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A Long Way Gone

Memoirs of a Boy Soldier

By Ishmael Beah
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A Long Way Gone by Ishmael Beah

A Long Way Gone (2007) is a story of how, as a young boy in Sierra Leone, the author found himself caught in a civil war and recruited as a child soldier. You’ll travel alongside during his harrowing journey, eventual rescue and recovery guided through the kindness and grace of loving people.

Key idea 1 of 8

The civil war in Sierra Leone seemed to come out of nowhere, turning life upside-down.

From the perspective of the Western world, Africa may seem synonymous with civil strife and war. But this is just a generalization; African nations desire peace just as much as any other country. Even Sierra Leone enjoyed years of peace before civil war erupted in the 1990s.

As a child, the author recalls happy memories, such as watching his mother prepare meals, or joining friends to dance to hip-hop music at talent shows. All in all, his childhood was not unlike that of many other children across the world.

In fact, any talk of war usually came from movies and books, or the occasional BBC report on the ongoing war in Liberia, a neighboring country. So when war did break out, it came as a surprise.

One day in January 1993, the author, his older brother Junior and a friend named Talloi traveled to the town of Mattru Jong, a 16-mile journey from their hometown of Mogbwemo. The boys had come to Mattru Jong for a talent show, and planned to stay at a friend’s house.

When their friend met them, however, he brought bad news: the author’s home of Mogbwemo had just been attacked by a rebel group.

The author and his brother decided to return home to search for their parents and siblings, but on the way their minds were quickly changed. They saw hordes of people fleeing Mogbwemo, many wounded, every person carrying what they could with them.

And when they saw the first dead body, it became clear to the boys that their family must have also fled Mogbwemo. Frightened, they turned back toward safety and the village of Mattru Jong.

The change from living a peaceful life with family one day to having no idea  where your parents are the next was a horror in and of itself, but the war brought horrors much worse.

Next, you’ll learn what war means for the most vulnerable population of any country – its children.

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