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A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier

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The devastating story of war through the eyes of a child soldier. Beah tells how, at the age of twelve, he fled attacking rebels and wandered a land rendered unrecognizable by violence. By thirteen, he’d been picked up by the government army, and became a soldier.

My new friends have begun to suspect 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.”
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. Children have become soldiers of choice. In the more than fifty conflicts going on worldwide, it is estimated that 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.

In A Long Way Gone, Beah, now twenty-five years old, tells a riveting story: how at the age of twelve, 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 that he was capable of truly terrible acts.

This is a rare and mesmerizing account, told with real literary force and heartbreaking honesty.

229 pages, Hardcover

First published February 13, 2007

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About the author

Ishmael Beah

21 books942 followers
Ishmael Beah was born in Sierra Leone in 1980. He moved to the United States in 1998 and finished his last two years of high school at the United Nations International School in New York. In 2004 he graduated from Oberlin College with a B.A. in political science.

He is a member of the Human Rights Watch Children’s Rights Division Advisory Committee and has spoken before the United Nations, the Council on Foreign Relations, the Center for Emerging Threats and Opportunities (CETO) at the Marine Corps Warfighting Laboratory, and many other NGO panels on children affected by the war. His work has appeared in VespertinePress and LIT magazine. He lives in New York City.


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5 stars
77,201 (42%)
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3 stars
28,474 (15%)
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Displaying 1 - 30 of 11,742 reviews
Profile Image for Jennifer (formerly Eccentric Muse).
457 reviews943 followers
November 27, 2010
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?

Profile Image for Chris.
341 reviews958 followers
February 9, 2008
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.


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*
Profile Image for Ahmad Sharabiani.
9,566 reviews56.6k followers
October 12, 2020
A Long Way Gone. Memoirs of a Boy Soldier, Ishmael Beah

Ishmael Beah (born 23 November 1980) is a Sierra Leonean author and human rights activist who rose to fame with his acclaimed memoir, A Long Way Gone. His novel Radiance of Tomorrow was published in January 2014. His most recent novel Little Family was published in April 2020.

The book is a firsthand account of Beah's time as a child soldier during the civil war in Sierra Leone (1990's). Beah was 12 years old when he fled his village after it was attacked by rebels, and he wandered the war-filled country until brainwashed by an army unit that forced him to use guns and drugs.

By 13, he had perpetrated and witnessed numerous acts of violence. Three years later, UNICEF rescued him from the unit and put him into a rehabilitation program that helped him find his uncle, who would eventually adopt him. After his return to civilian life he began traveling the United States recounting his story.

تاریخ نخستین خوانش: روز نوزدهم ماه فوریه سال 2016میلادی

عنوان: راهی طولانی که رفتم، خاطرات یک کودک سرباز؛ نویسنده: اسماعیل بئا (به آ)؛ مترجم: مژگان رنجبر؛ تهران، کوله پشتی، 1394؛ در 240 ص؛ شابک: 9786007642412؛ چاپ دوم 1395؛

شاید بیش از سیصدهزار کودک‌ْ سرباز، نشئه از مواد مخدر، و کلاشنیکف‌ به‌ دست، در بیش از پنجاه منازعه، و جنگ، در سرتاسر دنیا، حضور داشته اند؛ «اسماعیل به‌ آ»، یکی از همین «کودکْ‌ سربازان» بوده، و یکی از نخستین افرادی‌ است، که داستان، و یادمانهای خود را از یکی از مهیب‌ترین جنگ‌های دنیا، بازگو می‌کند؛ «اسماعیل به‌ آ» کتاب «راهی طولانی که رفتم» را در سن 26سالگی به نگارش درآورده، و در آن، داستان خود را روایت می‌کند؛ او در سن دوازده سالگی، به دنبال حمله‌ ی شورشی‌ها، از خانه، و روستای خود می‌گریزد، و آواره‌ ی سرزمین‌هایی می‌شود، که در پی رفتار خشونت‌ آمیز شورشی‌ها، دیگر قابل شناشایی نیستند؛ در سیزده سالگی، در ارتش دولتی، سرباز می‌شود؛ «به‌ آ» که قلبا انسان ملایم، و مهربان است، متوجه می‌شود، که توانایی انجام چه کارهای هولناکی را دارد؛ او توسط نیروهای «یونیسف» آزاد، و به مرکز بازپروری می‌رود، و تلاش می‌کند تا دوباره انسانیت خود را، بازیابد، و به جامعه‌ ی بشری، که اینک به او به دیده‌ ی ترس، و بدگمانی می‌نگرد، بازگردد؛ «راهی طولانی که رفتم» داستانی‌ درباره ی «امید» و «رستگاری بشر» است

