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21 Local Warehouse Africa- Sierra Leone

A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier

by

A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier Cover

 

 

Reading Group Guide

1. How familiar were you with the civil wars of Sierra Leone prior to reading A Long Way Gone? How has Ishmael's story changed your perception of this history, and of current wars in general?

2. Chapter seven begins with the story of the imam's death, followed by Ishmael's recollections of his father and an elder blessing their home when they first moved to Mogbwemo. How do the concepts of faith and hope shift throughout this memoir? What sustains Ishmael emotionally and spiritually?

3. Chapter eight closes with the image of villagers running fearfully from Ishmael and his friends, believing that the seven boys are rebels. How do they overcome these negative assumptions in communities that have begun to associate the boys' appearance with evil? What lessons could world leaders learn from them about overcoming distrust, and the importance of judging others individually rather than as stereotypes?

4. What did Ishmael's parents teach him about being a man? How did he define manhood once he began his long walk west? What general life lessons were his parents able to teach him that sustained him during his brutal passage from boyhood, and that he carries with him to this day?

5. Discuss the role of American hip-hop culture in creating a "soundtrack" for Ishmael's life. Why are rappers so appealing to him?

6. The boys' discovery of the Atlantic Ocean and their encounter with a cheerful fisherman who heals and feeds them is followed by the tragedy of Saidu's death after a bird falls ominously from the sky. Discuss Ishmael's relationship with the natural world. In what way is he guided by the constancy of the earth and sky?

7. When Ishmael arrives at the fortified village of Yele in chapter twelve, what do you discover about the way he began his military career? Was his service, and that of his equally young friends, necessary? What made his conscription different from that of drafted American soldiers serving in previous wars?

8. Ishmael tells us that some of the boys who had been rehabilitated with him later became soldiers again. What factors ensured that he could remain a civilian?

9. Storytelling is a powerful force in Ishmael's life, even providing a connection to his future mother, Laura Simms. What traits make Ishmael a memorable and unique storyteller? How does his perspective compare to the perspectives of filmmakers, reporters, or other authors who have recently tried to portray Africa's civil wars?

10. Ishmael describes his use of Krio and many tribal languages to communicate, as well as his ability to quote Shakespeare's Elizabethan English. What communities and empires are represented in his many speech styles? In which "villages," from the relatively new UN to the centuries-old Mende and Temne settlements, does the greatest wisdom lie?

11. How does Ishmael's concept of family change throughout the memoir, from his early life in Mattru Jong, to the uncle with whom he is reunited, to his American family with Laura?

12. It takes many weeks before Ishmael feels comfortable with the relief workers' refrain that these events are not his fault. What destructive beliefs had he become addicted to? What states of deprivation and euphoria had his body become addicted to?

13. What universal truths does Ishmael teach us about surviving loss and hunger, and overcoming isolation?

14. Ishmael's dramatic escape during the later waves of revolution concludes with the riddle of the monkey. Is his dream of obliterating the monkey — and its violent endgames — closer to being fulfilled in these early years of the twenty-first century? What would it take for all of humanity to adopt Ishmael's rejection of vengeance?

15. Ishmael gives credit to relief workers such as Esther, in conjunction with organizations such as UNICEF, for rescuing him. He has dedicated his life to their cause, studying political science and speaking before a broad variety of groups, ranging from the Council on Foreign Relations to the Center for Emerging Threats and Opportunities at the Marine Corps Warfighting Laboratory. What steps has he inspired you to take to help end the use of child soldiers? How can each of us join Ishmael's cause?

16. After reading the chronology of Sierra Leone's history, what reasons can you propose for the coups in Ishmael's homeland? Did the arrival of Portuguese slave traders, or the later colonization by the British, contribute to Sierra Leone's twentiethcentury woes? What did you discover about the motivations of the army soldiers versus those of the rebels? In your opinion, what made the leaders of the RUF so ruthless for so long?

What Our Readers Are Saying

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Average customer rating based on 10 comments:

Danielle Tinker, August 12, 2008 (view all comments by Danielle Tinker)
The writing is elegant and the story is bold. Beah writes beautifully in telling his courageous story. The middle of the book can get tedious, but the story as a whole is important, making it a must read. There are details that may put some readers off, yet without those brutal details the story wouldn't be as powerful or complete. I wish everyone knew the situation described in Beah's life story, I can only hope people will read this and become aware.
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(26 of 51 readers found this comment helpful)
tlovely69, March 31, 2008 (view all comments by tlovely69)
wow i never read a book as great as this one! if i was to ever have a chance to meet Ishmael Beah i would give him such a big hug...this book really touched my heart.
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(29 of 48 readers found this comment helpful)
Childofgod_1, January 7, 2008 (view all comments by Childofgod_1)
HI I am 11 yrs old about the same age as ishmeal. this book put me in chills and i always reccommend it to people to read. Im not exactly done reading but u bet i sure am not done!! this is a wonderful book about love, happiness, peace, and faith.
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(35 of 72 readers found this comment helpful)
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Product Details

