Synopses & Reviews
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."
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.
"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.)
"Unforgettable testimony that Africa's children...have eyes to see and voices to tell what has happened. And what voices!...No outsider could have written this book, and it's hard to imagine that many insiders could do so with such acute vision, stark language, and tenderness. It is a heart-rending achievement." Melissa Fay Greene, Elle
"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." Sebastian Junger, author of A Death in Belmont and A Perfect Storm
"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." Oregonain
"Beah's is a story of loss and redemption from orphan to fighter to international participant in human-rights conferences on child soldiers." Chicago Tribune
"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." Christian Science Monitor
"Hideously effective in conveying the essential horror of his experiences." Kirkus Reviews
"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." Belinda Luscombe, Time
"Those seeking to understand the human consequences of war, its brutal and brutalizing costs, would be wise to reflect on Ishmael Beah's story." Philadelphia Inquirer
"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." Cleveland Plain Dealer
"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
"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." Walter Isaacson, author of Benjamin Franklin: An American Life
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.
About the Author
Ishmael Beah came to the United States when he was seventeen and graduated from Oberlin College in 2004. He is a member of Human Rights Watch Children's Division Advisory Committee and has spoken before the United Nations on several occasions. He lives in New York City.