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262 of 280 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Difficult but worthwhile
While I did find this book painful to read, I am very glad I stayed with it. Ishmael tells his story in casual language, almost as if he were sitting next to you, sharing his experiences over (many cups of) tea.

He relays his life to us chronologically, beginning in his home village. He and some friends took a several day trip to a neighboring village to show...
Published on February 25, 2007 by Lauraloo Mattox

versus
118 of 149 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Fact Vs. Fiction - Say "NO" to "poetic license"
FACT OR FICTION

Do a background check on the author and you'll see articles in SLATE, the NY TIMES and others in which the author's veracity is, tragically, in question.

Please don't shoot the messenger when you find some disturbing questions, and just as importantly, don't shoot the _message_.

After all, these events did take place, and...
Published on July 5, 2008 by Twig


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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars This book is sad and very moving., March 12, 2007
By 
Ishmael Beah is a crusader and a recent college graduate speaking out for children affected by war in New York. His book is about his survival as a soldier fighting in the war in Sierra Leone. After losing his home and his family in the violence, he becomes a soldier in the war. He describes raiding villages, stealing food, and weapons. He also discusses his addiction to marijuana and cocaine openly too. I felt sad reading this part of the book. I enjoyed reading about how Ishmael's life changes during eight months in a rehab house. His whole attitude about life changes as he continues his education. He also starts to make friends and eventually turns away from his violent past. I enjoyed reading his love of performing and rap music during his rehab period. I felt hopeful and happy reading this part of the book. There is a chronology of the history of Sierra Leone at the end of the book. I thought this part of the book was very interesting. A Long Way Gone is an excellent read.
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34 of 40 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Moving Story of Innocence Lost and Redemption, March 11, 2007
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Ishmail Beah shines a spotlight on the effects of a war that many didn't know existed, but the type of which is all too common in the world today. His heart breaking story is written in a simple, yet eloquent manner. My only complaint is that the book ended too soon, as I wanted to know more about his journey to America.

From the simple joys of childhood, through the pain of losing his friends and family, to his descent into savagery and finally, his redemption, this is a book that is hard to put down.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Gripping, Gut-Wrenching, and Brilliant, February 22, 2007
Ishmael's story is truly remarkable in every sense of the word. This book is absolutely a must-read, both for its vividly told story and direct and descriptive style of prose.

His journey reveals a number of vital truths of our world -- the unfortunate realities of war, the ability of good people to perpetuate unspeakable acts, the amazing potential to regain one's humanity against all odds, the bizarre reach of globalized culture, the ways in which our dreams affect intertwine with our realities, and the survival instinct that keeps us alive even in dire circumstances.

While some might say the story ends a bit abruptly, I would commend Ishmael for restraining from the Hollywood ending that audiences often crave; he keeps the focus of the book on the issues at hand, and rightly so.

If anyone ever deserved a chance to write a sequel to his life story, I would say it is Ishmael Beah. And I, for one, can't wait to read it.
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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Long Way Gone, April 3, 2008
"A Long Way Gone" is an extremely interesting book written by Ishmael Beah a former child solider that fought in the war in Sierra Leone. The book follows Ishmael through his life at the beginning of the war depicting the terrible things that were done to innocent civilians and how he was forced to witness the dreadful things happening around him. During the war Ishmael would lose everything, his family, his friends, his childhood and even his mind. He would fight in the ranks of the Sierra Leone Army as a child solider at the age of 13. He would witness terrible things happening to men and then do the same terrible things himself. He would do things with his own two hands that even seem horrible for grown men to do. "A Long Way Gone" is an extremely important book because it helps remind us that there are other things going out there in the world beyond our safe homes and living rooms with our 52 inch Plasma TVs.

Kacper, a student at Prospect High School
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A powerful and eloquent voice..., October 21, 2007
A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier by Ishmael Beah is a moving, tortured yet uplifting story of Beah's involvement in war.

