A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier

From the publisher, Farrar, Straus, Giroux

A gripping story of a child's journey through hell and back.

There may be as many as 300,000 child soldiers, hopped-up on drugs and wielding AK-47s, in more than fifty conflicts around the world. Ishmael Beah used to be one of them. He is one of the first to tell his story in his own words.

In A LONG WAY GONE, Beah, now twenty-six years old, tells a riveting story. 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. Eventually released by the army and sent to a UNICEF rehabilitation center, he struggled to regain his humanity and to reenter the world of civilians, who viewed him with fear and suspicion. This is, at last, a story of redemption and hope.

About the Author

Ishmael Beah

From Book Browse 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.

In 1993, at the age of 12 he fled attacking rebels who destroyed his village in Sierra Leone. By 13 he had been picked up by the government army and been made a child soldier. His memoir, A Long Way Gone, tells his story.

Book Discussion Guide

Adobe PDFClick here for book discussion guide in pdf format.


From New York Times Book Review

"Beah's memoir joins an elite class of writing: Africans witnessing African wars. I think of "Sozaboy," Ken Saro-Wiwa's masterly novel about a young soldier during the Biafran war, or "Machete Season," Jean Hatzfeld's book of blood-chilling interviews with Rwandan killers. "A Long Way Gone" makes you wonder how anyone comes through such unrelenting ghastliness and horror with his humanity and sanity intact. Unusually, the smiling, open face of the author on the book jacket provides welcome and timely reassurance. Ishmael Beah seems to prove it can happen."

William Boyd, "Babes in Arms," NYTBR February 25, 2007

From Contemporary Authors Online

"While some critics of A Long Way Gone pointed out narrative flaws in Beah's writing style, many reviewers were impressed by the work É In a Miami Herald review, Connie Ogle attested that "Beah's story is a wrenching survivor's tale, but there's no self-pity or political digression to be found. Raw and honest, A Long Way Gone is an important account of the ravages of war, and it's most disturbing as a reminder of how easy it would be for any of us to break, to become unrecognizable in such extreme circumstances."

From (Cult)u're Magazine

"Not only is Beah's tale a riveting page-turner, it also fills an important void in today's literature on the instability that plagues Sierra Leone as seen through a child's eyes. And, while childhood soldiers are not a role exclusively filled by children living in Sierra Leone, it is important to consider the relative implications a tale such as Beah's might have for 'freedom fighters' who characterize conflict in the Middle East." Laura Pierce, "Review of A Long Way Gone by Ishmael Beah," (Cult)u're Magazine July 2007

Documentary Film

See "Bling: A Planet Rock", a documentary DVD about the diamond trade in war-torn Sierra Leone at Adams Library (Ask at the Reserve Desk)

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Page last updated: Wednesday, April 15, 2009