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War Child: A Child Soldier's Story

4.07  ·  Rating details ·  1,812 ratings  ·  146 reviews
In the mid-1980s, Emmanuel Jal was a seven year old Sudanese boy, living in a small village with his parents, aunts, uncles, and siblings. But as Sudan’s civil war moved closer—with the Islamic government seizing tribal lands for water, oil, and other resources—Jal’s family moved again and again, seeking peace. Then, on one terrible day, Jal was separated from his
Hardcover, 272 pages
Published February 3rd 2009 by St. Martin's Press (first published 2009)
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4.07  · 
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 ·  1,812 ratings  ·  146 reviews

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An at-times horrifying read, but in the end a truly inspiring biography and a great portrayal of the awful ways war affects children and young adults.

"War Child" is not for someone inclined to freak out at explicit descriptions of violence and misery, or famine-level poverty, hatred (at times racial hatred) and frustration. Jal has lived through a lot and here he does not shy away from describing any of it, from the blood and guts to the racial tension and hatred.

Jal was a child soldier with the
Puoch Dit
I feel the same way when I read the previews of Emmanuel Jal or Jal in short in Nuer language book. I knew it has been a long journey toward the peace process in Sudan, but hope is what generate me days and nights for my 21 years of waiting for the peace to pop up in Sudan, which indeed happened in 2005. As a former child soldier myself, I knew how hard it is to live and go through the process of bad things. I couldn't agree more on Jal is reflections on those things that happened to him during ...more
Trupti Dorge
Jun 05, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: i-own, favorites
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jun 21, 2015 rated it really liked it
A first person account from one of the Lost Boys of Sudan that will leave you saddened, yet hopeful. Emmanuel Jal truly explemplifies the resiliency of the human spirit and how one never knows how we can affect the lives of those we meet. Jal provides very vivid and detailed accounts of the atrocities of war and the disturbing way young children are trained to become soldiers. As much as this book broke my heart, it also reminded me that there are so many areas in our world where people, especia ...more
Dec 28, 2014 rated it liked it
A great memoir about a child soldier in Sudan. I liked the story although I was horrified, sad and angry for Jal throughout many parts of the book & couldn't imagine facing the challenges he endured. I felt like the first half of the book was a much stronger and enjoyable read than the second (If 3.5 stars were an option, I probably would've chosen it), however, overall I enjoyed the story which is inspirational.
Feb 19, 2009 rated it it was amazing
see my Blog on War Child at: or go to

In the last several years there have been a number of books about the horrors of child soldiers and the horrors occurring in various parts of Africa, including the best seller A Long Way Gone by Ishamael Beah (Sierra Leone), Emma’s War by Deborah Scroggins, and What Is the What by David Eggers.

Now comes one from Emmanuel Jal, one of the Lost Boys of the Sudan. It is excellent and deserves a wide audie
Jun 24, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I don't have the background in Sudanese (and regional) history to judge the veracity of everything in this book, but even if it was only 1/2 true, it would still be an astonishing story.

I haven't had much luck reading autobiographical books lately, so it was nice to finally finish one that was good.
Wendy Butler
Jul 05, 2016 rated it liked it
Such a good book. Having met Mr. Jal I was already impressed, but his insightful writing and his ability to be both genuine and introspective about the lessons of war are tremendous.
Nigel Kotani
Aug 20, 2019 rated it liked it
Emmanuel Jal came to my attention just before WOMAD 2019 when I was checking out the festival's online playlist. On hearing his track, Ti Chuong, I marked him down as one of my 'must see' artists. I was also intrigued by discovering that he'd been a child soldier in South Sudan, a place where I'd had some business dealings - somewhat improbably I'm the person who chose the name White Nile Ltd for the company that was supposed to become the state oil company - so when I saw that, as well as his m ...more
Jun 06, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: books-i-ve-read
3.5 stars.
I have known of Emmanuel Jal for several years now and have been wanting to read this and see his documentary. I did see his acting in The Good Lie as well when it came out. I finally got the book. It was really a lot to take in and was very good. I loved learning his story and feeling what he feels while reading it. I can't imagine the hardships within his mind that he suffers still to be exposed to such painful things early on in life (my dad has PTSD from being in war, but to suffer
Aug 27, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition

“Excitement rushed into my veins as I sang. I was a soldier now. I could sleep with one eye open and stop myself from crying out even when I was beaten until p!ss and sh!t ran out of me. I knew there were eleven ways to attack a town; how to open, fuse, and throw a grenade; how to load and fire an AK-47; how to raise a machete and hack at an enemy or use stones as a weapon when my bullets ran out. There was nothing to be afraid of.”

This all sounds intense enough, but considering these are the wo
Max Cohen
Mar 11, 2017 rated it it was amazing
An eye opening first hand account of the war that ripped apart Sudan in the 1980s. Emmanuel Jal puts his experience as a child soldier into words. He describes the pain, misery, and hardship that was his childhood and the recovery that led him to his life today. This book had many great lessons such as the value of friendship, and the power of hope. The imagery was superb and aided in the delivery of the story. Symbolism and metaphors were also prominent throughout the book. However the word cho ...more
Melissa Enderle
Aug 29, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A powerful story written by a child soldier from Sudan. Although the horrors Jal faced were very honestly and graphically described, this story is also one of redemption. Despite the evil that Jal and so many children got sucked into, there were many heroes who saw the potential within this very scarred individual, personally sacrificing so that he would receive opportunities. It was especially touching to see the transformation of Jal. What power kindness, the Gospel, and music can have on an i ...more
Oct 05, 2017 rated it really liked it
This was such a great read! Tragic, but I love how it's a redemption story! There was some language issues for sure, but this book wasn't made for the faint of heart to begin with. At least the foul language isn't prevalent. It's books like these that make me want to be a better person and help my fellow man. Everyone in America needs to read this book and just see how priviledged we really are and stop complaining about absolutely nothing of worth. Definitely an eye opener!
Kathryn Aitken
Jan 25, 2018 rated it really liked it
Unbelievable. This is an important book to read. GO to his webiste and see how Emmanuel Jal is using his horrific experiences to create a positive change. He is an amazing public speaker...if you have the chance to go and see him, you should do it. If you have high school age children, contact your school to see about having him come and do a presentation for the students.
MrsGeary Geary
Sep 15, 2019 rated it really liked it
Stunning. Jal is a survivor, a poet, a wordsmith, a miracle. His message is layered and powerful. I have always been fascinated and inspired by the stories of Sudan’s civil wars and the “lost boys” but it’s been a long while since I’ve read about it. I’m astonished by his love and resilience and honesty here, and by the way he’s told his story in such beautiful, brutal and evocative prose.
Mar 03, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: review
When child is a soldier then something is very wrong with our world ... Emmanuel’s childhood was constant battle of survival. Growing up with many scars in his soul, he managed to escape, to control his anger/hate, and find his voice in music.
Feb 03, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Such a disturbing, brave, honest, inspiring and brilliant story.
Julie LaRock
Mar 06, 2019 rated it really liked it
Grabbed this while chasing my toddler at the library. Hard, sad read, but also had hope despite the pain this young man endured. I appreciated his honesty and loved that he found peace with God.
Saira R
Jul 21, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
4.5 stars
Lisa  Shamchuk
Feb 24, 2017 rated it really liked it
A moving story about a Lost Boy of Sudan who then uses music to help his country heal.
Zachary Burgess
Oct 09, 2016 rated it really liked it
War Child was a memoir of a child soldier named Emmanuel Jal who grew up during the Second Sudanese Civil War. Growing up in a Christian family in Sudan he was always running from war. Running from village to village with his family for most of his childhood, to escape government forces that wanted to kill or enslave all of the Christians in Sudan. The Arabs ran the country and believed that all Christians should be enslaved because Allah wanted that. After many months of running from war Jal's ...more
Jan 14, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: history-world

