felt it was relevant and important to include here, because it aids in understanding Beah’s mental health.

  16. 5 out of 5

    James

    I finally got around to reading the highly lauded A Long Way Gone. “Africa breaks your heart.” That’s what David Denby of The New Yorker concluded at the very beginning of his review for “Blood Diamond,” drawing on the then recent releases of “Hotel Rwanda,” “The Constant Gardener,” “And The Last King of Scotland.” I concur, having read Ishmael Beah’s memoir relatively close on the heels of Dave Eggers’ What is the What and Beasts of No Nation. I suppose I could complete the cycle with This Voice I finally got around to reading the highly lauded A Long Way Gone. “Africa breaks your heart.” That’s what David Denby of The New Yorker concluded at the very beginning of his review for “Blood Diamond,” drawing on the then recent releases of “Hotel Rwanda,” “The Constant Gardener,” “And The Last King of Scotland.” I concur, having read Ishmael Beah’s memoir relatively close on the heels of Dave Eggers’ What is the What and Beasts of No Nation. I suppose I could complete the cycle with This Voice in My Heart, and The Devil Came on Horseback, among others, but my heart is already fragile enough. Beah’s book of tragic descent into war as a 12-year-old is striking for many reasons on several levels. It seems to be placed somewhere between Keroauc’s “On the Road” and McCarthy’s “The Road.” It illuminates an unsettling postmodern world highly influenced by drugs and western war movies. It is a road novel, but very much more about coming of age and a loss of innocence in a demented, perverse, unfortunate, shameful (I can’t stop!) modern world. Reminiscent of the scene in Jarhead when the marines whoop and holler to Apocalypse Now, Beah relates that, “We watched movies at night. War movies, Rambo: First Blood, Rambo II, Comando, and so on, with the aid of a generator or sometimes a car battery. We all wanted to be like Rambo; we couldn’t wait to implement his techniques. When we ran out of food, drugs, ammunition, and gasoline to watch war films, we raided rebel camps, in towns, villages, and forests. We also attacked civilian villages to capture recruits and whatever else we could find.” Beah’s prose is dominated by plain and simple descriptive language, a style that portrays one of the story’s more interesting elements: the amazing ability of people to quickly adapt. It is truly an admirable quality for a usually deficient species: “Oh. We’re being raided. Our way of life that we’ve known for years is over and our entire family is dead. We better move on.” Survival. It is captivating. Especially the way Beah shares it. He does so with simple eloquence and an appropriate and refreshing lack of sentimentality and drama that does not betray any severity and immediacy. Whereas Beasts of no Nation has a very stylized voice to accompany the similarly frenzied content, and What is the What takes a more straightforward collage-combining-Memphis Belle-esque everything goes into it approach, Long Way Gone has a very simple narrative voice and structure that realistically compliments the haunting, intense events portrayed. While this approach is abrupt, disjointed, and rough around the edges at times, it rings as absolutely authentic. As in What is the What and Beasts of No Nation, Beah’s story is impressive in how it raises the stakes. Just when you, the reader, think things have gotten so bad that they couldn’t possibly get any worse, they do. And it breaks your heart. All over again.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Lauren Elise

    [10th Grade] DNF ~40% Found a scene very triggering and had to ask for a different book.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Kristine

    Good book- short, simple, he describes his experience as a child soldier. Pretty amazing, bc you figure not that many of those child soldiers have the opportunity or inkling to write about it. I do wish the book had a clearer timeline and sense of the history and politics surrounding his personal experience in the conflict, but hey- the guy is not a historian, so I am not gonna bitch about that. The topic of the Sierra Leone conflict though is FASCINATING, not to mention disgusting when you see w Good book- short, simple, he describes his experience as a child soldier. Pretty amazing, bc you figure not that many of those child soldiers have the opportunity or inkling to write about it. I do wish the book had a clearer timeline and sense of the history and politics surrounding his personal experience in the conflict, but hey- the guy is not a historian, so I am not gonna bitch about that. The topic of the Sierra Leone conflict though is FASCINATING, not to mention disgusting when you see what forces caused it, and I've been seeing the subject around a lot recently: - the documentary "Refugee All-Stars" which I review below -this book -the movie Blood Diamond with Leo DeCaprio and (horrible) Jennifer Connelly, both of their weird accents totally annoying me -the documentary "Diamond Road" on National Geographic, which was actually too sad and depressing for me to watch. Unlike the concise yet powerful "Refugee All-Stars," the Diamond Road series was 3 parts, 2 hours each, covering the Diamond Industry from start to finish, the start being the diamond mines of Sierra Leone, and the end being the industry's attempts to make themselves not look like criminals who take diamonds out of a country whose citizens are among the poorest in the world. Movie Review of "Refugee All Stars" I wasn't excited "Long Way Gone" until I realized it was about the same country as this freakin AMAZING documentary I just saw on POV about refugees from Sierra Leone. It's called "Refugee All-Stars" and it's about 6 or 7 refugees from S.L. forming a band in the refugee camp in neighboring Guinea. It's hard to capture what this documentary does in a mere three hours, hard to believe that I could feel so much for these people after such a short time. And, it's not one of those "bawl your eyes out I feel so sorry for these people things" where you leave just feeling BAD. Although I do feel bad, that's not what the story evokes- it evokes the power of the human spirit, the drive to make something positive out of a horrible situation and horrible memories, and the power of music.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Toai Trinh

