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A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier is written by Ismael Beah. The author of the book was born in Sierra Leone in 1980, and then, eighteen years later, he moved to the United States. His biography doesn't remind the lives of ordinary writers, as, unlike them, his life wasn't very sweet. The book tells the story of his childhood, when in 1991 a civil war took place in Sierra Leone, the place, where he was born and spent his childhood.
A Long Way Gone tells a story about the death of his parents and two brothers. It tells the dramatic story of a small boy, Ismael Beah, being pressed into service as a child soldier. This is the way how the modern wars are led now - with childrens help. Being a child soldier, Ismael Beah fought approximately three years, and then was rescued by UNICEF. All his experience of being a child soldier, and fighting as an adult one, among the adults, is reflected in the book. A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier tells a strikingly piercing true story of a child, who, separated from his family by the attack of the rebels, had to run into the jungle with some of his friends.
Children had to survive in the world, where the people no longer were friends, but enemies, and where the people tried to survive at any cost. The children were met with fear, mistrust, aggression, and resistance from the people and villages they passed, because the rebels often used small children as soldiers. No one believed the children are looking for a shelter and are not employed by the rebels. In his book, Ismael Beah hardly believes he managed to survive, and, ironically enough, the children managed to complete an impossible task to stay alive in the dangerous jungles among the people who met them with hatred and the only desire to kill them.
After Ismael Beah with his friends survived, the boy encountered a small town in Sierra Leone that was defended by the government's troops. It seemed that the children finally were rescued, as they finally could feel themselves safe, being protected by the government's army. However, the soldiers offered them to make a choice - either to fight for and with them, as a part of the government's troops, or to leave the town and go somewhere else. The boys had no choice, as, in case they would decide to go away and leave the town, they would be immediately met and caught by the rebels waiting for them outside the town.
No doubt, the rebels will not believe them and take them for governmental collaborators. In such a way, the children were forced to make their choice. The soldiers then gave them a large gun, a small dose of training, and a daily supply of drugs, similar to all adult soldiers, - marijuana, cocaine, and a mixture of drugs and gunpowder they called "brown brown." Apart from that, in order to encourage their warlike spirit, the small gasoline-generator-run movie projector played war movies, such as Rambo and other ones, every night. The author tells that there were many kinds of books and stories about the war.
The war, until then, seemed to be taking place somewhere very far, far away, in a different land. It seemed that the war was happening somewhere in the place that will never touch you. And then he adds that it indeed was until the refugees started passing through their native lands, and their town, started killing people and burning their houses. It was then, when people understood that the war is not a simple word, but death and suffering that may touch any of them. It was then, when people understood that the war has no mercy, as it affects both children and elderly, men and women, and no one can escape the misfortune. It was in January of 1993 when Ismael Beah was touched by the war for the first time in his life.
The small schoolboy, instead of going to school, had to run for his life. Everything was too sudden and too chaotic. Suddenly peace existed no more, and all people were in total confusion. It seemed that the very world has lost its sense, as, everything that sound reasonable, was ruined by the war. From the standpoint of a small child, the book tells the awful diary of a war, with all its violence, fear of death and desire to kill and survive at any cost. The entire narration is written in short-cut, simple, but striking and well-chosen words, and the very literary style of the book makes the reader believe in all cruelty and merciless of a senseless war, where the small children are forced to kill.
Ismael Beah tells that he killed too many people to count. He tells that he and his small friends sniffed amphetamines and "brown-brown" and smoked marijuana with the adult soldiers. He and his small friends took part in the war on a par with the adult soldiers. With plain and simple words Ismael Beah leads the reader through a memorable journey through the very hell of the war, with its twisted ideas, with the circumstances and adults, who can ruin and wrench away the childhood, although not very happy, as the story runs in African country, but still - the childhood, with all its fortunes and misfortunes. A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier reveals all pain and suffering the boy has experienced during the war. It is the chronicles of the war, where the human has to survive in extraordinary circumstances, and the story that tells how people can forgive themselves for how they managed to survive.
This story doesn't call for sympathy and cry for the gloomy and merciless days of war. The author evidently didn't want to pressure on the readers, but rather wanted them to feel all horrors of the war so that no other child should ever have such a monstrous and destructive childhood. This book is evidently the must' for a wide circle of readers. Although it is written in a too simple language, the literary style spoils no impression about it.
Instead, the simplicity of the language and emotional tone of the book will make it easier to read for the young readers. A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier should be used in a high school program, as it allows the young readers to feel the horrors of the war not from the viewpoint of an adult writer, but from the viewpoint of a small child, who has much in common with them. By writing the book in such a manner, the author brings the child's look at the war closer, and allows the younger readers to go through the horrors of the war and to come to conclusion that the war is not as 'cool' as they, probably, consider it to be. A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier will allow young readers to understand and to learn about the world, peace and war, and about what it indeed means to be human. The book will make the young reader to think and acknowledge the fact that in the adult war conflicts that are going on around the world, child soldiers fight as well. They fight on a par with the adult soldiers, and, while the adults often have choice, the child soldiers are involved into the war without their desire.
The book allows the young readers to understand what the war means, and what the war is like for a small child, for a thirteen-year-old soldier. It allows meditating on the question how does the child become a killer in the modern world, where the child's participation in the war seems unbelievable. A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier tells the story about how the child become a killer, and how one can stop. The book will provide answers for the most important questions about the war in the modern life; the war in the modern world, where should be no place for the war. A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier will be quite useful in high school curriculum, as it is, probably, the best firsthand account by the child who managed to come through the hell of the war and survived. The book is unforgettable, unimaginable and riveting.
