My new friends have begun to suspect that 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‚ pumped-up on drugs and wielding AK-47s. There are more than fifty conflicts going on worldwide and it is estimated there are some 300,000 child soldiers fighting. 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. Ishmael Beah‚ now twenty-five years old‚ tells a riveting story: how at the age of twelve in Sierra Leone‚ 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 he was capable of truly terrible acts.
This is a rare and mesmerizing account‚ told with real literary force and heartbreaking honesty.
Critical Praise for A Long Way Gone: The True Story of a Child Soldier:
'A corrosive, eloquent and illuminating account of a child soldier's life, and it makes you look at the news with a fresh eye. What he has done is to make his situation imaginable for us, and stop us from simply turning away in horror. That is the best gift he could give the world.' Hilary Mantel
'The arming of children is one of 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. "A Long Way Gone" is one of the most important war stories of our generation. We ignore its message at our peril.' Sebastian Junger
'A ferocious and desolate account of how ordinary children were turned into professional killers.' The Guardian
'A remarkable book…makes you wonder how anyone comes through such horror with his humanity and sanity intact. Ishmael Beah seems to prove it can happen.' William Boyd
'Everyone in the world should read this book.' Washington Post
'We are glued to every page…read his memoir and you will be haunted.' Newsweek
'A breathtaking and un-self-pitying account of how a gentle spirit survives a childhood from which all innocence has suddenly been sucked out. It's a truly riveting memoir.' Time Magazine
The survivor of a dirty war in starkest Africa recounts his transition from 12-year-old orphan to killing machine.To emerge from Sierra Leone's malignant civil conflict and eventually graduate from college in the U.S. marks Beah as very unusual, if not unique. His memoir seeks to illuminate the process that created, and continues to create, one of the most pitiable yet universally feared products of modern warfare: the boy soldier. It illustrates how, in African nations under the stress of open civil war, youthful males cluster in packs for self-protection, fleeing the military forces of all sides, distrusted and persecuted by strangers they encounter, until they are killed or commandeered as recruits. Nearly half the text deals with Beah's life as a fugitive after marauding rebel troops ravaged his home village. He fled with several other boys, but they were separated during another attack and he was forced to spend several weeks alone in the bush; the loneliness there instilled a craving for human companionship of any type. The regular military finally snared Beah and some new companions, telling them they must train as soldiers or die. The rebels, they were assured, were responsible for killing their families and destroying their homes; as soldiers, they would exact manly revenge and serve the nation. Cocaine, marijuana and painkillers became the boys' mind-numbing daily diet. They were indoctrinated by practicing mayhem on tethered prisoners and became willing experts at lying in ambush with their aging AK-47 rifles. For them, killing human beings had replaced ordinary child's play.Beah's halting narrative has confusing time shifts, but it's hideously effective in conveying the essential horror of his experiences. (Kirkus Reviews)
Number Of Pages: 400
Published: January 2008
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Dimensions (cm): 19.7 x 13.0 x 1.9
Weight (kg): 0.18