تاریخ بهنگام رسانی 20/07/1399هجری خورشیدی؛ ا. شربیانی
Profile Image for Elyse Walters.
4,010 reviews33 followers
November 5, 2015
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

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!

Profile Image for Whitney Atkinson.
916 reviews13.9k followers
May 27, 2017
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.
Profile Image for Praj.
314 reviews799 followers
September 10, 2013
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.
Profile Image for Tahani Shihab.
592 reviews830 followers
September 14, 2020
“في كل مرة يأتي أناس إلينا وهم عازمون على قتلنا كنت أغلق عيني وأنتظر الموت. ورغم أنني لازلت حيًّا، أشعر في كل مرة أسلم فيها للموت وكأن جزء مني يموت. وسرعان ما سوف أموت تمامًا وكل ما سوف يبقى هو جسدي الفارغ يسير معكم”.

“وانتظرنا حتى استقر الصمت في عظامنا”

“لم أعد جنديًّا، أنا مجرد طفل. وكلنا إخوة وأخوات. وما تعلمته من تجربتي هو أن الإنتقام ليس مفيدًا. لقد التحقت بالجيش لأنتقم لموت عائلتي، ولكي أحيا، لكني تعلمت أنني عندما أنتقم، ففي أثناء تنفيذ هذا الإنتقام سوف أقتل شخصًا آخر، وسيرغب أهله في الإنتقام؛ ثم الإنتقام يجر الإنتقام والإنتقام إلى ما لا نهاية …”.

إشمائيل بيه.
Profile Image for Nandakishore Mridula.
1,242 reviews2,257 followers
November 9, 2015
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.
Profile Image for Mohamed Bayomi.
217 reviews136 followers
September 14, 2020
<الهدف من االاضطهاد هو الاضطهاد والهدف من التعذيب هو التعذيب و الغاية من السلطة هي السلطة >
تلك القصة الحقيقية اثبات اخرعلي صحة تلك المقولة لاورويل .
فكثيرة هي الجرائم التي ترتكب باسم الوطن و باسم الحرية , في تلك الاوقات –الحرب الاهلية - القتل يكون باسم الوطن و الاغتصاب باسم الحرية , لا مكان للمنطق اوالموضوعية او المدنية اما ان تكون مع الجيش او في صفوف المتمردين و في كلا الجانبين يجب ان تقتل وتحرق و تسرق حتى و لو كنت طفل يبلغ العاشرة , لا تقلق سيعلمونك و يغسلون دماغك , فهنا المخدرات و الدم لهما مفعول جيد جدا فما ان تتذوق احدهما لا تكلهما
علي لسان احد ضباط الجيش " المتمردون مسئولون عن كل شئ حدث لك " , " المتمردون الذين قتلوا ابوك و عائلتك "
علي لسان احد الاطفال من المتمردين " الجيش هو العدو , كنا نحارب من اجل الحرية , و قد قتل الجيش عائلتي وسوف اقتل اي شخص من اوغاد الجيش كلما سنحت لي الفرصة "
اشمائيل بيه كاتب تلك المذكرات , بعد ان تقرأها و تري ما وصل اليه اليوم , لابد ان تعي ان الانسان دائما هو المعجزة و الامل
Profile Image for steven.
132 reviews10 followers
February 2, 2008
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.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Amr Mohamed.
843 reviews375 followers
January 24, 2018

قصة مؤلمة جدا...لم اقرأ عن السيراليون قبل ذلك...

اتفرجت علي فيلم
Blood diamond
وشوفت ازاي المتمردين بيجندوا الاطفال ويتم تحويل طفل برئ يخاف كل شئ الي قاتل محترف

وايضا فيلم
Lord of war
الذي اوضح ان تجارة السلاح تساهم او السبب الرئيسي وراء تلك المذابح التي تتم في افريقيا..