    Ishmael Beah’s A Long Way Gone tells the story of himself, a young teen in the midst of political upheaval, where rebels everywhere are killing many of the innocent civilians of Africa. The book is set in Sierra Leone, where many African rebels were causing chaos at every town they passed by. Hoping to survive and maybe reunite with his family, Ishmael runs around Sierra Leone, where rebels hope to recruit young Africans like Ishmael himself. Ishmael wanders around Sierra Leone, examining the p Ishmael Beah’s A Long Way Gone tells the story of himself, a young teen in the midst of political upheaval, where rebels everywhere are killing many of the innocent civilians of Africa. The book is set in Sierra Leone, where many African rebels were causing chaos at every town they passed by. Hoping to survive and maybe reunite with his family, Ishmael runs around Sierra Leone, where rebels hope to recruit young Africans like Ishmael himself. Ishmael wanders around Sierra Leone, examining the paranoia that the war has caused for the people, who usually are very peaceful, but at last gets caught by a rebel and forced to become a boy soldier, exposing himself to the savagery of war. The book exposes us to the savagery of war, which causes Ishmael, a previous happy-go-lucky person, into a killing machine, unappalled by the actions he does to innocent civilians. In one memorable moment, after leaving Mattru Jong, Ishmael’s grandmother’s homeland, Ishmael and his group of friends; Junior, Mohomad, and Tulloi; all head home with news that it has been attacked. While walking the six miles home, they hear the sound of a car, believing it to be a rebel, they ide behind a bush. The vehicle stops right in front of them, and the driver vomits blood, crying at the fact that he barely survived the attacks, his arms bleeding as if he had been shot not so long ago. A woman comes, also bloody, and asks for him to stand and opens up the doors of the car, revealing the bodies of his whole family, lifeless with their blood all over the ceiling and seats. Later, a man runs with the body of his son in his arms, rushing to the nearest hospital, uttering the words, “I will get you to the hospital, my boy, and everything will be fine” repeatedly, clinging onto the false sense of hope that kept him running. Lastly, a women walks towards Ishmael with a body on her back, shot dead as the women was running away. She halts at the center of the road, removing her child, a girl with her eyes open and an interrupted innocent smile on her face. With the bullet barely sticking out of the baby, the mother clings onto her child and rocks her, unable to shed tears or utter a single word due to fear and shock. Ultimately, the story of Ishmael is a story of the transformation of a boy, venturing away from his bare and innocent self, turning into an emotionless machine, hurting everyone and everything around him, and finally reverting back to normal through the kind care of people. It all adds up to the tale of the savagery of war, an element that can affect anyone which tells us that not only is war terrible as a whole, but terrible all the way down to the individual level. A Long Way Gone tells that very well, telling us that war causes loneliness and with loneliness comes the need to have revenge, causing people to blinded by rage. People are apathetic to issues outside their own environment, choosing to believe that it doesn’t really affect them. A Long Way Gone shows the people what life is like for them, and how they god through ordeals and how bad their situation is and because of that, I recommend it to anyone that wants to open their eyes to problems outside their community. This book is an eye opener for it shows how horrific the war is in Africa and how it effects the person, causing Ishmael to go from a young boy who loves rap music, into a killing machine while he works for the army as a boy soldier. It shows the terrors of war and that sometimes there is no happy ever after, exemplified when Ishmael never actually reunites with his father, mother and his brother, Junior. It talks about the experiences of being a boy soldier, which introduces Ishmael to the cruel side of the world, making him execute many people and introducing him to drugs. But it also shows of how he got out of the loop, becoming his innocent self once again, with the help of a nurse and UNICEF, and spreading his story to people all over the world to make sure something is done so that no child has to go through what he went through. From reading this book, I learned that life isn’t fair and that I should feel blessed for the childhood I have here in San Jose. People have it worse in other parts of the world, not even having enough resources to feed yourself, let alone your whole family. We’re not always under constant threat of having rebels come into our city and burning it to the ground here in San Jose, but in other parts of the world, children are growing up every day under these circumstances, living in constant fear that maybe tomorrow everything around them could gone. This book has shown me that San Jose isn’t the only city in the world and that there are other places that have it much worse, influencing me to be blessed for having a peaceful childhood, where the only fear I had was the monster under my bed, not the fear of wondering when the next meal would be. This book made me imagine brutal things, the vivid imagery of people dying gruesome deaths, blood spattering everywhere. Countless nights after reading this book I have had these images in my dreams, with the way that Ishmael describes the events burned into my head. I was given the feeling of devastation, being happy one minute and torn with grief the next, as if I was on a rollercoaster ride of emotions. This book drew me in, placing me as Ishmael in his experiences, making me feel as if I was the one facing all of these ordeals and truly experiencing what Ishmael had to go through. It made me feel a wide array of emotions, from heartbreak to joy, laughter to sadness. Throughout all these emotions, I couldn’t put this book down, piquing my interest with every word of the book. I’ve probably read a handful of books in my life, with this one being the one that opened my eyes to the problems of the world and taught me how to be blessed for and cherish everything I have.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Tania