Living in Sierra Leone, Beah was a typical 12-year old, playing soccer, dancing, singing rap music, reciting Shakespeare and hanging out with his friends. Beah and a bunch of his buddies ventured to another town when civil war came to their village. Not being able to make it back home, they were forced to flee--trying to find somewhere safe as well as a source of food. Their goal was to avoid being captured or killed by the rebels. Instead, they were discovered by the government army and turned into soldiers. Some of these boys were so slight that they couldn't even hold the AK-47s they were given as weapons. They were also given prodigious amounts of illegal drugs. For three years, Beah served with the army until UNICEF removed him from military service. During those three years, he was shot a number of times and escaped death repeatedly.

While Beah's physical injuries healed, the psychological scars from the war tortured him for years. He especially suffered from nightmares and migraines. With the help of the staff of UNICEF and NGO, he not only healed enough to be "repatriated," but he was also chosen as a representative to the United Nations First International Children's Parliament. It was here that he met the woman who would become his surrogate mother, and arrange for his eventual escape from Sierra Leone.

Ishmael Beah is a powerful, eloquent voice for the many children who were forced to become soldiers. These children were robbed of their families, their limbs, their childhoods, and often, their lives. After a nightmare, "I would try desperately to think about my childhood, but I couldn't. The war memories had formed a barrier that I had to break in order to think about any moment in my life before the war."

I wish that Beah had gone into more detail about his journey to the United States. Perhaps he's saving it for another book. But even without this information, A Long Way Gone is an excellent book by a very young author.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Incredible Story, April 12, 2007
I just finished reading A Long Way Gone by Ishmael Beah. This book tells the authors story of becoming a boy soldier in Sierra Leone and of his later rehabilitation. This was a heartbreaking story and very difficult to read from an emotional standpoint. I read the book over a short period of time as it is so gripping that I did not want to put it down, but at the same time it brought an overwhelming sense of sorrow that I felt like weeping the whole time. The horror that Beah so well describes, was unbelievably moving.

The book is well written and flows superbly. However, the story itself is so incredible that, even if it were poorly constructed, it would have been worth reading. Saying that it was "worth reading" is not really adequate. All people should read it in order to remind us what the reality of life is outside of Western culture. It is partly because we block incidents like those described by Beah that they can continue to happen.

I would not presume to know how to stop the carnage that occurs in so many Third World countries, but I can not help but think that if we as a society, were more aware of them and had to face the emotions and gut wrenching sorrow that come with the knowledge of such atrocities, we would be far less willing to allow them to happen.

Ishmael Beah has demonstrated that he is a remarkable individual with great reserves. He shows what changes can come about when people are caring and thoughtful of others. I would venture to say that Ishmael Beah feels guilt for what he has done. However, I think he should be proud of the fact that he has endured and triumph over so much evil and pain in becoming who he is today.

It was an honor to be allowed to hear Beah's story, as it must have been as equally difficult to recount it, as it was to live through it. Beah's courage in just letting others know of his past in remarkable also.
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118 of 149 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Fact Vs. Fiction - Say "NO" to "poetic license", July 5, 2008
By 
Twig "Twig" (los angeles, ca) - See all my reviews
FACT OR FICTION

Do a background check on the author and you'll see articles in SLATE, the NY TIMES and others in which the author's veracity is, tragically, in question.

Please don't shoot the messenger when you find some disturbing questions, and just as importantly, don't shoot the _message_.

After all, these events did take place, and it's important that we recognize and absorb them, so we can act quickly to help when they happen. (Think the Rwandan genocide, when the international community sat on the sidelines as 1,000,000 people were killed over 100 days.)

IF, however you are interested in the controversy surrounding this particular book and my take on it, read on:

CONTROVERSY

This is an important, gripping work that brings attention to some of what's happening in other parts of the world.

However ....