فذلك الكتاب يحكي
قصة حياة اشمائيل الطفل الذي فقد عائلته واخذ يهرب خائفا ومرعوبا من المتمردين ، الذين تمردوا علي فساد الحكومة فقاموا بأعمال اسوأ مليون مرة من الحكومة

اعمال سرقة وقتل واغتصاب وحرق احياء وتمثيل بالجثث وقطع رؤس وتجنيد الاطفال

فيتم تجنيد الطفل من قبل الجيش الوطني ، والجيش نفسه يقوم بأعمال مشابهة لأعمال المتمردين..

يتم غسيل دماغ الاطفال فيتحولوا الي قتلة اسوأ من المرتزقة مستغلين حب الانتقام لدي الاطفال.لأنهم يريدون الانتقام لعائلتهم وما عانوه بسبب المتمردين او حتي الجيش
لدرجة انك عندما تقرأ ما فعله اشمائيل تقول اكيد انه شخص مختلف عن الطفل الخائف في اول الرواية..

في نهاية قصة اشمائيل تريد ان تتأسف له وللاطفال تريد ان تحتضنهم ، ان تبكي بجانبهم بسبب ما عايشوه لان ما راءوه لا يتحمله رجال حرب وليس اطفال
تريد ان تلعن المنافسة علي السلطة، الجيش المتمردين، تجارة السلاح

تلعن كل شئ تسبب في ذلك الجنون والمعاناة التى عايشها الاطفال في السيراليون ويحدث للاسف في غيرها من بلاد افريقيا..

تأثرت جدا من قصة صديقه الذي قال انه كلما يأتي الناس الينا وهم عازمون علي قتلنا كنت اغلق عيني وأنتظر الموت، ورغم اني لازالت حيا اشعر كأن جزء مني يموت وسرعان ما سوف اموت تماما وكل ما سيبقي جسدي الفارغ يمشي معكم ، وفعلا مات بعدها ومات من الخوف مش من رصاص :(

لا اربد حرق الرواية لكن في النهاية ستعلم ان الجيش والمتمردين وجهان لعملة واحدة

لم يعجبني:

نهايتها في كيفية وصولة الي امريكا ولا ماذا حدث الي زوجة عمه واولادها

ولا انه لم يحكي تفصيلا ما فعله مع الجيش من مذابح ولكن حكي بالتفصيل هروبه في اول الرواية وتأهيله في اخرها

وطبعا لم يعجبني الشكر في الامم المتحدة واعتقادي ان المقصود من ورائها شكر في امريكا ، وانه عندما حاولوا تأهيل الاطفال اصبحوا اطفال عاديين يشربون الكوكاكولا

لكن قصة مهمة تحكي معاناة اغلبنا لا يعلم عنها شئ في افريقيا

انصح به
Profile Image for Muhammed Hebala.
389 reviews336 followers
March 7, 2014
كتاب جميل جدا
و ذكريات صعبة جدا جدا جدا
و عمل إنساني فوق الوصف
أنا فعلا مش متخيل ازاي ممكن إنسان يمر بكل الأحداث دي و يفضل على إنسانيته
و كمان متخيل كمية الألم و هوه ماسك القلم و بيفتكر اللي مر بيه و يعيشه من تاني و يكتبه
ازاي الصراع من أجل البقاء ممكن يحولك لحيوان ضاري مفترس, و إزاي ينسيك آدميتك, وازاي شهوة السلطة بتعمي لدرجة انهم يجندوا أطفال في حرب أهلية

الكتاب رائع و مؤثر جدا جدا, إشمائيل كتب بصدق و سحر توفيق ترجمت بأجمل أسلوب , فعلا هيه دي الترجمة

