Saturday, June 21, 2008

BOOK: A Long Way Gone by Ishmael Beah

A Long Way Gone: memoirs of boy soldier by Ishmael Beah

African Reading Challenge: Sierra Leone; in their shoes; notable books challenge

I wanted to make sure that the author's picture was included with this review. His beautiful smile makes such a contrast to the life he has led. I remember seeing Beah on The Daily Show last year and wanting to read his memoirs of his life in Sierra Leone. However, the similarities between this book and The Cellist of Sarajevo are making me crave a much lighter book. Each of these books has been excellent, and worth while and I would recommend them, but the whole civil war with civilians in the crossfire while nobody does anything is beginning to make me ill. The idea that a group can decide it's alright to kill everyone is just so unfair. Where does all this hate come from?

Beah starts the book as an eleven year old interested in rap, walking to his buddy's house with some friends. The rebels start attacking and this group of young boys end up living in the woods, trying to survive. They can't go home and there is no where else for them to go. Villagers are scared of them, the rebels and the army are all trying to kill them. Eventually they end up recruited and saved by the army, but with a price: they are now soldiers. I imagine he glosses over the worst of the atrocities, but there are still terrible descriptions of killing in this book. Just when I wasn't sure if I could read any more, UNICEF and some NGO's step in and get the boy soldiers to rehabilitation camps. Beah tells his story up to his escape from Sierra Leone to the United States.

I'm glad I read this book, I am glad that the UN is working to save these boys, I am glad that Beah survived and has written this book about his amazing life.


  1. I am so glad you included the author's picture. He has the most beautiful and compelling smile and it just amazes me that he can smile like that after such tragedy and ugliness in his past. I think that this is an important book and it opened my eyes to what is going on in Sudan. My review is here if you are interested.

  2. Oops. Sierra Leone, not Sudan. I confused it with the same kind of tragedy going on in Sudan.

  3. This sounds like it would be an interesting book, especially after I recently read Left To Tell Discovering God Amidst the Rwandan Holocaust by Immaculee Ilibagiza with Steve Erwin.

  4. This one was a difficult but important and eye openning read for me. I just picked up The Translator last night--which is about the different civil wars in Sudan (as far as I can tell anyway...lots of AK-47s). I love the picture you shared--it is such a hopeful picture.

  5. I decided to read this book after seeing Beah on The Daily Show, too. Though he was writing about a difficult subject, I found him so easy and conversational.

  6. He does have a wonderful smile, doesn't he? I'm going to add The Cellist of Sarajevo to my TBR list. Thanks!

  7. laughing stars - The Cellist of Sarajevo is a wonderful book.


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