... if you read-up on this author, you'll find out about the ongoing controversy over the accuracy of events that occur in the book. (Look for articles in Slate, the New York times, among others.)

As a result, several salient points emerge:

1) Some of the work appears to have been written originally as _fiction_ with the aid of his Oberlin University Creative Writing teacher Dan Chaon, which was then changed to non-fiction.

2) Having said that, the author probably *did* experience some of what was written about in Memoirs, although to a different degree than described. How much, unfortunately we'll never know.

This means that:

3) The book contains BOTH FICTIVE AND NON-FICTIVE ELEMENTS, the fictive elements (in the Creative Writing teacher's own words, captured on tape by an Australian journalist) added as "poetic license."

And here is where I take umbrage.

FACT VS. FICTION: WHY IT'S IMPORTANT

With the relatively-recent publication and retraction of fake biographies (such as "Love and Consequences," a fake memoir of growing up in an L.A. gang, since discredited and pulled by the publisher), I think the blowback against this book is reasonable.

There's a REASON we have categories such as "fiction" and "non-fiction," and why we keep them separate.

Fact is the opportunity to examine the nuances of history and its consequences, and learn something from the net result. Fiction is highly subjective, one person (or group's) untested ideas of what might be (even if the fictive work is set in the past). To blur the line is to cheapen the lessons of history.

SAY NO TO FACT-ION

Faction has become a bit too rampant nowadays, from "historical movies" that invent unsubstantiated love affairs (think Truman Capote kissing Perry Smith in "Infamous," or Queen Elizabeth having an historically unsubstantiated affair with Sir Walter Raleigh in "Elizabeth: The Golden Years,") to books like "Dutch: A Memoir of Ronald Reagan," which blessedly received the ridicule it deserved.

And perhaps it's true that it's the publishing houses -- or even the public's taste for only the most sensationalistic -- that are to blame, putting pressure on well-intentioned authors such as Ishmael Beah to color stories that are already horrific enough, for the sake of maximum marketability.

By all means, read and absorb Ishmael Beah's tragic story.

You can be sure some of these things happened to him, and certainly to others.

COMMERCE ABOVE ALL?

But let's start thinking about saying "no" to another machine, although one less horrific than the one Beah had to endure: the machine of sensationalism-over-truth, which encourages writers and publishers to color facts to maximize sales, thus potentially discrediting what is an important core message.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Innocence destroyed..., February 27, 2007
By 
Seth777 (Colorado springs, co) - See all my reviews
This book is one of those books that you know are going to haunt your thoughts for some time after you read it.

This book is written very well and truely does something to you after you read it, I must say how this boy did it and still kept his spirit strong is beyond me, I felt so many emotions reading this book and you really feel like you connect with him on many levels..the fear, the sadness the lonelyness, but what he ends up standing for and starts to preach is truely an amazing turn around in his life and I'm so glad I took the time to read this.

It's really just a heart touching book, and really makes anyone anti-war, at least thats how I felt when I was done..
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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars the reason I don't wear diamonds, April 5, 2007
An incredible account; a story from a survivor that had to be told but is so disturbing you won't be able to sleep comfortably at night. You'll look at your daily comforts and assumptions of safety in a new way, and realize that we can save each other, one by one, if we only reach our hands out and try.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Heartbreaking and gripping, March 6, 2007
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Ishmael Beah was a 12 years old when his village in Sierra Leone was overrun

by rebels. Separated from his family, he wandered both alone and with other

boys in a country wracked by civil war. Eventually he ended up in the Army

(at 13) and found he was capable of things he'd never imagined.

The bottom line for this book: both heartbreaking and inspirational.

Ishmael not only survived physically, but recovered his humanity to the

point where now he's a major advocate for children's rights at Human Rights

Watch. Knowing how difficult it is to struggle with the knowledge of having

killed, this book was humbling.
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A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier
A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier by Ishmael Beah (Paperback - August 5, 2008)
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