Thursday, September 09, 2010

A Long Way Gone

Beah, Ismael. A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier(2007)
A student recommended that I read this book, which is shelved in the adult collection of my public library but is the personal account of a man who fought as a soldier in Sierra Leone when he was 13. There is a lot of violence depicted, but not in a sensational way. The tone is very detached and matter-of-fact, but it still may unnerve some people.

Still, this is an important memoir. After his village was attacked and mainly destroyed by rebels, Beah and a group of friends did their best to survive. They try to find their families, to no avail, and are eventually conscripted into the government army, where they are given the task of killing as many rebels as they can is extremely cold blooded fashion. This is made easier for them by the fact that the rebels are responsible for the death of many people they know, and by all of the drugs that the government provides for them. Eventually, UNICEF steps in and takes the boys to a school where they are weaned off the durgs and rehabilitated. Ishmael is given the opportunity to talk to the UN in New York, and is eventually brought to the US to go to high school, and then Oberlin College. Beah now is a crusader on behalf of children involved in wars.

We have had several students whose parents were from Sierra Leone, and have a vast number of Somali students. As with the books mentioned yesterday, these books are important for students who want to understand the plight of children in other parts of the world.


  1. Karen, I read this as part of an adult book club a few years ago--great book, but disturbing, knowing the age of the children involved.

  2. I've heard a lot of good things about this one. I've already added it to my list of future books to read and your review has helped solidify that for me.