    I listened to this on audio, and I adored the author's accent. I struggled to really emphathize with Ishmael for the first half of the book as the horrors of what was happening with him was so far removed from what I know. I can't even imagine children having to deal with these situations - as a victim, and as a perpetrator. The section that dealt with the rehabilitation of the child soldiers were my favorite section in the book. I admire the people who have the heart and the guts to do these am I listened to this on audio, and I adored the author's accent. I struggled to really emphathize with Ishmael for the first half of the book as the horrors of what was happening with him was so far removed from what I know. I can't even imagine children having to deal with these situations - as a victim, and as a perpetrator. The section that dealt with the rehabilitation of the child soldiers were my favorite section in the book. I admire the people who have the heart and the guts to do these amazing jobs.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Tj Barnaba

    The world undergoes problems, a whole load honestly. In this book light is shed on one of these problems. A problem that a part of the world might not have a clue about: the life and plight of a childsoldier. Ishmael Beah a Sierra leone boychild brings out his past in this book. the traumas he went through as a childsoldier and his eventual breakthrough.It was alot of heartgetting content in the book. Ishmael undergoes alot, the shine however fares in the end.

  22. 5 out of 5

    BAM The Bibliomaniac

    How horrific! The amount of trauma both incurred and inflicted is immeasurable. What these boys have experienced simply to have their needs met is no way to live. Ishmael is the exception not the rule. 2017 Lenten nonfiction Buddy Reading Challenge book # 37

  23. 5 out of 5

    Donna

    What an incredibly sad story. This book went full circle as it covered the life of a little boy in war-torn Sierra Leone. It starts out with him happily tucked between two families that love him, then he is ripped out of that little piece of reality . This story covers how the limits one sets for himself in life can be eroded away by life experiences that pick away at that line, blurring it, especially when survival and safety are on the line. Such tragedy.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Usman Hickmath

    This book will make you cry. It will also make you realise how blessed are we to have this life we live.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Shannon (Giraffe Days)