ISBN:
9780374105235
Author:
Beah, Ishmael
Publisher:
Farrar Straus Giroux
Subject:
History
Subject:
Social conditions
Subject:
Africa, West
Subject:
Personal Memoirs
Subject:
BIO026000
Subject:
Military
Subject:
Childhood Memoir
Subject:
Sierra Leone - History - Civil War, 1991-2002
Subject:
Sierra Leone Social conditions 1961-
Subject:
Biography - General
Copyright:
Edition Description:
Trade Cloth
Publication Date:
20070231
Binding:
HARDCOVER
Grade Level:
General/trade
Language:
English
Illustrations:
Map
Pages:
240
Dimensions:
8 x 5.71 x 0.625 in

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Related Subjects


Biography » General
Featured Titles » History and Social Science
History and Social Science » Africa » Sierra Leone
History and Social Science » World History » Africa
History and Social Science » World History » General

A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier Used Hardcover
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Product details 240 pages Farrar Straus Giroux - English 9780374105235 Reviews:
"Publishers Weekly Review" by , "This absorbing account by a young man who, as a boy of 12, gets swept up in Sierra Leone's civil war goes beyond even the best journalistic efforts in revealing the life and mind of a child abducted into the horrors of warfare. Beah's harrowing journey transforms him overnight from a child enthralled by American hip-hop music and dance to an internal refugee bereft of family, wandering from village to village in a country grown deeply divided by the indiscriminate atrocities of unruly, sociopathic rebel and army forces. Beah then finds himself in the army — in a drug-filled life of casual mass slaughter that lasts until he is 15, when he's brought to a rehabilitation center sponsored by UNICEF and partnering NGOs. The process marks out Beah as a gifted spokesman for the center's work after his 'repatriation' to civilian life in the capital, where he lives with his family and a distant uncle. When the war finally engulfs the capital, it sends 17-year-old Beah fleeing again, this time to the U.S., where he now lives. (Beah graduated from Oberlin College in 2004.) Told in clear, accessible language by a young writer with a gifted literary voice, this memoir seems destined to become a classic firsthand account of war and the ongoing plight of child soldiers in conflicts worldwide." Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"Review" by , "A breathtaking and unself-pitying account of how a gentle spirit survives a childhood from which all the innocence has suddenly been sucked out....The clear-eyed tale of a child determinedly pursuing his own humanity against all odds."
"Review" by , "Hideously effective in conveying the essential horror of his experiences."
"Review" by , "Extraordinary... A ferocious and desolate account of how ordinary children were turned into professional killers."
"Review" by , "Beah's... honesty is exacting, and a testament to the ability of children 'to outlive their sufferings, if given a chance.'"
"Review" by , "A Long Way Gone is one of the most important war stories of our generation. The arming of children is among the greatest evils of the modern world, and yet we know so little about it because the children themselves are swallowed up by the very wars they are forced to wage. Ishmael Beah has not only emerged intact from this chaos, he has become one of its most eloquent chroniclers. We ignore his message at our peril."
"Review" by , "This is a beautifully written book about a shocking war and the children who were forced to fight it. Ishmael Beah describes the unthinkable in calm, unforgettable language; his memoir is an important testament to the children elsewhere who continue to be conscripted into armies and militias." Steve Coll, author of Ghost Wars: The Secret History of the CIA, Afghanistan, and Bin Laden, from the Soviet Invasion to September 10, 2001
"Review" by , "This is a wrenching, beautiful, and mesmerizing tale. Beah's amazing saga provides a haunting lesson about how gentle folks can be capable of great brutalities as well goodness and courage. It will leave you breathless."
"Review" by , "Beah's is a story of loss and redemption — from orphan to fighter to international participant in human-rights conferences on child soldiers."
"Review" by , "Those seeking to understand the human consequences of war, its brutal and brutalizing costs, would be wise to reflect on Ishmael Beah's story."
"Review" by , "Beah writes to recount, not to relive the ghastly memories, or to shock or guilt-trip his readers. His language is simple and his tone somewhat detached, as though to delimit the frightening reach of that world."
"Review" by , "Whatever excuses and defenses and rationalizations we offer for war, whenever we say that war is any sort of rational act, Beah's voice is now forever raised to call war what it is: madness."
"Review" by , "With a clear eye and a steady cadence, [Beah] recounts how civil war punctured his rural boyhood and mutated him into a 13-year-old killer."
"Synopsis" by , In the more than 50 conflicts going on worldwide, it is estimated that there are some 300,000 child soldiers. Ishmael Beah used to be one of them. In a rare and mesmerizing account, Beah tells of his experience as a child fighting a war in Sierra Leone.
"Synopsis" by ,
Ishmael Beah tells a riveting story: how at the age of twelve, he fled attacking rebels and became a child soldier.
"Synopsis" by ,
Ishmael Beah tells a riveting story: how at the age of twelve, he fled attacking rebels and became a child soldier.
"Synopsis" by ,
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."

"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. 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.

"Synopsis" by ,
This is how wars are fought now by children, hopped up on drugs, and wielding AK-47s. In the more than fifty violent conflicts going on worldwide, it is estimated that there are some 300,000 child soldiers.

 

Ishmael Beah used to be one of them. 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 it is rare to find a  first-person account from someone who endured this hell and survived.

 

In A Long Way Gone Beah, now twenty-six years old, tells a riveting story in his own words: 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.

 

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