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They Poured Fire on Us from the Sky: The True Story of Three Lost Boys from Sudan [Hardcover]

Alphonsion Deng , Benson Deng , Benjamin Ajak , Judy A. Bernstein
4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (118 customer reviews)


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Book Description

June 14, 2005 1586482696 978-1586482695 1ST
A captivating memoir of Sudan and a powerful portrait of war as seen through the eyes of children Benjamin, Alepho and Benson were raised among the Dinka tribe of Sudan. Their world was an insulated, close-knit community of grass-roofed cottages, cattle herders and tribal councils. The lions and pythons that prowled beyond the village fences were the greatest threat they knew. All that changed the night the government-armed Murahiliin began attacking their villages. Amid the chaos, screams, conflagration and gunfire, five-year-old Benson and seven-year-old Benjamin fled into the dark night. Two years later, Aleph aged seven, was forced to do the same. Across the Southern Sudan over the next five years, thousands of other boys did likewise, joining the stream of child refugees that became known as the Lost Boys. Their journey would take them over one thousand miles across a war-ravaged country, through landmine-sown paths, crocodile-infested waters and grotesque extremes of hunger, thirst and disease. The refugee camps they eventually filtered through offered little respite from the brutality they were fleeing. In They Poured Fire on Us from the Sky, Alephy, Benson and Benjamin by turn, recount their experiences along this unthinkable journey. They vividly recall the family, friends and tribal world they left far behind them and their desperate efforts to keep track of one another. This is a captivating memoir of Sudan and a powerful portrait of war as seen through the eyes of children. And it is, in the end, an inspiring and unforgettable tribute to the tenacity of even the youngest human spirits.


Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Raised by Sudan's Dinka tribe, the Deng brothers and their cousin Benjamin were all under the age of seven when they left their homes after terrifying attacks on their villages during the Sudanese civil war. In 2001, the three were relocated to the U.S. from Kenya's Kakuma refugee camp as part of an international refugee relief program. Arriving in this country, they immediately began to fill composition books with the memoirs of chaos and culture shock collected here. Well written, often poetic essays by Benson, Alepho and Benjamin, who are now San Diego residents in their mid-20s, are arranged in alternating chapters and recall their childhood experiences, their treacherous trek and their education in the camp ("People were learning under trees"). Other pieces remember the rampant disease and famine among refugees, and the tremendous hardship of day-to-day living ("Refugee life was like being devoured by wild animals"). When the boys arrived in America, Benson, upon seeing a Wal-Mart for the first time, remarked, "This is like a king's palace." Although some readers may wish for more commentary on what life in America is like for these transplants, this collection is moving in its depictions of unbelievable courage.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Bookmarks Magazine

Many of the reviews simply summarize the book and plight of the "Lost Boys of Sudan," as if the reviewers were too awestruck by the story to criticize its telling. Critics describe the narrative as "numbing," "surreal," "amazing," "harrowing," and "haunting." Details of scrambling for food, crossing crocodile-inhabited rivers, suffering injuries, and joining the rebel movement against their will abound. One would have enjoyed reading more about the boys’ culture shock upon arriving in America; one would have liked a map of the boys’ journey. Yet all agree that this group memoir is moving and ultimately inspirational.

Copyright © 2004 Phillips & Nelson Media, Inc.


Product Details

  • Hardcover: 311 pages
  • Publisher: PublicAffairs; 1ST edition (June 14, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1586482696
  • ISBN-13: 978-1586482695
  • Product Dimensions: 8.1 x 5.4 x 1.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (118 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #552,201 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
53 of 53 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars How children survived an adult mess August 12, 2005
Format:Hardcover
In a land where family life was everything and the most fearsome thing was a prowling hyena or lion, fire suddenly exploded from the sky. THEY POURED FIRE ON US FROM THE SKY is the vivid description of the war in southern Sudan as seen through the eyes of three little boys, Benson, Benjamin and Alephonsion - who suddenly became homeless orphans and were forced to trek across Sudan to Kenya and Ethiopia without food or water. No longer having a father to frighten away the animals or a mother to prepare food, these five-year-old boys had to figure out how to survive. In addition to the horrors brought on by nature in the form of heat, no water, no food, hunting animals, biting snakes and insects, they soon discovered that people were not very nice to boys traveling alone. Frequently their food, clothing and blankets were taken from them or they were beaten and driven away. Even their own soldiers mistreated them and they found that after surviving so much and traveling so far, they were not exactly welcome in Kenya or Ethiopia. But survive they did to come to the United States to begin life anew.