    In the 1990s Sierra Leone, a small country in West Africa, found itself sinking into a very bloody internal war between corrupt government soldiers and armed rebels. It lasted at least ten years, and while now the country is stable and has a booming tourism industry, during the war countless innocent civilians were slaughtered and hundreds of boys were recruited by both sides. Ishmael is twelve when the rebels arrive at his small mining town in the south-west, not so far from the ocean. He is wit In the 1990s Sierra Leone, a small country in West Africa, found itself sinking into a very bloody internal war between corrupt government soldiers and armed rebels. It lasted at least ten years, and while now the country is stable and has a booming tourism industry, during the war countless innocent civilians were slaughtered and hundreds of boys were recruited by both sides. Ishmael is twelve when the rebels arrive at his small mining town in the south-west, not so far from the ocean. He is with his older brother, Junior, and their friends at a nearby town when the attack happens, and he is separated from his parents and younger brother, never to see them again. People are mowed down as they run, fleeing one town for another with the rebels not far behind. So begins a long journey for Ishmael as he tries to survive and stay alive. Food is hard to come by, and he has so many near-misses with death - not just at the hands of the rebels, but other villagers who are suspicious of him - that if this weren't a memoir you would never believe it. More than once, the tapes of American rap music save his life. Ironic, huh? He is recruited into the government's army, given an AK-47 and becomes addicted to several kinds of drugs, including cocaine, that the lieutenant hands out. He hardly sleeps, has loads of energy, and his migraines have stopped. He becomes a junior sergeant and leads his small unit of boys - some of these recruited boys are as young as 7 and can barely lift their guns - into laying ambushes and attacks on villages. At one point, he encounters a rebel group of boys just like his, and like all the other squirmishes it is a fight to the death. A Long Way Gone tells Ishmael's story, from the moment his home is destroyed, to being rehabilitated, representing other child soldiers at a UN conference and finally finding a new home in America. It is an interesting read on many levels. It is at the same time both simplistic and complex, distant and intense, coldly factual and emotionally harrowing. Throughout it all I kept reminding myself, "He's twelve"; "He's thirteen" and so on. Sometimes Bael's writing has the mature tone of a reflective adult, but generally the style is reminiscent of a report a 15-year-old might make for school. While this is a simplistic way to write anything, it could also be the only way he could write it. It is fact, not embellishment. He was deeply scarred and traumatised by all the things he'd seen and done during the war, and that's not something you can write fancifully about. It also renders it coldly brutal in its accuracy. Some people have complained that if it had delved into the political etc. situation, the circumstances behind the war, it would have been more interesting. I disagree, though it certainly made me curious about what was going on. This is not that type of memoir, and if that's what they were expecting then they have some very strange expectations of former child soldiers. On the contrary, this is the side of the war you usually don't get to see. It humanises it, in a way, and desensitises it. It's one thing to see this kind of thing on the telly, another to be pulled into a personal story as sad and frightening as this one. The very fact of the often unemotional writing (not dry or dull, but with a protective layer to shield the author) makes it all the more believable and heart-breaking. His speech at the UN conference brought tears to my eyes - not because it was poetic or profound or a great piece of oratory skill, but because it was straight-forward, from the mouth of a child who had lived through a kind of hell. His experiences didn't exactly make him older - not at first - but they certainly made him wild for a time. Bael doesn't dwell too much on his experiences as a soldier, it is more a balanced account of how he got into such a situation, what it did to him, and how he got out of it. Even then, he doesn't really explain how he shook off the mentality of a child soldier and became "rehabilitated". He also doesn't explain how he made it to America the second time - here I, perhaps suspiciously, feel US immigration wouldn't want that in a book; or maybe Bael just didn't feel it had any relevance. Still, I was taken rather by surprised when the story stopped. In short, A Long Way Gone is a powerful, visceral account of what happens when you give a scared but resourceful boy a big fucking gun and teach him how to kill people and be proud of it. It also shows with painful clarity the truly pointless aspects of this kind of war - of any war, true, but this kind especially, where those involved lose their sense of humanity and feel nothing for killing innocent bystanders, or burning people in their homes, or raping, looting and terrifying, all in the name of freeing the country from someone else doing exactly the same things. It makes no sense. It is hell on earth.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Chelsea Cripps