الكتاب موجع لكنه مهم إنك تقراه و تعرف الدنيا حواليك فيها إيه, و كمان تعرف إزاي إصرارك ممكن يخرجك من الضلمة لطريق النور
Profile Image for Taghreed Jamal El Deen.
629 reviews548 followers
September 15, 2020
حكاية أخرى عن الحروب وأهوالها، يحكيها للعالم ' إشمائيل ' الطفل الذي عرف الحرب لأول مرة في سن الثانية عشرة، وتبدلت حياته جذرياً منذ ذلك اليوم.
خلال أربع سنوات من معايشة آلة الموت هذه، مر راوي القصة بكل ما يمكن أن يخطر ببالك عند ذكر كلمة حرب، وما لا يمكن أن تتصوره أيضاً ! الضحية والمجرم، المشرد وصاحب الأرض، الفار والمنتمي بشدة، الطفل والرجل، المدني والمجند. هذا الكيان البشري الهش كان له النصيب في عيش كل الأدوار التي فرضها عليه الواقع القبيح.. وكان له الحظ الأكبر أيضاً الذي لم يكتب إلا لقلة مختارة، في العودة أخيراً لدوره الأصلي والحقيقي الوحيد؛ الإنسان.
سيرة مريعة بتفاصيلها، صادمة ومزلزلة بصدقها، لكن لا بد من إظهارها للعالم أجمع.

" لقد التحقت بالجيش لأنتقم لموت عائلتي، ولكي أحيا، لكني تعلمت أنني عندما أنتقم، ففي أثناء تنفيذ هذا الانتقام سوف أقتل شخصاً آخر، وسيرغب أهله في الانتقام، ثم الانتقام يجر الانتقام والانتقام إلى ما لا نهاية... "
Profile Image for Lain.
Author 13 books120 followers
December 1, 2007
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.
Profile Image for Adina ( A lot of catching up to do) .
826 reviews3,247 followers
May 27, 2020
The story is about, as the title says, a boy soldier that fought in the civil war in Sierra Leone. It tells the story of his journey on foot to escape the rebels who attacked his village, how he ended up as a soldier and how he managed to be saved and rehabilitated. It is a haunting and a vivid story about the atrocities of war.
Profile Image for Diane.
1,080 reviews2,656 followers
October 25, 2012
"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.
Profile Image for Marc.
19 reviews12 followers
August 21, 2007
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.
Profile Image for إبراهيم   عادل .
945 reviews1,729 followers
March 25, 2013
هذا الكتاب/المذكرات .. يستحيل في ظني ألا تتعاطف معه ..
هنا شهادة صادقة وموحية وأليمة لأحداثٍ عاشها كاتبها يومًا بيوم، واستطاع ببراعة فائقة أن يصفها ويعرضها بتفاصيلها القاسية المؤلمة، ويبدو لي أن الكاتب تمرَّن كثيرًا على الكتابة، أو هو ـ على الأقل ـ موهوبٌ بالفكرة، لأنه استطاع أن يعرض لحياته مع كل هذا الألم بهاذ التشويق، وعرض لحظات ومشاهد حيَّة كانت بالغة العذوبة والبساطة والتأثير معًا ..
كلًَّما قرأت فصلاً من الكتاب أو جزءًا منه كنت أعود إلى صورة الغلاف وأتخيَّل ذلك الطفل المسكين الذي قادته ظروف حياته الصعبة لأن يكون مجندًا، ولأن يقتل المتمردون أول ما يقتلون فيه طفولته وبراءته، فيعيش حياته محاربًا مشردًا
تلك صفحة من تاريخ إفريقيا التي يبدو أننا نجهل عنها الكثير ـ شأن الكثير من دول وشعوب العالم ـ يوضحها إشمائيل ببراعة وبدقة، تجعلني كأنما أشاهد حياته فصلاً فصلاً ..
ذهبت إلى محرك البحث ـ أثناء قراءتي ـ لأطالع هذا الكاتب الآن بوجهه البشوش وابتسامته الرائقة، ياالله! لم تستطع كل هذه الحروب والمآسي أن تنال منه ، أو أن الحظ حالفه وكان الله معه، فشاء له حياة أخرى بعد كل ما قاساه من ويلات ودمار .
في ظني أن الذين قرؤوا هذا الكتاب نسوا تمامًا أنه مترجم .. من هنا أرى أن الشكر واجب للروائية والمترجمة المغمورة سحر توفيق :) على هذه الترجمة المتقنة والموفقة إلى درجة كبيرة ..
أتذكر أيضًا أنه أثناء قراءتي كنت أستشعر تمامًا أني أشاهد فيلمًا أجنبيًا متقنًا، ولا أعلم لماذا لم يحوَّل هذا العمل إلى فيلم سينمائي حتى الآن، أعتقد أن "إشمائيل" قد كتب هنا مادة خام وافية لعدد من الأفلام الروائية الطويلة، بل وربما الروايات أيضًا ..
هذا نص رغم كل سوداويته وسواده يمنح الأمل
شكرًا أروى :)
Profile Image for Kavita.
762 reviews370 followers
March 28, 2021
This has to be one of the best-written and engaging memoirs I have ever read. This is my second read of this intensely difficult and heart-rending book and the rating remains the same. The author writes excessively well and despite his wasted years as a child soldier, his erudition and grasp of good language comes through.

