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A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier (2007)
por Ishmael Beah
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This is a harsh, violent book. It is true. I found it traumatic to read.
Ishmael Beah was 12 years old in1993 when the civil war in Sierra Leone entered his life. The arrival of rebels in his small town meant sudden separation from his family and months of flight from danger with a handful of other boys. These terrified youngsters wandered aimlessly along jungle tracks, desperate, starving and harassed as they scrounged for food and tried to make sense of what was going on around them. Finally they reached the Atlantic Ocean where they thought that they had found safety but instead they were recruited into the Sierra Leonean Army as boy soldiers.
Given rudimentary military training, an AK-47 and as many drugs as he could consume Beah goes on a two-year mind-bending killing spree before he is rescued by some Unicef fieldworkers and sent to a rehabilitation center in the capitol Freetown. There, with counselling and psychological care Beah’s slowly returns to normality and is taken in by an uncle and his family before a military coup forces him to flee the city and the country. He eventually went to live America and finished his education. “A Long Way Gone” is his first book and an account of his time as a boy soldier.
Beah’s time in the army represents only a small portion of this book but he is honest when recounting his time as a drug-crazed adolescent on the rampage armed with an assault rifle, slitting the throats of his trussed up captives along with other atrocities that he committed as well as the ones were perpetrated by the other side. These acts of violence are pretty gruesome but in some ways understandable given the age of the participants, the trauma that they had witnessed and indoctrination each side was getting. As always its the leaders who are the ones really to blame.
“A Long Way Gone” makes you wonder how anyone can come through such unrelenting horror with his or her humanity and sanity intact but the author proves that with the right help it is possible. Beah also reminds us that the use of child-soldiers isn't purely an African phenomenon, I myself joined the British Armed Forces at the age of 16 back in the late 1970's, as it is often assumed but takes place right across the world. This is a very moving account and deserves to be widely read but unfortunately I only read Dave Eggers 'What is the What' last month and perhaps because of that fact felt that this wasn't quite up to that standard.
This is a must-read
3.5 stars. This memoir is about Beah's journey from average kid growing up in Sierra Leone to child soldier and beyond, this book was violent and mesmerizing. The story itself is just remarkable. The telling of it ended rather abruptly and without as much resolution as I was looking for. Warning: this book is extremely violent and the horrific things Beah endured makes it difficult to read at points.
It can be surprising how big the world is. So in Sierra Leone, a part of West Africa I know basically nothing about, apparently there was a war in the 90s. At roughly the same time I was watching cartoons like the ‘Rugrats’ and ‘Doug’, or maybe when my older brother, the same age as Ishmael, was watching slightly different cartoons, the author of this book was at war, fighting with real guns and getting trauma big time, you know.
Sierra Leone. Unlike parts of the world that at least got their spectacular trauma on the news, we never even had to acknowledge that we didn’t care about Sierra Leone, you know.
I don’t know. I don’t believe that as human people we have nothing in common just as that, but, albeit subconsciously, most people spend most of their time trying to deny the fact, you know.
…. Of course, it is true that not all of Ishmael’s problems came from the white man, despite the British staying for a hundred years and doing other things than pondering over the empowerment of the Black boy on the bottom, you know—but obviously there are also conflicts with cultural peers or I guess elders, you know—internal political conflict and conflict within families and cultural systems. But of course, we know what that’s like too, and it doesn’t disqualify us, if we’re the white man, you know. I remember when I first saw the flick “Bend It Like Beckham”, with Keira Knightley and the Indian girl playing soccer, that was what stumped me—for being fair to myself, it was maybe the first time I’d considered girls and colored people without Starfleet’s aegis of protection: seriously, that is—and I was like, This girl, this Indian, has shitty parents! You know. And it’s like—you have conflict with your own parents; you assume that these conflicts are important for, that’s right, Ev’ry-body! 😸
I mean, I know that people don’t like to have their little traumas discounted by some death-y catastrophe, but it’s like, you have a little problem, you get a little therapy. You have a big problem, you blow peoples’ minds; you alienate the rest of the group, right. It’s like, the closer you are to having it together, the easier it is to get help; you’re like, My neighbors think I’m some kind of boy terrorist and I’m on the run and did I mention I live in Africa? People are like, Man, that’s not normal. This is America. Get a little money before you come here. —I live, Somewhere in Africa! —Yeah, you stay there boy. You stay there.
I also saw both the connection and the distance with American rap music—(skeptical) What kind of music is this, trouble-maker! I’m a stand-up guy now; I’m a tribal elder! —It’s a new kind of music, in the white man’s language. You go like, (dance, rap, etc.) —(warms up to it) Alright now! Is that how it goes!
…. There’s a line in “A Hundred Years of Solitude” that a war is easier started than finished…. A lot of warriors will fight for as long as they have weapons and aren’t hurt, you know; a point is reached usually very quickly where it’s not like, really a cost-benefit thing anymore. If it ever even was like that in the beginning, you know.
…. And eventually the war ends, and there’s life in Africa, you know.
…. And other times, sure, it’s better to live in the white man’s city, New York.
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The book, A Long Way Gone: Memoir of a Boy Soldier, is a story about how a boy at a young age had to witness something major that was taking place in Africa, his homeland. This leave the audience shocked because he explains what he went through as a child and how it affected him as the war went by. For the ones who have read this book understand the struggle that the main character, Ishmael, Ishmael Beah, went through. He was separated from his family and was taken in by the group who would kill the rebels to survive. The rebels are known as the ones who started the war.
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Wikipedia en inglés (4)
As ?es como se libran ahora las guerras: con ni?s traumatizados, drogados y empu?ndo AK-47. Los ni?s se han convertido en los mejores soldados. En los ms? de cincuenta conflictos violentos que existen actualmente en el mundo, se cree que hay ms? de 300,000 ni?s soldado. Ishmael Beah fue uno de ellos.
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Sistema Decimal Melvil (DDC)966.404History and Geography Africa West Africa Sierra Leone
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