    It was one of the more incredible books I've ever read. The book is the true story of the author's life in Sierra-Leone, and the story of many other children swept up in the war there. When the author is 12-years-old his village is destroyed and his family lost. He wanders for years, sometimes with groups of other boys, sometimes alone, trying to avoid the rebels and to find a safe place to exist. Eventually swept into the war, hopped up on drugs and handed guns, the boys find themselves soldier It was one of the more incredible books I've ever read. The book is the true story of the author's life in Sierra-Leone, and the story of many other children swept up in the war there. When the author is 12-years-old his village is destroyed and his family lost. He wanders for years, sometimes with groups of other boys, sometimes alone, trying to avoid the rebels and to find a safe place to exist. Eventually swept into the war, hopped up on drugs and handed guns, the boys find themselves soldiers. (I think that's all of the plot I can give you without giving more spoilers than are implied by the title) The book is brilliantly written. Beah is an amazing writer, his writing is heart wrenching in its beauty and his astounding ability to clearly analyze his own emotions and responses to the events of his life as well as writing with astounding clarity and amazing imagery about his country and the events happening around him. The book, of course, has many incredibly sad, disturbing, and depressing elements. But I think what makes it so powerful is the shimmer of hope that laces through it. You know, from reading the back of the book, that Beah makes it out--he survives, and not only survives, but becomes an incredibly productive member of society working worldwide with human rights organizations focused on the plight of children living in war zones. But in addition to the light at the end of the tunnel, Beah gives us wonderful glimpses into the beauty of his country and culture. Through memories of his early childhood, his family, his life before the war found him, we see a powerful and moral society. Too often books about Africa seem to assume it has always been this way, that war is all they know. Beah shows us another side of Africa, which makes the tragedy of war all the more tragic.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Nick

    A glimpse into the world of the child soldier. For two years as a young teenager, the author was forcibly recruited into a Sierra Leonean rebel army which exploited children for use as soldiers. Under age, under equipped and under trained, placed into situations young teenagers should never be placed into, their lives were frequently cut short. Those that survived this brutal and violent universe live with the trauma for the rest of their lives. This important memoir shows the appalling depths h A glimpse into the world of the child soldier. For two years as a young teenager, the author was forcibly recruited into a Sierra Leonean rebel army which exploited children for use as soldiers. Under age, under equipped and under trained, placed into situations young teenagers should never be placed into, their lives were frequently cut short. Those that survived this brutal and violent universe live with the trauma for the rest of their lives. This important memoir shows the appalling depths humans can reach.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Andy

    It feels cynical and icky giving a personal memoir about horrible atrocities anything other than five stars out of respect for the author, but I’m going to do it. I wanted to like this book much more than I did. First and foremost, I picked up this book after seeing its author, Ishmael Beah, on the Colbert Report. Only after getting the book did I read the book’s Wikipedia article and find out that, much like James Frey’s A Million Little Pieces, doubt has been cast on the accuracy and authentic It feels cynical and icky giving a personal memoir about horrible atrocities anything other than five stars out of respect for the author, but I’m going to do it. I wanted to like this book much more than I did. First and foremost, I picked up this book after seeing its author, Ishmael Beah, on the Colbert Report. Only after getting the book did I read the book’s Wikipedia article and find out that, much like James Frey’s A Million Little Pieces, doubt has been cast on the accuracy and authenticity of the narrative. That sucks. I chose to read Frey’s work after all the revelations had been made about his truthiness, and treating the book like fiction, I managed to enjoy it greatly. I thought I could take the same approach to A Long Way Gone. But the book doesn’t read like typical fiction. It’s episodic and wandering, lacking the stereotypical rise and fall of action that you see in a lot of fiction. I enjoy plenty of works featuring this more wandering style, On the Road being a favorite, and again, a fictionalized memoir. But, as one might expect from the memoirs of a child soldier, the wandering just goes from atrocity to atrocity to atrocity with—I’ll say it—no effective redemption of the protagonist. (SPOILERS BELOW.) I’ll give an example. The author spends the first half of the book talking about how he fled the RUF as it went on a village-by-village rampage in the countryside of Sierra Leone. As he fled from village to village, he always knew he was never safe because the rebel forces would be close behind. Then at about the midpoint of the book, the official Sierra Leonean army “recruits” him to defend the village he has wound up in—under threat of banishment that would lead to capture or death by the rebels, of course. At first, I thought it was obviously terrible that a mere tween would be forced to take up arms, but after all, he was defending his new village after having lost everything else. If he hadn’t stood to fight, he would’ve just run until his death, if he could’ve even escape the village bloodbath at all this time. But the official Sierra Leonean army were never “the good guys.” At about the midway point of the book, the author starts mentioning that the army engaged in frequent “raids” of innocent villages for supplies, tactical base locations, and “recruits,” often killing entire villages along the way. In other words, he did the exact same thing the rebels had done all along. The reader gets the feeling that the author’s killings were not mostly defense or even revenge. They were the same insane, senseless, drug-fuelled evil that he once tried to flee. Even when these child soldiers are rescued by the UN and put in a sort of halfway home, they continue murdering, stealing, and abusing. Yes, I know, they’re traumatized and brainwashed. But the author doesn’t explore the process of overcoming this condition in an effectively detailed way. One day he’s burning his school supplies and stabbing the other orphans. The next day he’s all fine and dandy. The coup de grace of the author’s strange priorities of what to cover and what to leave out comes at the very end. The end of the book finds the author having fled, penniless and terrified, to Guinea, sleeping on the floor of the Sierra Leonean embassy with nowhere else to go. Of course we know he ends up adopted in New York, but that’s not actually covered in the book. The story ends with no resolution. It just stops. That’s the book. Episodes of ultraviolence. A miraculous rehabilitation, barely explained. A further loss of hope. The end. I am not criticizing this man or belittling the herculean struggle he went through to escape the violence and madness of his country. I am criticizing the book. I just didn’t like the way it was written, and if parts of it weren’t even true, then I respect the book even less. I wish Beah the best in life, but I just don’t think I’ll read his future works.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Julia Graf