A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier is a wonderful book that describes the life of a child soldier in Sierra Leone during the Civil War that lasted from 1991 to 2002 (11 years!). Beah was only 12 years old at the time. Born in 1980, he was just one year older than I was at the time, which brings it into perspective. While I was enjoying my life, he was losing his entire family and going on the run when rebels suddenly attacked his village. He eventually has to join the army to survive and also had the illusion of taking revenge for his family's death.

After three years of being a child soldier, Beah becomes a killer. Filled with drugs, he has no compunctions about killing the enemy and loves to see fear in the eyes of adults. But he is rescued by a children's organisation and given therapy and schooling. He gets lucky that he is welcomed back to the family's fold, but so many of his friends were not and had to go back to the war!

The narrative keeps far away from the politics and the 'important' men and women at the centre, and talks more about how common people were affected by civil war in various small ways, each small thing increasing discomfort and danger. Ishmael Beah survives so much that it seems a miracle in itself that he is still alive at all. Beah escapes Sierra Leone to Guinea. My only complaint is that he did not describe the last part of his journey to safety from Guinea to USA. However, the book is totally worth reading and is a powerful showcase of what war can do.

There were some intensely moving scenes in the memoir. It was especially wrenching when Beah was so close to seeing his mother and the village was attacked while he watched from a distance. He lost so many friends in the war. I felt sad not just for Beah who ultimately managed to escape the war, but for so many of his friends and comrades about whom we have no information. Those who were left behind as soldiers and those who went back to the war when Freetown was attacked. Did they survive the war? Are they at peace today?
Profile Image for Kristine.
23 reviews154 followers
August 18, 2007
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.
Profile Image for James.
117 reviews48 followers
March 2, 2008
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.
Profile Image for Lucy.
475 reviews593 followers
March 3, 2008
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.
Profile Image for Henry Martin.
Author 96 books145 followers
December 18, 2018
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.
Profile Image for Katy.
292 reviews
July 2, 2020
This is one of those books that has been on my TBR for years. In fact, it would stare at me from my bookshelf every time I passed by. Enough is enough. As it is a short book by many standards I thought I’d read it in one sitting. But it’s intensity and subject matter left me picking it up, reading a couple of chapters and putting it down.

Although this is a short story, it is very intense, very descriptive, and very disturbing. The author is quite a good storyteller and as such his memoir is very moving. He has written it some ten or so years after the events during which he is made to become a child soldier in Sierra Leone. His descriptions are very detailed and mostly tragic, but his ability to inject humour or flippant commentary to lighten the mood is quite helpful.

The story is about his being forced to become a child soldier, his escape from that group, his rehabilitation, and then his fleeing the country. At the end of the book is a chronology of the history of Sierra Leone which is also very interesting.

Central to the author’s story is the concept of “family” and the many forms it takes, particularly after his family is killed. Despite the life of a child soldier who fights and kills, including many innocents, the author has a deep and recurring strength to find and keep a “family”.

This book really only covers a short snippet of the author’s life, and while it is very descriptive of the time period covered, I must admit I was expecting more details about the war. The will to survive was central to their plight, but the extensive use of drugs numbed their senses and encouraged the violence. Just all very tragic.

The book ended rather abruptly. But for the references in the book to his life now, (and of course the ability to google his name), you are left somewhat wondering how he ended up “here” from “there”.

