Wednesday, October 03, 2007

A Long Way Gone (copy)

He is a refugee, a soldier, and a reformer; but most of all, he is a survivor. This is the true story of Ishmael Beah, as written in the horrific A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier.

Eleven-year-old Ishmael is living in the small village of Mogbwemo, Sierra Leone, as the story begins. His idyllic African life is filled with school (learning Shakespeare), friends (playing soccer, rapping to Run-DMC, and swimming in the river), and warm nights of storytelling by his grandmother. That is before the rebels attack his remote village, causing all to flee for their lives.

In the chaos, Ishmael and his older brother Junior, run in the opposite direction from their family. With every step their distance grows farther, as the Revolutionary United Front (RUF) drives them deep into the jungle.

Later the next day, the boys return to a home filled with lounging rebels. Blood is splattered on the huts and pooled on the dirt; otherwise, there is no sign of family and friends. Relief feels their hearts as the lack of bodies provides the possibility of life. The brothers decide to travel on to the next village in search of their mother, grandmother, and baby brother.

For almost a year, they search and narrowly escape the rebels who seem to be walking in their shadows. They face isolation and starvation during this time, plus Junior becomes a victim of the war. By pure luck Ishmael finds and joins a group of six boys he knows from school.

Although Ishmael and his friends are only trying to survive, the villagers they encounter fear them. They have heard of ruthless gangs of boy soldiers and attack the seven boys as if they are rebels. How will these misfortunate children stay alive with rebels and civilians attacking them?

Involuntary conscription is the answer to their daily pain. By placing the National Provisional Ruling Council (NPRC) uniform on, they can take regular showers, sleep under a roof, and eat two daily meals. Unfortunately, they will and do kill others with their army issued AK-47s and G3s.

What can be more frightening than a 13-year-old boy aiming an AK-47 at your person? This one thought haunted me throughout the reading of Ishmael’s brutal account of war. I found it remarkable how he became so dehumanized by the killing, yet rehabilitated to become a gentle adult.

Note: Number 2 Armchair Traveler's Reading Challenge
Number 2 RIP II Reading Challenge
Christina of Ardently Pink Reader had a totally different take.