A Long Way Gone - Memoirs Of A Boy Soldier

Interest LevelReading LevelReading A-ZATOSWord Count
Grades 9 - 12Grades 4 - 12Z6.180413
The first-person account of a 25-year-old who fought in the war in Sierra Leone as a 12-year-old boy. 'My new friends have begun to suspect that I haven't told them the full story of my life. "Why did you leave Sierra Leone?" "Because there is a war." "You mean, you saw people running around with guns and shooting each other?" "Yes, all the time." "Cool." I smile a little. "You should tell us about it sometime." "Yes, sometime."' This is how wars are fought now: by children, hopped-up on drugs and wielding AK-47s. In the more than fifty conflicts going on worldwide, it is estimated there are some 300,000 child soldiers. Ishmael Beah used to be one of them. What is war like through the eyes of a child soldier? How does one become a killer? How does one stop? Child soldiers have been profiled by journalists, and novelists have struggled to imagine their lives. But until now, there has not been a first-person account from someone who came through this hell and survived. Ishmael Beah, now twenty-five years old, tells a riveting story: how at the age of twelve in Sierra Leone, he fled attacking rebels and wandered a land rendered unrecognizable by violence. By thirteen, he'd been picked up by the government army, and Beah, at heart a gentle boy, found he was capable of truly terrible acts. This is a rare and mesmerizing account, told with real literary force and heartbreaking honesty. Ishmael Beah came to the United States when he was seventeen, and graduated from Oberlin College in 2003. He lives in New York City.
Paperback, 397 pages
Published on August 1, 2008 by Large Print Press
ISBN-10: 1594132674
ISBN-13: 9781594132674
3 Book Reviews
  • nayelim
    nayelimalmost 4 years
    A memoir of a child soldier in Sierra Leone, A long way gone, by Ishmael Beah, will take you on an expedition through survival and the suffering of many people. A struggle that everyone faced but couldn’t do anything about it, it was an impossible cause. A miraculously delivery. In the telling of his story, he takes a position to view the war as an innocent child. As an innocent child he makes the reader view the story from the perspective he did. The reader will experience an understanding of the war, the suffering of many losses, and the minds of the young and elderly. This all began during the beginning of the civil war, which spreaded out fairly quick though small villages, destroying families, and small tribes which then became a bloodbath. It was a commotion and was just violent matters that couldn’t be adjusted. At the age of 10 Beah couldn’t believe what was happening, his imagination at that age didn’t have the capacity to grasp what had taken away the happiness of the refuges. Beah had to then realize that the war was real. Because of the loss of many people from the war that became so intense, the government was shortlisted and needed to recruit people. Beah was recruited at the age of 13 and was forced into combat against the rebels. In the period he was enlisted for about three years Beah was forced to take drugs in order to turn him into a master killer. Beah faced many things many don’t face at the age of 13. He faced death everyday and suffered the loss of many of his friends and family members. At the age of 13 Beah lost his innocence. You could say that it wasn’t his fault because he tells you what he wanted to live and the way he really did. He would have preferred it to be a dream and not his life story. He wrote about the line between reality and dreams but throughout days that line became to disappear. Beah Spent weeks with just a little or no sleep at all. He was just attacking village to village. For people like us we can usually wake up and forget about the dream we have or we can wake up and just keep that memory but Beah couldn’t do that, although he would really want to just wake up he can’t, that memory, that life he is really living it. Besides the violence and the killing Beah wants to know who he really is. He wants to know where he came from, his heritage, and his traditions. In telling the story of his survival, Beah weeps in his childhood memories. It makes his realize how important traditions, heritage, elders, family and especially the way he grew up. These memories just stayed as memories because he had lost his innocence fairly young. These memories were no longer available until he received rehabilitation, he then accepts himself and gives readers hope. Throughout this story, Beah’s message is very clear: he witnesses many losses, many destruction of different villages, including his own. He not only sees destruction but he sees life before war. He experiences many difficulties throughout this period. Beah watched his whole life turn upside down. The people he loved were tremendously hurt. Adults and Elders from different families, different villages were hurt as well. Many people were scared not only of the rebels but even their own family, they couldn’t trust anyone. People were afraid because no one could be themselves anymore. On different occasions Beah watched kids destroy families and villages. Children killed adults and set villages on fire. Older people were not respected, they no longer were able to give their opinion. Traditions were lost and everything was just about war now. No one cared about the values of anyone, everything was just violence and killing. Eventually Beah went to New York and was removed from the society he got so traumatized in. He was then removed from drugs and violence. He then slowly goes back into civilian life. A bit after he meets his new family, his new mother his foster mother. He faces new challenges like living with new family, new people in his life, ad a totally new civilization. He goes to school to finish high school and is faced with people who judged him for his past life. Although these challenges he still was curious about his violent past and wanted to know more about it. He couldn’t though, no one could tell him anything because they didn’t know either. In the end Beah’s leaves readers with hope as well as a feeling of encouragement. He wants people to feel a responsibility for their own society. But, he has transformed everyone. He inspired people to take action against the use of children, and take action against war.
    • laurak
      laurakalmost 7 years44 stars
      This book is basically talking about a 12 year old boy Ishmael from Sierra Leone. Although he's not even a teenager yet, but he as forced to fight a war, held guns and addicted to cocaine and marijuana. The kids are brainwashed that if they join the army, they will revenge for their slaughtered family from war. Ishmael became something he feared the most, a killing machine. I think this story makes me feel really sad, because by looking at the stories of Ishmael, what he saw in the war, and what he had to go through, I feel really bad for him, why does a little boy at this age need to go through this while they didn't even know what they're doing. But after years of wars, Ishmael fell in love with a nurse while he was injured in a conflict, Esther. She opened up a new window for his life. He was invited to give a speech in New York city, and started a new chapter of his life. This book is full of cruelty, but it made me understand that how thankful I should be.
      • tekkers01
        tekkers01over 7 years55 stars
        I loved this book due to the author's unpacifistic way of talking about his journey as a child soldier in war torn Sierra Leone. Ishmael's firsthand account on being a child soldier is truthful to the point of disbelief. I recommend this book to anyone who would like insight in a current world issue throughout Africa.