Incredible memoir of a young boy who fought as a child warrior in the Sudanese civil war, this work is both an unforgettable story of survival against staggering odds and a window into the mind of a child as he experiences the horrors or war - the death of his mother, his separation from his family, his training as a warrior. The description of this brutal training by the Sudanese People's Liberation Army - how it transformed him into a hardened, revenge-seeking killer, un-feeling, emotionally d
Sep 26, 2012 rated it really liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jordan Barnes
Sep 30, 2014 rated it it was amazing

Recently, I finished reading the book, War Child: A Child Soldiers Story by Emmanuel Jal. Jal has done three movies, written many books and has made numerous songs; all describing hardships and painful moments in life. All of his creations are aimed towards the youth, trying to reach out to them and saying that bad times come and go; but there is always a way to escape them.
The main character, Emmanuel Jal, was an eleven year old boy who lived in Sudan with his mom, dad, two sisters, and aunts
Nov 22, 2014 rated it it was amazing
I judge most things by their flaws, as is probably obvious by now. It is incredibly easy to do so, but I cannot do so for this book. I would definitely recommend this book to anybody with time on their hands. This is one of the stories that needs to be told and heard.

This book deserves all five stars for the story it recounts. The prose isn't anything particularly flowery, but I personally felt the prose suited the situation; the more vulnerable the better I think, nothing to dress up or otherw
Serena :)
Jun 08, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Keeping it short, this book is simply inspiring.

Emmanuel Jal is just one of thousands Lost Boys of Sudan, the boys forced into a bitter and evil civil war between the north and the south of Sudan. This is the story of the horror's he faced, and all the violence and destruction he witnessed and was a part of.

This book was not at all what I expected. It opened my eyes to the truth, and blew me away with its confronting look at something other books might try to avoid writing about. Never once di
Nov 07, 2013 rated it really liked it
Emmanuel Jal's "War Child" is a gateway into the mind of a child that had been required to face war and its brutal phycological effects. "War Child" is a truely inspiring story of a child that manages to survive against astonishingly low odds. Emmanuel describes the brutal form of teaching used to turn children into unfeeling, killing machines. He experinced alot in his short lifetime up until he was saved. Some were gruesome, some depressing and some were painful but Emmanuel does not stray fro ...more
May 03, 2012 rated it really liked it
I am currently reading this book. War Child: A Child Soldier's Story by Emmanuel Jal is about Emmanuel and his experience being a child soldier and his life after it, as being a a rapper, and activist. The book talks about the controversial topic of child soldiering. Jal talks about events in his life that changed him emotionally and physically.

So far I am still in the beginning of the book, but I can say what I like about the so far is that the beginning of the book gives you background on his
Nov 28, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Wow. What a book. This Emmanuel Jal's story of growing up in Sudan and the incredible hardships he faced as a child of war. It's his story of becoming a child solider, the story of his family and a story that speaks for millions of people living in Sudan and the terrible crisis that war over oil has caused.

His story is similar to another child solider's book A Long Way Gone (which takes place in Sierra Leone) which was also an incredible book. It was interesting to read about the different ways
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Emmanuel Jal has no fixed record of when, exactly, he was born, but he is fairly sure that he was about seven years old when he was recruited as a child soldier in his native Sudan. He didn't need much persuading to join: three years previously, his father, a police officer, disappeared at the onset of the country's second civil war (raging from 1983 to, despite the 2005 peace agreement, this very ...more
“I had thought about forgiveness more and more...I knew it wasn't a light that could be switched on in an instant-it grew day by day, week by week, month by month-but something was changing inside me now during the hours when I sat alone and tried to calm my feelings. A seed had been sown, and I sensed that, just as I'd once faced a choice about whether to use violence on the night when I stared at the gun, I know had another choice: to remain trapped in the bitterness of the past or to find peace in the present.” 6 likes
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