This gut-wrenching book is a real page-turner and I found myself unable to put it down, even when the stories brought tears and indescribable anger. It was a real eye-opener to read of United Nations aid gone astray as locals took the best for themselves and left the refugees starving. There were, of course, the good people who helped the refugees with food and transportation and even lost their jobs because of it. If you never believed that war could change ordinary people into selfish monsters, then this is the book for you.
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18 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars It will transform you August 6, 2005
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
This is a book that I was afraid would be too painful to read. Most of us will never have the experience that these 3 young men and their "brothers" have had. But it is not about pain and sorrow. It is ultimately about Hope, Family, Education and their faith in God to get them through. This is a book that will surprise you, engage you and enrage you. Thank you , Judy Bernstein and everyone who knew this story needed to be told!
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Inspirational and Poignant June 21, 2005
By SAK
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I found this to be a great read. Thoughtful and poignant, I got a sense of what it is to be a small child caught up in the devestation of a country at war. Several times I paused in my reading to take in parts of their story. I was emotionally touched. I was so taken by the book that I read it in two sittings. This is a great book for adults and teens - a personalization of a war in a faraway place written by three young men who now call America home. You will come to care deeply about these three little boys and understand the saying, "When two elephants fight, it is the grass that gets trampled".
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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Couldn't put it down September 8, 2005
Format:Hardcover
As a former NFL player, I thought I was tough. But when I read what these young boys overcame, it made me appreciate what life is really about. A friend recommended the book and after I started it, I couldn't put it down until I finished it the next morning. Their triumph over all odds is uplifting. After the tragic events of recent days, this is a must read for all to learn about the strength of the human spirit.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars This book will penetrate your soul September 6, 2006
Format:Paperback
I usually read for fun, just to have a few laughs or to enjoy a good story, and then I put the book down. This book is not like that. It will penetrate your soul and stay with you long after you're done with it. It will change your concept of childhood and innocence. These children did not grow up watching Sesame Street.

The richness of the language, and the sensitiivity with which these boys describe how they survived experiences that would break an adult, just blows me away. And having had the privilege to follow their careers since arriving in America, I am astounded by how far they have come and the wonderful things that they are doing with the precious gift of life they have managed to escape with.

I think that any book club interested in a truly powerful novel should pick this book. There's endless room in it for discussion and interpretation, and I promise you, when you are done reading it you will look at the world with different eyes. There's a discussion guide on their website, by the way, and it's really stimulating.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars They Poured Fire On Us From The Sky September 5, 2005
Format:Hardcover
I can not believe that I knew nothing of the war in Sudan before reading this book. This is something everyone should know. These boys endured so much at such a young age. The book really makes you take a second look at your own perspective on life. It is easy to read; You can put it down and pick it back up again at any time. (Although I doubt you would want to put it down.)
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An astounding story well worth picking up! February 21, 2006
Format:Hardcover
This eye-opening book is truly one that leaves the reader thinking about just how precious life and family are and how strong the will to survive can be. This true story of three boy's lives during this tragic and seemingly impossible situation (that unfortunately still exists today) left me in awe. I was struck by their solid familial bonds, strength of heart, and amazing fortitude to live. Though at times the story is incredibly sad and upsetting, in all it is wonderfully inspirational and a great read for adolescents through adults.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars I just finished this book a few minutes ago. ...
I just finished this book a few minutes ago. The three boys pictured visited my church in San Diego a few years ago. It was a tough read at times, but it was reality. Read more
Published 8 hours ago by Nancy Sager
5.0 out of 5 stars Thank you
Thank you for giving us this work. It must have been very traumatic go to relive those years as you wrote this book but plead know that your hardships have not gone unnoticed.
Published 1 month ago by bonvi
5.0 out of 5 stars Amazing story
This book was hard to read, not the words, but the actual story. What an amazing journey these boys survived.
Published 1 month ago by Carrie C Brooks
4.0 out of 5 stars good read
An excellent re-telling of the Lost Boys stories from young men who lived through it. Great for middle schoolers and up.
Published 3 months ago by Teresa
5.0 out of 5 stars Heartbreaking and Inspiring
They Poured Fire on Us From the Sky (in my opinion), was phenomenal. It makes you realize how good you have it and the atrocities people can commit on one another. Read this book.
Published 3 months ago by Shawn Crawfish
2.0 out of 5 stars Saying no to Facebook
Love the game but not everyone is on Facebook. I will have to delete because the game will not let me go to the next level without Facebook or paying.
Published 6 months ago by anita y. house
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent book
Makes one very grateful for what one has, should be required reading in schools. It would be interesting to do a follow-up on the lost boys.
Published 6 months ago by Thomas Ryan
5.0 out of 5 stars Buy it! Read it! Share it with a friend!
It exceeded my expectations exponentially! Everyone needs to read this book--especially those who think life in America is hard! Read more
Published 7 months ago by katiek
5.0 out of 5 stars Highly recommended!
I can't say this is the best written book I've read on this topic, but it's power isn't in it's style or wit. Read more
Published 8 months ago by Timothy J. Herd
5.0 out of 5 stars An amazing story out of Sudan
This is one of the most amazing books I have ever read. Imagine a group of children, many kindergarten or first grade age, being left on their own in the midst of a war. Read more
Published 8 months ago by Carol A Ranney
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