All in all, it was interesting reading and somewhat educational.
Profile Image for iva°.
572 reviews87 followers
January 23, 2020
vjerojatno najmučnija knjiga koju sam ikad pročitala.
zato jer je istinita, zato jer je eksplicitna.

tek prvih nekoliko stranica i posljednjih nekoliko poglavlja bit ćeš pošteđen horora koje je proživljavao ishmael beah kao dječak-vojnik u sierra leoneu devedesetih godina.
imao je 12 kad je pristupio vojsci i borio se dvije godine. broj ljudi koje je mučio, strijeljao i zaklao niti ne spominje. vjerujem da ni on sam ne zna točan broj.
traumatiziran, nasilan i osvetoljubiv (cijela obitelj ubijena mu je i pristupa vojsci da bi se osvetio -a i da ne bi umro od gladi), on priča svoju životnu priču od prvog napada na svoje selo, preko vojne službe do spasa (ova priča završava s njegovom 16. godinom, ali kasnije će se skrasiti u new yorku kao unicefov aktivist).

mislim da nam ostaje potpuno neshvatljivo to što je doživio. i makar opisuje svoju srdžbu, agresiju, ravnodušnost prema svojim žrtvama koje čekaju da izvrši egzekuciju, migrene koje mu razaraju um, noćne strahove, samoranjavanja, operaciju "na živo", konzumaciju droga, tek približno možemo naslutiti što je sve taj dječak morao iznijeti u sebi.

ovo je štivo koje potresa, suočava s ljudskom patnjom i sa zlom. nije za senzibilne.
drago mi je da sam ju privela kraju.... jedva jedvice, ali jesam.
Profile Image for Himanshu Karmacharya.
897 reviews103 followers
November 3, 2020
The book is a memoir of Ishmael Beah who was forced to become a child soldier and participate in the Sierra Leone Civil War (1991-2002).

The author gives a vivid description of his life before the war, and especially during the war. The pain and sufferings that he had to suffer and see others suffer are so distressing to read. He tells his story in the most compelling manner that keeps the readers invested in the book.

The book is a gut-wrenching portrait of the horrors of war that will crush you, unsettle you and even make you question humanity at some points. It is a book that will chill readers to their bones and one that I will not forget for a long-long time.
Profile Image for Missy Ivey.
538 reviews30 followers
April 1, 2023
What an amazing story of survival! In 1992, Ishmael was only 12 years old when he and his older brother set out on a 16-mile journey to another village in southern Sierra Leone, West Africa, to participate in a talent contest with some friends, when rebels claiming to be fighting for freedom began attacking surrounding villages while they were on their journey. Thus, began a civil war that would last 10 years, until 2002. This would be the last time Ishmael would ever see his family again.

He and a group of young boys would stay on the run trying to stay alive, running through thick forests and abandoned villages, hiding from the rebels. At age 13, he and a group of friends ran into the governments military forces and was forced into their regime. They were not given a choice!

The rebels began their raiding and killing in the name of freedom with just a few unorganized teams that turned into an all-out killing spree, and grew as they inducted young boys to their cause. These rebels murdered whole villages, women, children and babies alike. They cut off their heads, burned families alive in their huts, made sons have intercourse with their mothers, cut babies from pregnant women’s wombs and then killed the babies, stole all their valuables and ammunition and/or weapons, and ate up all the food in the village.

The government military forces that inducted Ishmael and his friends pretty much did the same thing, except they brainwashed their children soldiers and told them to kill in revenge for killing their parents and their family members. Both armies liberally gave the kids drugs to induce courage. They were given white pills for energy, snorted cocaine and brown brown (cocaine with gunpowder). This alone kept them fighting. There were over 300,000 children forced into war at this time. Ishmael served with a 9 and 11-year-old who were actually not even strong enough to hold up their weapons all the way. As they marched, the points of their weapons dragged the ground.

At age 25, Ishmael tells his story and how he made it out of this hell war and how he became rehabilitated. It was such a long journey, and just when he thought he was out and away from the war, and living up in Freetown with his uncle and family, in northwest Sierra Leone, the war found him again. But, he miraculously made it out and managed his way through 15 checkpoints to Conakry, Guinea’s state capital, and, with the help of a “mother” figure from New York, he was able to apply and seek asylum in the U.S.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
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