It will obviously become a classic, as it is the first autobiography dwelling on the war in Sierra Leone and told on behalf of a twelve-year old child, who took up an AK- 47 and was forced to fight and kill people to survive. Although the book is not unbiased, as the emotions sometimes are going on full speed ahead, but still it is the best autobiography that tells about the international nightmare of the 21 th century war, and collision of childhood and war. The honesty of the author strikes with its cruelty and shows the ability of a small child to act in extraordinary circumstances, and to outlive the horrors and sufferings and forgive himself for how he managed to survive. This book will be difficult to forget, as the author gives a painful account of the war, with exacting details and even lyricism. Evidently, A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier is a must for every high school. As far as the book can be recommended for use in high schools, the teacher may use the following recommendations.
The students are expected to read and discuss the book, and then attend a number of related activities. The teacher's guide will help students to prepare themselves for a discussion and to facilitate their perception and understanding of the book. The proposed teachers guide will traditionally comprise of three sections: Reading and Understanding A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier, Questions and Exercises for the Class, and, finally, Terms to Define and Discuss. Reading and Understanding A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier Section 1, Reading and Understanding A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier, is aimed to help students in high school to follow along with the text.
The teacher may use his own questions, while the sample questions may be as follows: The author remembers the local adage that claims "we must strive to be like the moon" (Beah, p. 16). What is the explanation of this adage provided by the grandmother of Ismael Beah? Why it was so important to Ismael? What did it mean to the small boy? In the Chapter 2, the author brings an account of his new life in New York City.
Ismael Beah speaks about his dream of pushing a wheelbarrow. What does it mean to him? What is in this wheelbarrow? What is the place where Ismael Beah is pushing it? Ismael Beah then tells, "I am looking at my own" (Beah, p. 19). Why does he tell this?
What does the boy mean when he says it? In the Chapter 3, Ismael Beah writes in his book, That night for the first time in my life, I realized that it is the physical presence of people and their spirits that gives a town life (Beah, p. 22). Why does he tell this? What makes him to tell such a thing? What is the age of the boy when he says these words? Who are those boys, with whom Ismael Beah flees at the end of Chapter 3?
What is the reason for their sneaking back into the village of Mature Jong after their escape? When Ismael Beah dwells on the way how a rebel speaks to an old person, he writes: Before the war a young man wouldnt have dared to talk to anyone older in such a rude manner. We grew up in a culture that demanded good behavior from everyone, and especially from the young (Beah, p. 33). Why is Ismael Beah so excited?
Remind the similar episodes in A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier where the rebels speak in a rude manner or behave in a brutal or even in sadistic way in relation to the elder people? Bring the evidence of the episodes in the book where the young people behave improperly and with no respect to the old people. Read Chapter 6. After you have read the chapter bring the evidence of how and why do the author of the book with his friends start farming in the village of Kamator? Try to explain why the farming was so difficult for the boy. When rebels attacked the village of Kamator, and the two of Ismael Beah's friends were cut off from the others, Ismael with another boy, Kaloko were sneaking out of the bush and back into the village bringing brooms every time they were going out.
Why did they were doing that? Why did later Ismael set out on his own? Ismael says then that something was "the most difficult part of being in the forest" (Beah, p. 52). What is this?
Who are another six children Ismael meets? Who is that anonymous man with the fishing hut? Does he help the boys to soothe and heal their feet? Why and how does the man help children? How does rap music save childrens lives? What is the name-giving ceremony (Beah, p. 75)?
Describe it. What did you learn from the Chapter 10? How does Said die? Who is Gasemu?
Explain the events that took place at the village of Year. How does this pivotal shift occur? Were the children able making the choice? What are the tablets the soldiers were giving to children in Chapter 13? What movies do children watch? Whether the lieutenant is right, when he tells children: "We are not like the rebels, those riffraff's who kill people for no reason" (Beah, p. 123).
Read Chapter 15. How long Ismael has been a child soldier? Who is Maybe? Who is Esther? When Ismael undergoes emotional, psychological, and social counseling, does he accept this isnt your fault remark?
In Chapter 17 the author tells that it was the first time [he had] dreamt of [his] family since [he] started running away from the war (Beah, p. 165). Explain his dream and think how it reflects Ismail's inner psychological conflicts. What is the family Ismail goes to live with after his rehabilitation? What is the "open metal box" (Beah, p. 186)? Why does it make him being excited?
Compare his experiences of New York City with those he had in the past. After you have read the book, do you still think the war is 'cool'? Questions and Exercises for the Class Section 2, Questions and Exercises for the Class, is aimed to help in the students exploration of the book of and reflection on this autobiographical story. The exploration and reflection may be done both, in groups or individually. The major themes to be discussed are what the students have learned from the book; their understanding of violence, and what the authors book taught them about the aftereffects and consequences of violence, to mention a few. Terms to Define and Discuss Section 3, Terms to Define and Discuss, is aimed to sharpen students comprehension of A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier through term identification, term definition, and review.
The terms to be defined and discussed may include the following: crapes (p. 7), cassava (p. 17), RUF (p. 21), RPGs (p. 24), water (p. 51), jerry cans (p. 59), lapped (p. 76), "brown brown" (p. 121), SLPP (p. 188), CAW (p. 188), UN ECOSOC (p. 199), G 3 (p. 207), to mention a few. Finally, as the teachers may look for additional political or historical background in order to facilitate students work in classrooms, they should take into consideration that the book also has a detailed chronology of the events in Sierra Leone, as well as an introductory map that can be used for further discussions. Works Cited Beah, Ismael. A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier.
Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2007.
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