    I just stayed up way late into the night to finish this book. Ishmael Beah, my hat's off to you. His experiences as a child affected by and running from war, and then becoming a child soldier in Sierra Leone, and ultimately escaping these horrors is mind boggling. What absolutely astounds me is what happened to him afterwards. I went to his website to find out more about him, and it turns out he got a BA degree in Political Science from a college in the United States, wrote this book himself wit I just stayed up way late into the night to finish this book. Ishmael Beah, my hat's off to you. His experiences as a child affected by and running from war, and then becoming a child soldier in Sierra Leone, and ultimately escaping these horrors is mind boggling. What absolutely astounds me is what happened to him afterwards. I went to his website to find out more about him, and it turns out he got a BA degree in Political Science from a college in the United States, wrote this book himself without a ghost writer, and now advocates against child soldiering in various capacities, and lives in the United States. What makes it so remarkable is that Sierra Leone's civil war so brutal and barbaric, people killed in the most horrific, gory ways. I can't imagine anyone going through that, let alone a child! I am blown away. No really. When you see the youth of today in our privileged society, compared to Ishmael who probably had one of the most brutal and scarring childhoods I can think of, to see what he made of his life...I just can't praise him enough. It takes a special kind of person to strike out on his own like that, so determined to improve his life, to overcome all odds and then focus on trying to improve our future. I watched some Youtube interviews with him, and he is such a calm, articulate man. I wish I could give this book 5 stars, and if I was rating the author, I'd give him a million, but several parts of the book felt a bit disjointed. I wish he would have gone more into detail about his life as a soldier. I don't know if maybe he didn't want to share everything, but that actual portion of the book was quite short in comparison to the rest of the book. Maybe he felt that readers wouldn't want to hear all the gory details? He did share some poignant excerpts, but I wanted to know more about what was going on in his head. I know he writes that he was high on drugs for most of it and brainwashed, but I would have liked to know more. I absolutely recommend this book.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Steve

    A raw, remarkable, jaw dropping, profoundly depressing, head-spinning, eye-opening story. Worth reading. Reading this book is a wonderful reminder of just how crazy and chaotic and unstable many places on the planet remain. I found the historical chronology - after the author's story concluded - immensely helpful. At the same time, one of the most unnerving and disorienting aspects of the book was how much fighting was going on, and - other than survival - how little information there was as to w A raw, remarkable, jaw dropping, profoundly depressing, head-spinning, eye-opening story. Worth reading. Reading this book is a wonderful reminder of just how crazy and chaotic and unstable many places on the planet remain. I found the historical chronology - after the author's story concluded - immensely helpful. At the same time, one of the most unnerving and disorienting aspects of the book was how much fighting was going on, and - other than survival - how little information there was as to who was fighting who or why, where the weapons were coming from, etc. Kill or be killed ... that's about it. Yikes. Given the author's background (and luck in surviving and emigrating), the book is an impressive piece of work. Be forewarned, the book's authenticity, in terms of style and vocabulary, can also wear over time. (In other words, the fact that the author's voice appears so genuine makes the story more compelling, but often at the expense of the art and readability increasingly found in popular non-fiction's purveyors of the new new journalism.) I understand the author is terrific in person - I'd love to hear him speak some day.... If you've read Black Hawk Down, I'd recommend this if for no other reason that it's on the opposite side of the same continent, and it's easy to forget how broadly dispersed and diverse and destructive the violence and unrest is.... Shocking, brutal stuff. Not for the faint of heart.

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